By Mary Ellen Bogucki
I never thought my daughter, Kailey, would struggle in school. She was such a determined little girl who problem-solved at an early age. She was a little go getter and seemed to be so advanced for her age. Then it was time for kindergarten and she wasn’t learning her letters or numbers and didn’t want to learn to write her name. She was a great little student, making lots of friends, but she really wasn’t focusing on the academic part of school. I wasn’t worried, I figured it’s only kindergarten.
By the time Kailey was in second grade her struggles were becoming more noticeable. She was struggling with reading and wasn’t advancing like her peers. She had started seeing a reading tutor in first grade and continued into the second and third grade. Her self confidence was extremely low. At school she was a well-behaved student, but at home she couldn’t sit still. Every dinner consisted of Kailey randomly leaving the dinner table or ending up falling off her chair. Then there was the glasses of milk she would knock over. Trying to get her to sit down and do homework was painful. It was painful for Kailey who was constantly being disciplined to focus and sit down and painful for her Dad and I who would spend more time correcting her than teaching her.
She was in a multi-age class for first and second grade with the same teacher, which was a blessing. The teacher knew Kailey and knew what she was capable of. She listened to my concerns and had concerns of her own. We had Kailey tested for learning disabilities and we were happy to hear she had none. Although we were relieved, we wondered why our little girl was struggling so much academically. We were tired of constantly reeling her back in, from whatever captured her attention at the moment. We knew something wasn’t right, but when we asked the pediatrician if it could be ADHD, he said “No” because she could sit and watch a favorite movie. I was beginning to feel like I was reliving my childhood, but now I was the mother and Kailey was my brother.
Luckily, the school didn’t give up on her and by the middle of the third grade, they recognized she was still struggling. When we went for parent-teacher conference mid-year I was ready to beg for guidance, but they were already there ready to give us some. We all came to the conclusion we were looking at ADHD. Like many girls, Kailey worked so hard at being a good student. Her hyper-behavior was disguised as trips to the garbage can, or to sharpen a pencil, or grab a kleenex. If you didn’t watch her, you may not see her leg constantly shaking under her desk. She worked so hard at following the rules, that when she came home to a safe environment, she was bouncing off the walls. Yes, she could watch a favorite movie because those with ADHD can hyper-focus on things of interest.
We were lucky at the time this was being discovered, my daughter Bree was seeing a neurologist for a seizure disorder. This neurologist also specialized in ADHD and was working with testing through Harvard University. Kailey’s test came back showing she was extremely hyper and unfocused on activities she wasn’t interested in. We did a lot of research and learned strategies to help her. Whether you agree or disagree, our choice was to start her on medication. If we didn’t see any improvement, we would stop. Immediately, she was able to focus and her grades improved. We still had work to do on her low self-esteem from years of feeling stupid and different from her peers. A child who saw a reading tutor for 2 ½ years, hated reading was now reading all the time. She loved it and could do it for hours at a time.
Not everyone with ADHD is the same and not everyone will respond the way Kailey did to medication. It can be trial and error on what works best for your child. No one walks in your shoes and only you know what is best for your child. We have found good information exists out there that can help. We have found lots of books and resources. This is just a sample of what you can find, there is so much out there! Click here and Click here.
Kailey focused on her passion, after working with her sister and others with special needs, she knew she wanted to go into Special Education. She felt she could understand the struggles and misunderstanding of her students. She knew great teachers never gave up on her and made sure she didn’t fall through the cracks. She wanted to do the same for her students. She has been a special education teacher and for the past two years has worked at a therapeutic day school. If you ask her, she will tell you it isn’t easy, but there is nothing she would rather be doing. She loves her students and wants to see them succeed. She understands how smart they are and knows just like her they can overcome their challenges too.
Mary Ellen Bogucki is the mother of Breanna (Bree.) Bree is a twenty-year-old college student, runner, singer, special needs advocate, Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger. Bree has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism, OCD, anxiety, situational depression and sensory processing disorder. Follow along as her mother describes where Bree began and how she arrived where she is today. Mary Ellen will explain what helped Bree improve, along with some mistakes they made on their journey. By telling their story, they hope others will find hope and comfort. Bree is now 21 and attending Tennessee Wesleyan University in Athens, Tennessee. She is pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and hopes to advocate for and help others who face challenges in life.