By A PCMH Community Parent
As a parent of a ‘that child’, I experience a lot of situations and encounters that most parents may not understand. My son, the boy who is not invited to birthday parties, sleep overs or play dates because of his behaviour challenges, is someone whom I adore, love and tirelessly parent on a day-to-day basis. I understand him better than he himself does and work relentlessly as an advocate for him—both in the school and out. I am offered plenty of unsolicited parenting ‘advice’ from people we meet—in the grocery store, in the parking lots, and sometimes from my own family. I used to get frustrated with the comments, and often had to bite my tongue so as not to offend anyone. Now though, after years of learning about him and his diagnoses (a total of 5 now, including ADHD, ODD, CAPD, SPD and LDs) and a few years of advocating for him in both educational and social encounters, I’ve managed to gain some diplomacy when handling other people and their views/thoughts/words about my son. I’ve learned that people only know what they know, and I often see these ‘encounters’ as an opportunity to educate them—whether they’re willing to actually listen or not. I’ve learned that my sense of humour helps me to survive those rather difficult situations (among many other parenting moments!) and that the best I can do is to educate, advocate and support. Here are some examples, written on my Facebook timeline, from moments in time and encounters I’ve had that I share with everyone I know to help decrease the stigma surrounding the challenges my son faces and to help educate all about those who live in this world around us, who may need our support and love, not judgment.
An ODD Tale from the Front Line . . .
This school year has been a turbulent one so far, as my son is still adjusting to his new teacher. Every time my cell rings and the school number comes up, I hold my breath and think, 'What now . . .'
Recently, they called to talk about the challenges he had with a supply teacher. Here's how the conversation went (I kid you not):
Teacher: Your son had a really hard time with the supply teacher the other day.
Me: (big sigh) That doesn't surprise me (it's true – my son and supply teachers go together like vinegar and baking soda. It's not a big shock to me that it didn't go well).
Teacher: Especially during the math quiz though.
Me: Uh oh. What exactly happened?
Teacher: He ate it.
Me: (Looooooooong pause) He ate what?
Teacher: He ate the test. Right in front of the supply teacher. He ate all four pages.
Me: (at this point, I can't suppress the giggles anymore. They come spilling out of me and I just can't stop).
Teacher: It wasn't a laughing matter.
Me: Sorry (giggle, giggle) Of course not. (It's at this point where I realize they're not laughing too, and taking this very seriously. Time to shed some light/humour on this situation). What was the test on?
Teacher: 4 X's Table
Me: And he ate it? Right in front of the teacher? (Can she not see the irony in that?)
Me: That would have required a considerable amount of energy to do. (More giggling - I seriously cannot stop.)
Teacher: It's hard to test him if he eats the test.
Me: (more giggling) Yes, it would be. Maybe testing him orally would be more appropriate? No pun intended (oh yeah, I totally intended that one)
And that was the end of that conversation. Sometimes I think they're thrown off by my reactions—which is to usually laugh at these things. It's not only great medicine for myself and the situation, but it helps me not take my son so seriously. I mean - who eats their test? The more I think about it, the more I think how different that situation would have been if the teacher had the same sense of humour. Perhaps the teacher could have asked how many pages he ate? Perhaps he could have asked him how many pages would have been eaten if he and 4 friends all ate their tests? See where I'm going with this? There are learning there—somewhere—we just have to be a bit creative and resourceful, and see past the 'behaviour' part. Yes, it would have been shocking to see—but that's why he was doing it—for the pure shock value. If we just skip over that shock part and look for the learning or the value of the situation, then we all win. If we could just use a sense of humour more often, then dealing with these stressful little ODD scenarios isn't all that bad. What a good life lesson that would be for all of us!