Am I Losing My Religion Over My Experience with My ADHD Child’s Catholic Education?

Am I Losing My Religion Over My Experience with My ADHD Child’s Catholic Education?

Think of when you were young and carefree during your elementary school days, did you stress about remembering to pack the correct books to bring home, merely 30 seconds after the teacher just told you what to pack? Did you worry about whether your parents would still love you if you forgot your essential paperwork and books at school 2 days in a row? Would they still love you if you bombed a test that you studied for but could not concentrate on due to all of the distractions in a typical classroom setting?

Children with ADHD face these fears in schools that do not provide academic and/or behavioral accommodations even when their psychiatrist has given them prescribed accommodations. These accommodations mean NOTHING in most Catholic schools and it is infuriating. 

What are parents to do with an ADHD child that needs these accommodations but their children do not receive them? What if a parent wants their children to have a Catholic education in a mentally healthy environment? There are a couple of Catholic schools that work with accommodations but who can afford that tuition? Does not everyone’s children deserve a Catholic education even if they have a “hidden disability?” Many Catholic schools do not understand the implications of not providing accommodations or do not have the funding to provide resources that these children need, so what are families to do?

Empathy

ADHD has been a controversial subject because many people do not understand what it is and how it affects children. Even an adult who has had ADHD sometimes does not fully understand the depths of the disability if they themselves were able to compensate for the disability over the years. I can most certainly understand how other people who have not had ADHD or who do not have a child with ADHD can think that it is not a big deal or that ADHD is not a disability.

Some schools, on the other hand, have seen it and oftentimes discount it as poor behavior when in reality, the child will certainly have behavioral issues in addition to the academic hindrance they face in the classroom. Just because their behavior is recognized and everyone knows it exists, understanding does nothing if you do not provide accommodations where needed.

ADHD is complex and does not solely include inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Usually, anxiety and impulsivity are concurrent behavioral issues that occur in the brain. These elementary school brains are obviously not fully formed yet so how can we expect them to compensate? How can we get the Archdiocese to understand that these accommodations are not added bonuses but are necessities for these children to succeed?

Patience

Staying on task is hard for an adult who does not have ADHD so imagine a young child whose brain has not yet developed to compensate for their disabilities. Parenting a child who is “off the charts ADHD” requires a lot of patience so much so that parents have to dig deep into their souls to use their energy and patience reserve EVERY DAY. Can Catholic schools implement a policy that would help teachers, faculty, and administrators find a greater level of patience? I’m not asking for the teacher to give them undivided attention, I am asking for them to think outside of the box for ways to help these students or cost-effective ways to implement accommodations.

Kindness

Kindness can mean a lot of things but to a child and a parent of a child with ADHD, it can mean so much more. The old adage that children can be so mean is absolutely true but when both teachers and students are unkind, it can be unbearable for children and for their parents. For instance, my child has now started coming home stating that they are stupid because their classmates are calling them stupid due to failing tests when no accommodations are being given. This child is far from stupid, in fact, they score higher than their grade level on portions of their standardized testing so the “classroom tests” are not really testing their real knowledge. I can not tell the child this because they will certainly go back to school not respecting anyone. So we reinforce that they are smart at home and we keep studying and thinking outside of the box of ways to help them. 

How can the Archdiocese not see that changes need to be made for students with unseen disabilities in the classroom setting? Oftentimes the teachers that have been teaching for many years are indoctrinating the newer ones to think that teaching in a classroom is the same style that children implement when playing school at home. Teaching should not be one-size-fits-all nor should parents or children feel like the school is doing them a favor by giving accommodations, behavioral and/or academic.

I know that teachers, faculty and administration are human but there has got to be a way for these children to experience kindness and I’m not talking about one-on-one interaction, I’m talking about confidentiality. While we are all aware that EVERYONE in the school knows the name of our children with ADHD, is it fair to talk about this child out in the open, in front of other parents, in earshot of said child or directly to said child in front of other children? No, this is not kindness in action, this humiliates the child and causes major implications to their self-esteem and I am NOT HERE FOR IT!

