Out of the war for attention

I’ve not posted before about this, simply as life has been crazy-busy. However the world is quiet and an opening gambit to the conversation wandered into my head today, which is usually a sign that I need to write it out.

Here is said gambit:

This month our family received a mild ADHD diagnosis for Archie. Six months of interviews, appointments, tests and questionnaires were funnelled down to a half-hour long conversation in a small breeze-blocked room, in an almost impossible to find building on La Trobe campus. A diagnosis arriving on a train too late to make a difference to this school year.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being fidget-bottom to 10 being someone who cannot sit still and charges around like they’re on speed, Archie ranks between 2-3. Low. So low that on some tests, he didn’t even reach an ADHD diagnosis. So low that he will probably grow out of most of the obstacles he’s facing now as his processing awareness increases. So low that with the help of some routines across home and school, (the new school year starts at the beginning of February here), and supplemented by breaking down instructions into smaller chunks, it’s manageable. We’ve talked with the school and are heading in to see his new teacher early in the term.

We’ve already begun making changes. Hubs and I no longer listen to the radio or podcasts when we’re trying to get Archie to concentrate on anything. Before we get out the car when we’re shopping, we talk through what we need to get, where we’re going, ask him to choose what shop is first. We talk through in the morning what each day will roughly look like and what he needs to do to help us out. If there is too much going on, Archie goes into passive mode and just tunes out. He’ll sit there quite happily watching the world go by, this can be because he has done something to his natural conclusion, or because he’s got too much in his head and can’t hold on to any more. One suggestion from La Trobe was if Archie can do something ten times, making him do it twenty times will. not. help. him. Processing auditory instructions is also hard work for him. Therefore, if you ask him to take his shoes off, put them away, empty his bag, get changed and choose a snack after school <overload of information going in> <switches off>

So instead we do, ‘Archie shoes off and away’.

Then, ‘Empty your bag buddy’.

Then, ‘Do you want to get changed?’

Then, ‘Do you want ham or cheese with your biscuits while I get dinner ready?’

In the morning he has four things he needs to do. Get dressed, eat his breakfast, clean his teeth and do his reading. Then he can play, or watch or have the iPad for 10 minutes. It’s taken a while, but we’re now at ‘What do you need to do in the morning before you play?’ stage and he will remember. He won’t always agree with it, but he knows that these things have to get done first, despite what he wants to do. Archie has always been busy, he didn’t want to sleep in case he missed anything. He also used to take himself off to the book corner at Kinder when it got too much and too noisy for him, he can regulate himself and his emotions well. If he’s interested in something, he will follow that trail to the nth degree and not come up until he’s done, or he’s hungry.

Our bright as a button, walking encyclopaedia of dinosaurs, volcanoes and marine life; our noticer of bugs, shapes in clouds; the boy who can recall playgrounds he visited when still a toddler, our boy who’s got a memory like an elephant, now has a label attached to him.

My parents (known as Aged Parents after Port and Starboard’s father in Coot Club for as long as I can remember) and I have often joked about how I bred my brother as penance for me being such a horrible older sister towards him. P was exactly the same as Archie, one thing Aged Ps have stressed already is that the reports written by school and the psychologist are already trying to get Archie to conform to others. To sit down, shut up and take his lessons on board while not disrupting others.

On a FaceTime call this week over Christmas with Aged Ps; we managed to interrupt Archie, he waited patiently with his mouth open and then calmly finished his sentence. P used to do exactly the same thing, thirty odd years ago. We all had a giggle about it on the call, then we discussed how we could ensure our happy, vibrant, chatty boy remains so. Doesn’t get all his fizz drained out of him, doesn’t become apathetic and switched off at school. Hubs and I both want Archie to be inquisitive, challenged, strong, resilient and independent. When he struggles with things now, we ask him “What can you do?” not what can’t he do. We tell him “You’re a strong independent boy, let’s figure this out”. He said to me yesterday,”You’re a strong independent Mama, let’s figure this out!”



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