Notes in C-minor


“She is reading below grade level”
“She is breaking crayons and hiding them in her bag”
“I often have to give her extra time on tests”
“I have to get her attention in class”
“We have to clear her desk so she doesn’t get preoccupied”

Over the last 4 years, I’ve heard the aforementioned statements about my daughter.  My husband and I have had talks with the teachers and worked on plans to improve her reading skills.  We’ve also discussed issues of inattentiveness in the classroom.  But the teachers ALWAYS shared how well mannered and sweet our daughter was.  

The one incident that has always stood out the most was the crayon incident.  Someone at my daughters work station was breaking the classroom crayons.   The teacher pin pointed my daughter as the culprit after the evidence was found in the bottom of her book bag. When we confronted my daughter about the incident she burst into tears and told us she had no idea how the crayons got into her bookbag and that she didn’t break them.  A week later, the teacher caught her in the act.  My daughter was only in Kindergarten.  She wasn’t a liar, and she had a really sweet spirit.   I honestly felt that she didn’t realize she was breaking the crayons.  

As a small child, my daughter was very busy!  Running around the house and bouncing on the couch cushions while watching T.V. was the norm for her.  I only questioned her hyperactivity a few times with the pediatrician, who assured me that this was normal.  She also had phases.  When she was a baby she went through a phase where she would ONLY suck on the nipple of a bottle.  No bottle attached, just the ring and the nipple.  She didn’t want the pacifier.  As a toddler, she would ONLY wear dresses during one phase.  Then the flip flop phase.  She would have a full out meltdown if you did not accommodate these phases.  The dress phase included a complete wardrobe revamp (courtesy of grandma) of nothing but dresses.  

I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “Shoot, I ain’t doing all that for a 2 year old”.  And the old me would have chuckled at the thought of changing my life to accommodate this little girl.  But the reality was, we did what we could to make my daughter happy.  She wasn’t a brat about things.  This wasn’t a “I want dessert before dinner” type of relationship we had with her.  It was a random phase that she would go through and everything else was normal.  

As she grew up, she was always drawn to very big words.  Instead of saying something was hard, she would say difficult.  (maybe not a big word to you, but with her being 3, it seemed impressive).  She loved to perform, and at 4 sang “At Last” by Etta James during her school’s Black History Month program.  She’s done ballet, ice skating, cheerleading, gymnastics, girl scouts, liturgical dance, and is now learning to play the electric guitar.   

But something was still off for me.  Homework sessions usually involved tears, and constant redirection.  You could put her in the most boring room  and she would find something, anything, to take her attention away from the task.  We eventually began using timers for math homework.  At home, she excelled in her work (meaning came to the correct solution without help from anyone), which is why we were puzzled when her school grades showed us something different.  Reading short stories and answering questions about the story seemed to be a difficult task for her. 

I also realized that at times she can be socially awkward.  She hates large crowds.  She constantly needs to know the who, what and why of a lot of things.  Even a trip to the store can be daunting if I deviate from what I said we were going to do.  If you lay out steps A-D for her, she is fine, but if you add A-1, A-2, then go to B, or take out B completely, there is an issue and she needs to understand why.  (I hope that made sense) Nonetheless, EVERYONE loves my daughter and thinks her random comments and reactions are “cute” or “funny”, when I see something completely different.  

I read this presentation and found a lot of similarities with my daughter:

My current situation involves my realization that my little girl may have a slight learning disability.  But I have been unsuccessful in proving this to the school.  My goal at a recent meeting was to work together with her schools team to have my daughter tested for any learning disabilities she may have. Instead I felt unheard, and my concerns for my child ignored. 

At the beginning of the meeting, my daughters teacher stated that my child was distracted easily and that she had to get her attention to focus back on her work. I pointed out her grades of C’s & D’s, and was given subpar responses as to why her grades were that way.

The psychologist discussed that since my daughter didn’t display outlandish behavior (i.e. – blurting out answers, not standing in line) that she didn’t need to be tested for ADHD.  The principal even mentioned the rules of IDEA, but failed to address how her lack of paying attention was a detriment to her learning.

Because my daughter said hello in the morning, raised her hand to ask a question and stood in line during lunch, she did not fit the requirement for testing for ADHD.

The staff was unmoved by my attempt to show them my struggle, and my concerns.  They all concluded that since there was improvement in her grades and reading level after some form of intervention was administered that she didn’t have a disability.  

 It is inappropriate to use passing grades or achievement test scores as a “litmus test” in eligibility determination decisions. Intelligence has no bearing on disability or need. Even individuals with genius level IQs can have a disability that affects their ability to access the curriculum.

My daughter has been seeing a therapist for a few months, and the therapist also recommended testing.  She saw signs of ADHD.  

My husband, father in law, and I have been working on some things to keep my daughter focused.  We have incorporated more reading time, and allow her to pick books that she is genuinely interested in.  

