Nichola and Heidi’s neurodiversity journey
As I tiptoe into your room each night, to turn off the lamp and straighten your covers, I am greeted with the soothing sounds of classical music, as you lay there; asleep.
It is during moments like this that I often consider to myself, how you (and other children like you) do not fit into the perceived stereotypical box of ADHD. The unidentified children, the children whose parents are not being listened too, the none crisis lowest priority children – it shouldn’t be this way.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) isn’t just about ‘boys, aggression, challenging behaviours, and school expulsions’; although that’s what society and preconceived notions would have you believe. ADHD is about both boys and girls whose minds are bursting full of imaginative and inventive ideas. It’s about big emotions, the sensory seekers/avoiders. Those that are thoughtful, spirited, and eager to please. Maybe those, like Heidi, who are fans of classical music at bedtime, spaghetti carbonara, and an avid dog lover.
We first became aware that Heidi may have ADHD at the age of 6, following an assessment for suspected Dyslexia. Our Educational Psychologist made a point of explaining how difficult it was to engage Heidi during the assessment, how she preferred to stand rather than be seated, and how she was extremely curious—interrupting the assessment to ask her own, important, questions. Confirmed as being Dyslexic, we were asked to monitor how she faired over the next year, in terms of her impulsiveness and concentration.
At the age of 7, Heidi was further assessed for ADHD. She was found to match the criteria of ADHD combined presentation, which was no great surprise by this point. We had done lots of research prior to the ADHD assessment, learning about other parents experiences of both Dyslexia and ADHD. This became a great source of knowledge and assurance. We also looked at articles, books, social media pages and groups…whatever we could get our hands on; to soak up as much insight as we could.
My husband and I both have positive outlooks, by nature, and so it was only natural that we saw Heidi’s diagnosis of Dyslexia and ADHD as a positive. Not a ‘label’, not an excuse, but as an identifier of strengths and challenges that we could all work on together. A chance to learn what made our daughter tick, and how we, as her parents, could support her to the best of our abilities. The opportunity to teach her to love her differences, and learn to advocate for herself.
Heidi accepted her diagnosis with great delight. She loved the idea of being unique, and having a brain that worked differently. She particularly loved the analogy of having a ‘Ferrari brain’. This really made sense to her, and her experiences so far.
Spending so much time researching Dyslexia and ADHD, I quickly realised that ADHD continued to carry a lot of negativity and stigma. I read of parents who were not being taken seriously by their child’s school, basic provisions not being put in place, and who were being scathed by their families for their child’s behaviour.
In the beginning, we too experienced our own share of negativity. I’ll never forget being told by one of Heidi’s former teachers that she “didn’t have ADHD, she had a poor attitude to her work”. This was a big light switch moment for me, that first spark of feeling obligated to challenge negativity. To educate people, for the sake of children like Heidi.
“There are two lasting bequests that we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings”(Hodding Carter Jr.).
Heidi and I began occasionally sharing our experiences, in those early days, and received such a positive and warm response. This led us to discuss sharing our journey on a more permanent, and public, level; so as to reach more families and to support more people just like us. Heidi, ever the outgoing extrovert, jumped at the chance to work alongside me; she elected herself my boss!
We fully considered the down side of publicly sharing our journey. Would there be criticism? Was it fair to Heidi? But we concluded that any negativity would be easily outweighed by positivity. Positivity for Heidi. Positivity for others.
All our work is down to Heidi. She calls the shots on our content. Any time in the future she wants to stop, we will stop. But until that day, we do as much as we can to reach as many people as we can; and have as much fun as we can.
And so, last year we launched our Facebook blog: ‘Heidi and Me. Our Neurodiversity Journey’. And what an incredible year we have had so far! So much positivity, so many opportunities to work with professionals in this field, and so many wonderful messages from parents/carers/ teachers thanking us for our honesty, our reassurances, and our experience.
We are not professionals. We are just Nichola and Heidi. A mother and daughter on our neurodiversity journey. Doing the best we can and keeping things as positive as we can.
All we truly wish for is that along the way, we inspire others, help other parents/carers realise that they are not alone. We want to educate teachers about the needs of their pupils. Lastly, and most importantly, we want to help other children like Heidi to be proud of who they are.
Be proud. Be unique. Be you.