Guest Expert

Sharing Your Story

Beth McGaw

As a parent of a child with ADHD, my journey has been full of joy, frustration and hope. My focus has always been on helping my son succeed to be a responsible, independent young man. One of the major ways I’ve done that is by telling my story, and encouraging other parents to tell theirs.

Dr. Margie Gillis, Board President of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, said that “the best predictor of a child’s success is a parent doing everything in his or her power to help that child succeed.” I believe that includes sharing information with others, as well.

My husband and I have three boys, all with different personalities and challenges. Our youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD, inattentive type, when he was 8 years old. He will soon turn 15 and enter the 9th grade. Our first clue that he had ADHD was his distraction in a very small classroom setting, 3 to 1 student teacher ratio. A pencil would drop in the next classroom and it would throw him off track.

Living with inattentive type ADHD has been difficult because his inattention is not observed outwardly. He is well behaved and looks like he is listening and taking it all in when in the classroom. However, when test time comes, his true colors show. If a teacher is not aware of his diagnosis, he can miss a lot of material. This makes it difficult at home when we have to re-teach all the information, especially on top of other homework he might have for the night! You can imagine how tiring that can get for both us and our son. As he has gotten older, and thankfully benefited from medication, he has been able to rein in his distractions a bit, but school is an ongoing struggle for him.

After my son’s diagnosis, I had a difficult time locating resources and options to help him. Over a cup of coffee with a friend, sharing our struggles with our sons of similar age, my friend mentioned several therapies that I did not know about. I thought I was an informed parent. I began to wonder:

  1. What if I had not heard about these interventions? I could have missed something that could help move my child forward.
  2. If I don’t know these resources, how many other parents don’t know them as well?

In response to that, I co-founded a nonprofit in Atlanta, GA called “Kids Enabled.” Kids Enabled provides resources for the entire learning differences community, not just ADHD. Let’s face it, not many have just one diagnosis. My son has several learning and processing challenges, as well.

It is amazing how many parents are going through their own struggles helping their children who have ADHD and other learning differences. The statistics are very high. According to a CDC publication (Vital Health and Statistics, Sept. 2007) , 7% of the 4.5 million children ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with a ADHD, 11% boys and 4% girls. Recently, this number has been reported as closer to 10% overall.

It is proven that early intervention gives a child more chances to succeed later in life. The more information we gather to help our child, the more we can advocate for them successfully, and ultimately help them advocate for themselves. And that information includes stories from other parents who have walked in your shoes.

It is through sharing stories that I learned the most as a parent. We all have different stories to tell. By sharing you find out that you are not alone. That’s what happened when I started Kids Enabled. Other parents opened up to me and I learned from their experiences and they learned from mine. Sir Francis Bacon has said, “Knowledge is power.” Sharing your story with others and educating yourself on the different therapies and educational options available can help you gain the knowledge you need. This, in turn, empowers you to advocate for your child, whether in a school IEP meeting or in a social setting.

So try sharing your story. You will help yourself, and you will support others. I truly believe my son is further ahead in his development because of the stories that other parents have shared and the incredible resources that we were able to find.

I am thankful that my eyes were opened and I was given the opportunity to be a part of the broader learning differences community in Atlanta, meeting many dedicated therapists, teachers and parents to get the help my son needed, while helping other families as well. And to think it all started with one cup of coffee.

Note: a link to the Kids Enabled website is in the ADHD Resources section of the ImpactADHD Classroom. Her recommended reading for parents appears in Resources, and will be on her Hall of Experts page, as well.

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