The schools “solution” for my daughter not finishing her classwork is to allow her to finish the work during morning warm up.    
  So does that mean she is going to miss out on warm up work?  How is that made up?  ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!  

I can’t with these public schools in my County.  I’m tired of the state assessments that say my child is in the lowest percentile compared to other students in her grade.  I’m tired of the teachers giving my child extra time for tests and school work, without discussing with her parents.  Then they get upset when she is daydreaming during the extra time!   I am just TIRED!  

We are currently looking for school settings that are more conducive to my daughters learning habits.  It’s been hard because they are all asking $16k a year for tuition (starting).    Financial aid is very limited.  We found one school that we feel our daughter would be perfect in.  The environment is exactly what she would need.  There is no structured seating (face forward, listening to a teacher teach for a test).  The school encourages thinking outside of the box.  The students give positive affirmation to each other.  It’s just wonderful.  We’re currently on the waiting list for that school.  

Have you ever been where I have been?  If so, how did you manage?  What steps did you take?  I know those with kids on the autism spectrum can have an even tougher time.     



6 thoughts on “Notes in C-minor

  1. Crystal, I have been where you are and my son was exactly the same way. He was never a behavioral problem but he couldn't stay focused and on task. He I believe has ADD. Not ADHD. He has never been diagnosed and graduated High School last year. I don't think College is for him. Not traditional College anyway, because he will struggle the same way he did before. I think getting your daughter into a environment that will help her learn, her way is essential. Every child is different and she needs a different type of learning environment in order to flourish. I will pray for you and her and hope that you find a resolution for her. I know this is hard for you as a mommy. My heart goes out to you. You only want the best for your daughter as any good mother would.


  2. Sandy says:

    Best description of ADD/AHDH I've heard is “we don't have a deficit of attention– we have too much attention. We pay attention to everything. Give us a reason to pay attention to what you want us to do.”

    It sounds like you're doing a great job parenting and understanding the coming and going of special interest phases. As far as negotiating with teachers and schools in PG County, ack, that's essentially a part-time job.

    If you can get an IEP or the lesser 504 document, accommodations are much easier to get, but in any case keep advocating. Once you get just one teacher or staffer supporting you, change is possible. In all cases, always stress the goal of accommodations is not to make things 'easier', but to ensure learning.

    Here's a quote I used recently to my kid's school, where he has an IEP and is being fairly well-served, but where I (as is expected) remain an active advocate: “A failing grade is supposed to indicate a student who has not mastered the material.  [Name] seems to be being penalized for issues related to his IEP in terms of delivery of material.  We need his grades to reflect his comprehension of the material, not the process.”

    (swap out 'IEP' for 'ADHD diagnosis' and you get the idea.)

    As far as college, etc, don't cut off any avenues or hopes yet. There's soooo much more flexibility at college (I teach college), and it's such a great environment for smart, self-driven people to learn.

    Feel free to contact me (via the pgtag list, where you first posted this) if you want to swap stories and advice sometime.

    Sandy (


  3. Anonymous says:

    You are describing my 2nd grade daughter. We have a meeting next week to discuss IEP and supports that can be put in place to help her and we are in PGCPS. ADHD manifests so differently in girls than in boys. We have a 10 year old son with ADHD who was lucky enough to get an IEP in 1st grade.
    I would recommend contacting this person at NIH to see if she qualifies for their study: Wendy S Sharp, L.C.S.W.(301) 496-0851
    They do a lot of the initial very expensive testing and you will be able to take that info to the schools to request services.

    You are not alone and you can find help for your family. Another great resource for you to get an advocate is Parents Place of Maryland
    It is very overwhelming but there are parents out there to reach out to who have “been there done that” and can give you some assistance in how to work with the system. Big hugs for you and your daughter!


  4. Check this out and see if it looks familiar to you:

    I've got one of each in my house (not including me). It took a long time to receive a diagnosis, and teachers (even for TAG) don't always know how to handle the problem.

    We've run into trouble with the older one recently, and the root cause: Teachers pointing us at Schoolmax for missing assignments. Except that for the ADD brain, you can't just look at a chart and see the things that are missing. We had to sit down with the teachers and get them to give us the list of missing assignments.

    The only words of comfort I have for you: Just keep amassing information. Keep all of it until you have something concrete.

    My kids are doing without meds because I'm not convinced they're the best method for dealing with trouble. Kids don't outgrow the problem, but they can and do develop work-habits that help with the worst of the symptoms. And yes, it's really Attention Abundance Gift. Too much attention, focused poorly, makes it hard to filter for the things the schools want.


  5. I'm not a mommy so I can't answer your questions. I will just say that reading this took me on an emotional journey that only a true writer can take a reader on.

    Good job. Good post. I just said a prayer for your family.


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