ADHD A Year On
As October is ADHD Awareness month, I thought I would share with you another very personal blog about my experiences living with, parenting and loving a teenager with ADHD- an update if you will.
We have been on quite a journey since my last blog, a period of growth and development; of heartache and sadness. Our whole family has grown and absorbed all the things that life throws at you whether you are equipped or not.
A house with teenagers we can navigate, a house with children we can provide for, but a house with an ADHDer is always a challenging.
Earlier this year we fell utterly into the depths of the unknown when our son was excluded from year 8 of secondary school. Out of the blue we had a phone call stating there had been an incident and my son had ‘assaulted’ a teacher.
There are no words to describe how this felt (instantly nor long-term), but ‘confusion’ is too mild and ‘shame’ too weak. My son had hit someone. A man. A man with a family and a life. How had this happened? What had gone wrong? How was the teacher? How was my son? How would we deal with this?
My child was comparably catatonic when I picked him up, non-verbal and non-responsive – he had been hugely traumatised – I later discovered he had been physically restrained.
We will never know exactly what happened that day but happen it did, and we had to deal with the significant fallout. I felt ill equipped over the next few months and there was scant support or information available as to what I/we might need to do.
School knew all their policies and procedures and were more concerned with themselves than my son’s mental wellbeing. The council provided no parental support and had no-one who specialised in parents’ rights or educational law etc. Furthermore, CAMHS told us it was a matter for the police!
I can’t really apportion blame, I wasn’t there, and I didn’t see. All I could do was deal with my son and my family’s needs as best I could. So, I escorted him home and let him rest, he was physically and mentally exhausted.
Trying to discern what happened, without leading questions, without influence was tricky. We received a patchy story from my son- who is physically almost a man but mentally very much a young, young boy.
While authorities just wanted an apology and for him to move on to another school, I tried my best to seek help and support. There was absolutely no option of reconciliation, no way to work through or investigate the situation. My son was not welcome back and I had to explain to my other children why their brother no longer went to school and that he had hit a male teacher .It was a balance, explaining to them carefully but never apportioning blame, never allowing shame. I can honestly say we were part of a family unit that was in crisis, not knowing where to turn or how to heal
My son suffered terribly. He has always had meltdowns, it is something we have spoken openly to many professionals about and deal with at home frequently. I know how to handle a meltdown when he becomes a danger to himself and others. I had conveyed this many times to the school, but it was never recorded or adhered to as he masked it so well – they were all shocked by his suddenly violent outburst. A shock they should have been more prepared for.
I also spoke at great length about the remorse, shame and guilt that follows such a breakdown. Such deep regret that induces suicidal thoughts and threats that are very real. Emotions that lead to self-harm. I spoke of these things to the very teacher my son assaulted prior to the situation.
However, amid this turmoil, I often wondered how the teacher was. Had he sustained serious injuries? Was he as confused and embarrassed? How was he dealing with this awful situation and would it affect his long-term teaching and career? I found later that my son was left wondering some of these things too.
It took time for me to explain to my son that he was not a monster. That this was not his life now and that other factors had very much influenced the day. We must look to the events that preceded his meltdown and learn to deal with them so that this situation could be avoided in the future. I had to firmly state that violence in all forms is wrong, but also concede things had so obviously not been handled well by those involved to allow my son to reach crisis point.
I had to research law, rights, procedures, policies and guidelines. Contact every single support system I knew so that the damage was contained. I had to investigate and unravel, comfort and explain. I wanted to cry and shout, be heard and understood. I was utterly alone and needed help and support.
We finally found reliable support from a wonderful lady (Abigail) at Sendco Solutions who had our interest at heart. I spoke to a compassionate coach (Debbie) at Relax Kids about relaxation and emotional regulation and was put in touch with local services who could help my family. But of course, I alone had to source and access and sometimes pay for all of this.
The good news is that my son received a managed move to an amazing school with much better staff who support my son endlessly. Home school communication is fantastic. The SEND departments understanding and knowledge in emotional and behavioural disorders (as well as my son as a person) is outstanding! The whole school has a fully inclusive attitude and I can’t fault them in any way. Yet the difference between individual schools saddens me. It is compulsory that my child goes to school yet the disparity of understanding and provisions among them is nothing short of astounding.
My son is settled and achieving. Due to my support, my fight, my research and my communication; my son has moved on from what happened, and strategies are in place to avoid this situation ever again.
But could this situation have been avoided?
I can only hope the school have learned as much, as my second son is now a pupil there..