By Melissa Fisher
With Ben’s permission, I want to share a little backstory on parenting a kid with a high IQ, diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 6. I’m doing so because I want to convey a message of hope to parents who are in the thick of managing a kid who in their atypical being, have a very hard time conforming to the structure and expectations of the public school system.
Last night I watched my son walk across the auditorium stage to receive the President’s Education Award, Honors stole, National Honor Society blue and gold cord, and OSAA Activities Scholar award. As I watched, inside me a wave of memories and emotions swelled up. I recalled every test at the Children’s Program, every meeting with the child psychologist, every conversation with a teacher, principal and school counselor to coordinate how we could ensure Ben would be successful. And by success, I articulated early on to all of the professionals, I meant that Ben would enjoy his school experience.
That goal was NOT easy to achieve— especially in grade school. He was disruptive, argumentative, non compliant, and would not sit still. Ben did not thrive in that structure and struggled to maintain interest in what was being taught. He took Adderall and I felt horrible about it, but without it, he couldn’t complete tasks and his handwriting illegible. In one parent/student/teacher meeting in 5th grade, his teacher shared with me that his handwriting had to improve, to which Ben confronted, “Why? There are keyboards and smartphones and I don’t need that skill to write.” Mic drop. The next week, Ben received a sort of laptop that he used until his sophomore year of high school.
Ben was on an IEP all through school. It was vital to his success, but it was critical that I was persistent and advocated for my son’s ongoing needs. I routinely scheduled with his newly assigned grade school teachers a week before school started a “Get to know Ben meeting.” I shared what worked at home and encouraged them to tell me what they discover works for them.” We were all a team and we would succeed together.
But I must give credit where credit is due, IT’S ALL BEN. HE made incredible progress and HE worked extremely hard. He wasn’t being defiant to be disrespectful, he needed something different than was being offered and challenged and changed us all. I learned how to parent because of him, and in some ways I wish I had received a set of cords last night to represent my own parenting achievement. Thank you Ben. Thank you for applying yourself. Thank you for staying true to WHO YOU ARE. Thank you for not giving up and working so incredibly hard. You said it aptly last night, “This is just the end of a chapter and I’m on to the next one.” Yes you are my dear boy, and I cannot wait to see it unfold. I love you with all my heart and soul.