Kids outside of the box are our teachers

May 23, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. ET

My six year old son was on the verge of expulsion, and the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) burned on his shirt like the Scarlet Letter. Desperate to save his short academic career, self-esteem and my sanity, we engaged in a remarkable journey that has made our family grateful for a label that, at first, seemed like a death sentence.

Frustrated Boy at School
Ryan's school career did not exactly start off on the right foot. In fact, most days started with him using his right foot to kick other students, the teacher and even a very authoritative nun. While clearly bright and capable, Ryan was frequently bored, and decided that sitting at his desk was less fun than say, total anarchy.

Things escalated from bad to worse. Most school days, I would pray for a "good report." When I would pick the kids up from school, I would hold my breath and try to calm the deafening pounding in my chest. Usually, Ryan emerged from school like a prisoner of war, defeated, unhappy and hopeless, clutching the tell-tale pink detention slip in his little hand.

Days like these were common for us in kindergarten and first grade. As I look back, it was a dysfunctional parade of desperate threats, broken school handbook rules, harsh restrictions and low self-esteem. And that, friends, was during a good week.

Working to help Ryan and his school get on the right track felt like Space Mountain roller coaster ride at Disney World, the one that you ride in the dark. There were so many twists, turns and dreaded drops, plus a bonus of unexpected series of dips and jerks (pun intended).

Misinformation about ADHD can make matters worse

If this sounds familiar to you, you've probably been to visit with your child's teacher and school principal for something other than coffee. And, "good days" and "bad days" might revolve around sticker charts, gold stars and daily teacher reports. There's much information and misinformation about ADHD that can be scary, confusing, and damaging. The good news is that parents and educators can lift the veil of shame surrounding a condition, that once treated as a gift and not the plague, can heal the child's self-esteem and create a positive learning environment.

Whether you are new to discovering that your child has ADHD, or you are a parent who has been through the battery of psychological evaluations and child psychiatrists, your family might have questions and be at odds over what to do and how to do it. I'd like to save you some of the tears I've shed, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours that I've spent learning and navigating treatment for ADHD.

Find out how you can take back your power and reclaim authority over your child's education and medical treatment >
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