Sitting alongside my son, Michael, then 10, as we faced a board of his teachers, was a scene that was all too familiar. It was 2011, but though I’d been called into the headteacher’s office more times than I cared to remember, this time was different. Scribbling into his notepad the information he’d garnered from the teachers was the psychiatrist who’d been assessing Michael at home and at school. ‘I believe Michael has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),’ he confirmed.
But, on hearing these words, what I felt wasn’t a sense of relief that we had a diagnosis for Michael’s behavior. Instead, I felt a surge of anger that the doctor had announced it in front of the teachers who’d long voiced their concerns that my son had Special Educational Needs, against my own judgment. When the doctor went on to recommend a course of medication for my pre-teen son, my anger quickly turned to rage. ‘I don’t believe in drugs for 10-year-olds,’ I said, standing up and storming out of the door with Michael in tow. In hindsight, it was moments of dramatic outbursts like this that confirmed just how similar Michael and I truly were.
Ever since he was little, I’d been met with comments and remarks about Michael’s behavior from his teachers. They’d recount his disruptive classroom activities, such as jumping off desks and ripping up books, and the tantrums he’d have when things weren’t going his way. They’d tell of how he was easily distracted in class, lacked concentration and wasn’t performing as well as his peers. But with a ‘boys will be boys’ mantra, I saw his rowdy behavior as typical of his age, remembering that I too was just as boisterous as a child.
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