As we move past mid-year for schools, we start getting a sense that the learning challenge we thought would go away or resolve itself in a new grade or at a new school is actually still there. You begin to see the same symptoms and challenges you saw last spring (or even for the last 10 years).
In these situations, self-blame is the easy way out, but it doesn’t help. Instead, you should do the same you would if your car acted up—get help from an experienced professional. The key here is perspective, and not necessarily one that you would currently have. Learning problems and attention disorders are very complex to understand and manage, and everyone needs help from an outside source.
Beware the easy fix
Many parents shop around for the “easy fix”—a professional to recommend medication as an immediate way of resolving learning challenges. And there are plenty of professionals willing to write one with only cursory assessment. Too often, though, this scenario plays out with the medicine working in terms of increased attention span and improved grades, quickly followed by a new mantra: “Since I am doing better, I can stop taking the meds.” This is like a diabetic saying they are going to stop their medication because their glucose numbers were great that day, and clearly suggests that no one explained how ADHD and medication works.
This may be more prevalent in Western cultures, where we come to expect instant results from our technology and medicines. The fact that some disorders—like diabetes and ADHD—are life-lasting makes us angry and frustrated. Even parents who are trying to do the right thing will find themselves thinking, “The problem is still there. It’s not going away. We have been brainwashed by professionals who give us false hope. How come so-and-so is improving and our kid is not?” Having the right kind of help along the way of treatment would prevent this kind of thinking.
An organized approach
When I start working with a child or adult, I make a list—or they do—of all the problems they are having and want to resolve. We then prioritize which to address first, second, and so on in the treatment process. There may be a collection of 30 problems but we take only two or five at a time, depending on their complexity. Each problem is explored in terms of its origin and best treatment approach. Each problem is then monitored once per week during their appointment with me. The course of treatment is evaluated for effectiveness and reinforcement is given for sticking to the new plan—not reverting back to old methods. This process may continue for several months and requires patience. After all, we are changing some old habits that have been there for years. The key here is sticking with a professional you trust and who treats you with respect.