My six year old son, Jacob, was beating on my chest, furious at what I’d just told him.
“That’s not fair! That’s not fair!” he screamed over and over as his little fists kept pummeling me.
I struggled to gain control of him, and my tears, as the bad news sunk in.
Several months earlier, Jacob’s kindergarten teacher called me and my husband in for what we thought was a routine conference. Expecting to hear glowing reports of our son’s schoolwork, we were instead faced with a situation that brought frustration and heartache to our family.
Jacob’s teacher began by saying he’d been very distracted over the last few months and she felt he needed to be tested for ADD. She handed us a paper outlining the symptoms and advised us to have a doctor confirm the diagnosis.
Then she dropped the bomb.
“I believe Jacob would be better off if you held him back a year,” she said coolly. “Of course, the choice is yours, but he won’t benefit if you send him on ahead.”
She soon dismissed us so we could sort out our options.
Because he’d done well in preschool and the first semester of K-5, we’d never considered having to hold Jacob back. To say we were blindsided was an understatement. Since it was already the end of March, it was too late in the year to try and get him caught up.
After having our doctor confirm the diagnosis, I consulted him about our best course of action. He agreed Jacob should be held back.
Crushed, I wondered how I could tell my sweet boy that he wouldn’t be moving ahead with his friends the next year. He was already excited about first grade, wondering if his friends would be in his class again.
Once the teacher learned she was correct about Jacob having ADD, she started treating him like an outcast. She moved his desk away from all of the other children, facing the wall. He didn’t understand why she’d done that, but accepted it pretty well. I, however, did not.
Because I was unfamiliar with ADD, I assumed the teacher knew what was best and allowed her to treat Jacob poorly for the rest of the year. If I had to do it over again, I’d be in there as often as needed, questioning the validity of her actions. Even though he accepted it, his self-esteem suffered and he felt excluded.
It took me until the middle of July to work up the courage to tell Jacob he wouldn’t be moving up to first grade.
We’d just finished eating breakfast when I sat him on my lap and said I had something important to tell him. He took it about as well as I’d expected. That’s when he started screaming at me and pounding on my chest. He couldn’t comprehend why he wouldn’t be moving ahead with his friends.
I finally wrangled him close to me and held him while he cried big, sad tears of confusion and disappointment. My heart broke. He was right, it wasn’t fair.
The next few years were difficult for Jacob. It was hard for him to see his friends at lunch or on the playground, and not be able to play with them. He blamed me for holding him back. He didn’t know who else to hold responsible.
Today Jacob is a junior in high school. He’s bright and funny and a joy to be around. He now attends his school’s career center, studying automotive technology, and plans to pursue an associate’s degree in this field. He’ll do well in it, I’m sure. He and his friend have already been asked by his teacher to represent their school in a statewide competition for automotive technology, with the winner receiving a scholarship. I’m so proud of him.
ADD does not have to be an academic death sentence. Yes, it’s a difficult struggle, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. We researched and discovered ways to help Jacob focus better. We also learned that people with ADD have the ability to hone their focus better than most people, if the topic is something they’re interested in. Because of this, Jacob excels at history and building cars, among other things.
If we hadn’t held our son back all those years ago, he’d be graduating this spring. That may seem harsh to accept, but not for me. The extra year has helped him to mature and grow before taking the next big step of college. Plus, he’ll spend another year at home, where we get to enjoy him even more 🙂
Have you had a personal experience with ADD or some other learning disability?
Please share your story in the comments below.
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