Calendar Events Photography

ADHD and Schooling

Anthea Van Wyk, Owner & Photographer, Calendar Events Photography

23 March 2024

I have honestly been wanting to write this blog for the longest of time, however I have been still riding this wave and hadn’t had any progress so I didn’t know where to start.

And I know there are many parents like myself that are confused, frustrated, and pretty much feel let down by the professionals that we are supposed to trust.

Newborns and toddlers are not the stressful ages…. Its when you child starts school! THAT’S when your grey hairs start showing.

The immense pressure our little ones are put under is painful to watch them go through.

The number of children being classified as ADHD, and the NEW one now is Dyslexia!

8 year old’s are being put on anxiety medication, because they simply cannot cope.

This is my journey. (I’m still not in the clear yet, I’m still figuring it all out)

Started in grade 1, where I was told I needed to take my son to a pediatrician for a concentration assessment, where he was diagnosed as ADHD. Medication (Ritalin) was prescribed. And he was moved to the support class, with the most amazing teacher. He was also sent to OT and Speech therapy at this school. (Not included in the fees).

Yes I know what your thinking about Ritalin… and your right! I despise the stuff, and yes, it does take their spark away. I did not want to tell a lot of family member and friends for the fear of being judged and lectured about the medication, especially when they have no clue what we are going through. But we went with it. My Son went from not finishing his work, to being one of the top kids in his class. SO…ok we are on the right track??… so we thought.

Come grade 2, and he was moved in to mainstream class (Because this particular school only offered support class in grade 1). Now, we have a teacher that deals with 30 children and in my opinion, most of these mainstream teachers do not have the capability to handle neurodivergent children as they cannot give them the one-on-one they need. PLUS lets add in pregnancy to the mix, so we have a pregnant teacher (1st pregnancy) having to deal with 30 plus grade 2’s (I’d probably cry every day).

This teacher then after term 1 tells me in front of a bunch of parents that we need to look at increasing his medication….. WHOA… stop right there! Firstly: she has NO qualification so suggest anything regarding a schedule 6 drug. And secondly: call a meeting with me to discuss these things that are private!

I went to the pediatrician AGAIN… another R2400.. here we go! He didn’t agree with increasing the medication, but through… lets give it a try!

Next school day starts, and I give my 7 year old the new medication, when I fetched him from school that day, he was a complete zombie. A little bit worried at this point, but thought let me give it a couple of day to see what happens and if he gets used to it.

trusting” the professionals, I give it to him on day 2. Collect him from school, and again, he is a complete zombie. Even his swimming teacher that day asked me what on earth is going on?! I messaged to teacher and asked her how he was in class. Her answer to me was “He is content”!

WHAT!!!!! Ok… let me get this straight… she was perfectly happy to have a completely drugged up 7 year old boy with no personality in her class because it made HER life easier!!! This teacher can consider herself on my list now!!!

I put him back on the previous medication and told the teacher to now deal with it and teach.

But this doesn’t solve the problem, he is still struggling and is starting to isolate himself from his friends. What do I do??

His anxiety levels are sky high now. Combination of school and the medication. He is biting his nails and at one stage he was pulling out his eyelashes.

Another meeting with the school to raise my concerns and I was told to take him to a pediatric psychiatrist. Made an appointment with a lovely lady. However this was R4500 out our medical aid savings, just to be told something we already know! My Son has performance anxiety, and no amount of Ritalin will help with this. And that we may need to consider putting him on anxiety medication…. HE IS 7!!!

Ok… so now we are now R9300 down and nowhere near where we need to be, still no solid answer or direction.

So lets recap… Teacher cant handle a neurodivergent child in a mainstream class, the school keeps shoving medication in my face, and the medication has now elevated the anxiety levels, we are still lost an confused and my boy has no friends!

Right… lets battle the anxiety… make an appointment with the homeopath, that was short lived, as I didn’t notice much of a difference and the driving up and down to fetch medication from the homeopath and the pediatrician to fetch scripts was not working for me. (Keep in mind at the time I was running my own business, selling our house and buying a new one, packing, trying to be a good wife and I have another child I cannot neglect).

At this stage I decided to focus on helping my boy push through grade 2, and we passed! Yay, we made it! Also with help from a new teacher who filled in for my son’s original teacher while she was on maternity leave. (Thank Goodness, because this new teacher was absolutely incredible and my son thrived with her)

Ok… so here I’m thinking my son is ok and it was the “hormonal” teacher the entire time?!

My Son is now 8, and here we start with grade 3!

Things spiraled down at a rapid rate from here.

My son started to pretend to be sick and did not want to go to school. Another meeting with the school to find out what is going on. I got told he is being defiant and not finishing his work.

I got told about reviewing the medication and to take him for an educational assessment.

Here I get my back up again, defiant is such a harsh word and no one is being defiant if they feel they cant do it!!!

(If you tell me to swim the Midmar mile, and tell you No, am I being defiant?? Or am I saying no because I know I’m not the strongest swimmer and I don’t want to drown)

Off to the educational assessment we go…. R8000 now! 2 days of grueling, intense assessing (2 hours per day), with a full 20 page report. Here I feel we did get a lot more information, and should have probably taken my child here first.

But this report broke me down, that I cried for 2 days straight! I did not realise how lonely my boy was. How the teachers have done nothing to help him make friends, or help him with the areas he struggles with, and instead tell me he is defiant and constantly talk about medicating my child.

Major eye-opening moment for me and I knew I needed to get my child out of this environment which is breaking him down so much that he had regressed so drastically in his work, and he started showing signs of depression. When I approached the school and showed them the evidence of the regression (See photo), and asked them as to why and if they didn’t notice anything, their answer to me was “he refuses to do the work and he is defiant”, when I told them that he is showing signs of depression, and he doesn’t want to go to school, I was told “I need to be harder on him to show him he cant give up”. I lost it at this point and with all school assessments done, I told them I was going to remove him out of the school with immediate effect. I needed my happy, curious, caring little boy back!

OK… now to find a school!!!

God sent me a last-minute booking client, and during their photo session, I was talking to them about what I was going through. Her husband then suggested a local school that has smaller classes and work with children like mine. After their shoot, I got on the phone and made an appointment to view the school and have a meeting with the school principal.

Next day I saw the principal. Smaller school with smaller classes with more one-on-one. The principal asked me about medication, I told her what he was on and her words to me was, “We will be working with him to eventually get him completely off the medication, and teach him how to cope”. I broke down in tears right there in her office, she started to cry with me. Was an emotional meeting, have I finally found to right school for my boy???

If I knew then what I know now, I would have done the educational assessment first and should have put him in a smaller environment right from the start. Not listened to anyone else except for my own heart.

He still has a bit of a hill to climb and the new school has a bit of damage control, but we will get there.

ADHD in Schools South Africa

Photo: Writing on the left his progress from last year. Writing on the right… more current, notice the drastic regression. (This was taken from an out of school program I enlisted my kids to help them improve with their reading).

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