Judith Whitehead: Parents need to help children find their way - The Buffalo News

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Judith Whitehead: Parents need to help children find their way

Today we are hearing about more and more children, mostly males, who have been diagnosed at an early age with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

When I started school back in the 1950s, those children were classified, unfortunately, as troubled and defiant kids and were treated with punishment and displeasure. No one had a clue what was going on in their confused and tortured minds while they were trying to fit in with the “normal” kids – whatever that means.

We have come a long way since those years, but we still have a long way to go to improve how these special children are handled and rewarded for their gifts, which often go untapped.

More than 20 years ago, my husband and I lived the nightmare of having a son diagnosed with ADHD. During his elementary school years, the teachers were very nurturing and encouraging. But when he moved to middle school and high school, the whole picture began to change.

There are supposedly many teachers who are trained to deal with children who need to learn in a special way. But we found that those who could both educate and nurture a child with special needs were few and far between. Many teachers seemed to feel punishment was the way to win a child over. We spent many sleepless nights, initiated many meetings and called the School Board on the carpet many times for not sticking to a lesson plan that would help educate our son.

Children who are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole aren’t the norm for school, and many teachers have a very hard time making school a challenging and rewarding place for them.

Every child has a gift of some sort and trying to find that gift and encourage it is the path to learning. We found that our son had an innate gift for music and an ear to play guitar. Many children with ADHD excel in hands-on learning. Thank God for the Internet and YouTube because watching videos and learning how to accomplish things helped grow his knowledge in many areas.

My son is a hands-on learner, but conventional schools no longer encourage that. The trades are falling by the wayside. These kids need to know that they can excel in many areas; they need to realize there is a place in this world to show their gifts.

Parents must help their children find their way; whatever helps them succeed is worth the effort. Much to our worry, my son decided to venture out in his 20s to pursue his dream. He left with all that he could carry in his car and drove out West. He became very proficient in refurbishing musical instruments, such as guitars – all self-taught through trial and error. He had the confidence he could succeed and so did we. It was a gutsy thing to do and we could not be more proud of him. He has made a name for himself in California as being a top luthier.

We encouraged his gifts all through his growing up years and made sure he knew he would be a success some day in a field he was comfortable with. Unfortunately, the schools he attended here did nothing to encourage that. We as parents must take on that duty. My heart goes out to all those parents who are struggling with their children, because many days are an uphill battle. Look for the little rewards in each day; they will give you the strength to carry on.

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