It was 1980; I was fresh out of college and ready to begin my career as a special education teacher. At the time, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) had just made it into the Diagnostic Statistical Manual and was becoming a more popular topic in my new line of work. Since I wasn’t a mom yet, I had strong opinions about things I had little experience with. I remember frequently stating that “kids with ADD were just BAD and needed good, strong discipline.” Wow, I certainly had to eat my words just a few years later.
When I became a stay-at-home mom with two boys, I was constantly perplexed at the boundless energy of my 4 year old, Josh, and the ‘living on a different planet’ personality of my 3 year old, Jake. I guess (since I didn’t believe ADD was a ‘thing’) I lived in denial for years, just trying to accommodate their unique personalities, teach them discipline, and survive our hectic life.
However, when I look back on it, I must have known that typical children did not do the things my sons did. None of my friends had such challenging and active children. Furthermore, I knew it wasn’t a discipline problem because my family and friends actually considered me rather strict! I had to be.
Jake took an hour and a half to eat his meals, often falling asleep on his plate. He shredded piles of tissue paper while sitting on the potty for hours. I learned that he couldn’t follow directions with more than three steps, that he lost everything he owned, and that he seemed to have a hearing problem (though the doctor confirmed three times that this was not the case). All of this was evident at age three.
By the time Josh turned four, he had already flooded our house with a water hose so he could swim (in March). He had put his brother in the dryer to see what would happen. He egged his own home during the night (because he never slept), and he colored my white walls (and his own body) with magic markers. Interestingly enough, he also learned to read on his own by watching Sesame Street.
Several years later, I discovered two important facts:
1. Kids don’t outgrow ADHD.
- Homeschooling my sons was a fantastic remedy for the ADHD issues of focusing, hyperactivity and impulsivity. We were able to take frequent breaks, chunk assignments into smaller increments, and work on hands on unit studies and projects. We had so much fun regularly changing things up to hold their interests and mine. We blew up handmade volcanoes, tracked animals through the woods, and took awesome field trips.
By the way, I figured out that ADHD runs in families and the hyperactivity Josh was experiencing probably began with me. Imagine that!
To find out if your child (or you) may have ADHD, check out this page on our website!
Welcome to our “First Glance” blog series written by Trudy Abel! Over the next few weeks we will be featuring different Special Needs topics – introducing you to each concept through the lens of Trudy’s initial experiences with various diagnoses.
Trudy Abel holds a M.A.Ed. in Gifted Education and a Ph.D. in Special Education from University of Southern Mississippi. She has taught students of all ages within general, gifted, and special education in public, private and homeschool settings. She has also served as a special education professor in four different universities, recently retiring from University of North Alabama.
She homeschooled her two sons at different points in their education to accommodate their learning differences (dyslexia, ADHD, and giftedness); homeschooled two nieces for a couple of years; and taught history in a homeschool cooperative. Before homeschooling was widely accepted, Trudy opened a consulting business for homeschooling families to provide academic support, testing and accountability. Later, she co-founded a non-profit school for children with dyslexia.
Most of her career has focused on educating future teachers and parents about special needs. Her passion in working with families of children with special needs is to increase understanding, provide support, and equip with needed resources to ensure success.