Where does this leave the educational options for these children? I know that there are a couple of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese that claim to cater to children like mine but are they suitable for highly intelligent children that do not fit into “the Catholic school norm?” People will say yes but after surveying some of the parents of students that are currently there, the environment is not necessarily conducive to learning for all children. So this leaves public schools and homeschooling as viable options, both of which do not provide faith formation. In my opinion, Catholic school attendance is dwindling now that there are other options for children with ADHD and this is part of the reason as to why the numbers are down. If your child is not a square peg for a square hole, you do not belong.

My hope is that someone can do something to change the Catholic school environment so that it not only includes children with ADHD and their accommodations but also provides a mentally healthy environment where ALL CHILDREN can not only survive but thrive. 

If I can not turn to the Catholic school system for help without feeling like they are doing my family a favor then where does this put me in my faith journey? Unfortunately, it has left me feeling like I can not turn to the institution as a whole that has helped me become the person that I am today and that makes me incredibly sad and ANGRY. How am I supposed to teach this child that they should love and include everyone when their own religion is not doing it for them educationally? I have had a strong faith foundation but for this reason, I am questioning my religion. When you know better you’re supposed to do better and this is not happening, and I feel like I’m losing my religion because of it.     

3 COMMENTS

  1. Same experience with Christian schools. It seems like religious schools are just for typical kiddos. I find it hard to understand and heart breaking.

  2. So my first answer is going to be the institution does not define your faith. Your faith is about the true presence of God in the Eucharist not how the diocese runs their schools. And I’m saying this not with anger but with love. Don’t leave the faith because of a human being that fails. Secondly, as a mom with 3 sons that are all ADHD and I have ADHD myself I have come to learn that our environment can not conform to us but we have to conform to it. It comes with constant tweaks and consequences. We as people with ADHD have to learn how we can adapt to our environment because our brains just work differently. We look at things differently, we figure out problems differently . It may be our medication needs changing, it may be that we need to utilize tools to help us remember things, it may be that we need therapy to help us help ourselves to recognize where we need to change things. You are correct it is a disability but it does not handicap us to the point we have to be singled out and led to our destination. In fact having “special” attention on us makes it worse for us internally. My youngest has the worst time at school. We have changed schools twice because I felt he wasn’t having his needs met but in reality I have handicapped him. I have not held him responsible for simple everyday responsibilities because I felt sorry for him. He is my baby. I didn’t learn my lesson from my oldest who is not only ADHD but Type 1 diabetic AND dyslexic. He is now 31 and just learning how to navigate in the real world. It is heart wrenching to see how I have hurt him thinking that I was only trying to help him. With the problem of other children calling him stupid, I have dealt with the same problem with my youngest. Kids weren’t calling him stupid, he thought that is what kids think he is when in reality what they were doing is trying to help him in class by showing him how to work a problem or where to find an answer to a question. People with ADHD have social anxiety. We always think people think we are weird, stupid and don’t want to be around us. When your child comes to you with a situation like this, walk through the whole scenario. I bet you find out that a child did not call him that but he thinks they think he is. Public school is not the answer either and neither is homeschooling. Been there and did that. ADHD is exhausting, you can’t fix it because it constantly changes and every person with this is different. If you haven’t tried medicine please give it a go. It was the best thing that ever happened to me and my kids. I went un medicated for a very long time and it caused me to have severe anxiety, depression and very low self esteem. It crippled me and I masked it for so long until I had a breakdown. Change your child’s diet if you haven’t tried that as well. Whole Foods, little to no processed stuff and as little food coloring as possible. Keto works very well if you stick with it. And therapy!!! Oh my goodness therapy has done wonders . They can spill their guts out to someone they know won’t judge them or look at them weird or try and “fix” them.
    Sorry this was such a long answer but I couldnt let you walk away from God just because a of a school. The answer to your problems is adjusting the tools available to your child not adjusting the schools way of teaching or 504 plans or anything else they could do. It is all in your hands as the parent because he isn’t just ADHD at school, he is ADHD everywhere. It doesn’t end when school, mass, grocery shopping , etc. is finished. And they will have to live with this as an adult where there is no accommodations anywhere. Teach him how to live with this successfully so he can thrive in any environment. Big hugs to you, big prayers for you and remember God is there.

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