Nicholas is the answer to my many, many prayers. In some strange way, I knew I was pregnant with him before I officially knew I was. My pregnancy was classified as high risk as I was an older first time mom. Amazingly, we remained pregnant to 39 weeks and 1 day with only a few minor issues and A LOT of Doctor visits. On February 8th, sweet baby Nicholas arrived in a text book 8 hours of labor and three pushes! He was a happy healthy beautiful baby. Early childhood went as expected with developmental milestones reached as prescribed.
Preschool however was a bit different. Toward the end of preschool Nicholas was evaluated for Kindergarten and ultimately promoted to attend on time with his age group. Out of the evaluation the teacher has expressed concerns for his numbers sense, letter recall and other skills needed for Kindergarten that were not quite there. My thought was that I waited too long to put him in “school”. But did I?
Kindergarten proved to show that he was really struggling with new concepts, remembering concepts taught before and maintain appropriate behavior. His behavior got so bad at one point he began to bring home things that were not his. Nicholas was not a child to want for anything, and I was at a lost to why he was stealing things from the teacher and other students. His wonderful teacher and I put our heads together and looked for a root cause. The stealing began when Nicholas began tutoring for some skills that were lagging other students. He faced these stresses based on his poor grades. Due to a family history of learning disabilities, it popped in my head that perhaps something was going on with Nicholas that was driving the poor grades and bad behavior. I went to my network of friends for help. Suzanne, a lovely retired English teacher, who taught at one of the best high schools in the Bay Area and whom I respected, told me not to delay testing. She helped me understand that the time was now to determine what Nicholas may be dealing with. She gave me the name of The Kennedy Center at Vanderbilt University. We scheduled testing immediately, hoping that we could pinpoint a few things to help Nicholas learn differently and ultimately better.
The Kennedy Center handles everything from Autism, ADHD to Learning Disabilities. The test was a rigorous process that put Nicholas on edge and again I saw him act out in a way that scared me. I was resolved that we did the right thing and awaited results. I was eager to hear and hoping that all of this was for not. Two weeks later I returned alone, to the Center to get Nicholas’ results.
The report was 19 pages long of what was wrong with my son. I cried through the whole session and only hear a small portion of what they said. I was not ready to hear of a diagnosis of something like ADHD. The media and many experts led me to believe that ADHD was a made up issue that bad children were classified as. Nicholas was not bad, he was a sweet active boy who maybe was not ready to handle the stresses of school. While they tested for Learning Disabilities at that first session, they could not make a determination due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. What? I thought to myself, he is an active precious five year old boy, but aren’t they all? The center gave me documentation that they stated I could use to get government services for my son. What? Why would he need those? I cried the whole way home and through a few meetings the next several days after, I was crushed.
I went through the many stages of anger and blame. The blame was the worst, I felt responsible. The Kennedy Center suggested medication for Nicholas, but this scared my Husband and I to the point where we felt that, no, this was not an option. Reading about ADHD drugs on the internet will scare anyone. The possible side effects and addiction is not an easy decision and one I was not ready at that time to make. I sent the report to his teacher (Rebecca) and she and I went to work on getting Nicholas successfully through Kindergarten.
Success! Nicholas finished Kindergarten and was moved to First Grade! I moved past the guilt and dive in deep to research. I was set out to learn everything I could about ADHD. I read, joined a mom’s group of ADHD’ers on Facebook, I watched videos, took a parenting class, talked with coaches, teachers, and specialists on how to help my child who’s brain works differently than most thrive. Works differently not poorly. I developed a network and support system that is needed to navigate the overwhelming feelings in parenting a child with a developmental difference. Most, if not all, ADHD children will thrive if given proper tools. I had to find what the right tools for Nicholas were. I also had to realize that besides being a parent I was also an advocate for him. Nicholas and I have an agreement, he gives 100% and Mom gives 110%. He knows I got his back and while I will still push and nudge him along, I will not let him fail.
My son is the sweetest, big hearted little boy you will ever meet. He has an unique ability to light up a room with his big personality. He also has an empathy towards others that is far beyond his eight years. Nicholas is now on medication for his ADHD. We tried many other non-medication strategies with no success. The medication gives him the focus to learn that is needed in today’s school environment, it is one of his tools. School is still a curve he is mastering but we have a caring school with small classes that will set him up for his future. Nicholas still gets testing for learning disabilities, but nothing except the ADHD at this point is in play. Like a physical medical condition, it requires constant vigilance and management.
I am proud that he is representing ADHDer’s all over the world. Different on the inside but not on the outside sometimes gives these children an unfair marker by society. People often don’t understand the anxiety and tears of stress that my son or others like him feel in a public setting. People often label them as brats, spoiled and other awful terms because they are too quick to assume they know what they are seeing. Many people with ADHD are creative and entrepreneurial in spirit so the picture of Nicholas in his little suit may be a telling of what’s to come. A telling of how he will impact the world in his lifetime. Thank you to Stephanie Ann and Paperdolls Photography for capturing these pictures and allowing us to tell the stories of our wonderful children. Go Nicholas Go!