Mom praises support for son with ADHD
Renee Lawrence first noticed there was something different about her son in primary school.
Jordan could not focus on a task and was always disrupting the class. She assumed he needed more discipline. Then she learnt he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“Before we had the diagnosis it was frustrating and very stressful at times as a parent,” Ms Lawrence said. “I couldn't figure out why my son was behaving in that way and why his school was constantly calling me. I didn't know what else to do.”
Ms Lawrence found the support she needed with the Learning Disabilities Association of Bermuda.
LDAB works to increase awareness about learning differences and disabilities on the Island. It also provides support and resources to individuals and families in need.
Ms Lawrence said joining the support group was one of the first steps she took in navigating the situation.
“I didn't know anything about ADHD back then and the schools didn't have that much information about it either,” she said. “So talking with parents who had children with a variety of learning disabilities was helpful because first off you knew you weren't alone.
“There were other parents struggling with this and people who had been on a similar journey. They offered suggestions of things you could try and resources that were available. At that point I started reading and Googling everything.”
Jordan's challenges first rose to the surface at age 8.
Teachers found he would not pay attention — he would always be fidgeting in his chair, disturbing other students or crawling under the desk.
Eventually they started seeing gaps in his learning and decided to delve deeper to find a cause.
In addition to ADHD, tests showed he had some processing challenges and double vision in one eye. Ms Lawrence said it was a huge relief to finally have an answer for her son.
“Things started making more sense after that. If you can't see in one eye then you can't read,” she said. “Most kids with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence, but they just learn differently. In Jordan's case he had problems with his memory and organisation and had trouble remembering even when it came to things that were important to him.
“He's an avid sportsman and I remember we went from our house in Pembroke and got all the way up to the Causeway in St George's when he remembered he left his gloves. He would do his homework and just forget to hand it in.”
Ms Lawrence had to make some changes at home to assist with his learning. Teachers did the same at school. Jordan was given more time on tests to accommodate for his slower processing speed. He was also encouraged to sit closer to the teacher and away from the window to avoid outside distractions during class.
Medication helped to curb his impulsivity and allowed him to focus a more, she said.
“It's a big thing for parents to decide whether to give their child medicines or not. Some try the natural route by giving them fish oils to help them focus. I found the medications worked well for Jordan. He was a completely different child after that and was able to focus and get his school work done.”
Now 17, Jordan is in his final year at a specialised boarding school in the United States.
“He's struggling through trigonometry but he's on target to graduate in June 2016,” Ms Lawrence said. “He wants to study sports management. This is the same child who at one point people didn't think he would graduate from recess, but now he's going to go on to college. He's come a long way.”
Jordan is a talented musician and plays the drums everywhere he can — from a local Gombey troupe and steel pan band to at his boarding school and the music ministry at his church.
Ms Lawrence's advice to other parents of children with learning challenges is to get support.
“One of the big things I tell parents is the success of your child is based on three things: support at home, support from your doctor and the school,” she said. “If those three are on the same page then you're giving that child the best shot at a good future.”
LDAB will be hosting an Education Expo on Saturday from noon until 4pm.
Its aim is to connect families with resources to “support their school-age children's education and development”.
• For more information visit the Learning Disabilities Association of Bermuda on Facebook.