Real Lives: the struggle to help my autistic son with ADHD
Laura Lemay speaks out about the difficulties her son Alfie faces to mark ADHD Awareness Month
Although he was my first child I always knew my son Alfie was different. I made it known I had concerns at his three-year development check-up and this was followed up by an appointment with the health visitor, however my concerns were brushed aside.
At three and a half Alfie attended nursery, the nurses there picked up on his behaviour and called a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) in to assess him. I was told that he was just a boisterous child ready for going to school and my concerns were brushed aside yet again.
At the age of four Alfie started school and within a couple of days I received a telephone call from the headteacher as the school had also witnessed his behaviour and suggested I take him to see his GP. Alfie was then sent to see a paediatrician at the local hospital. On his first visit he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Then at the age of four and a half, he was also diagnosed with autism.
The school put in place strategies such as providing him with his own space and giving him one-to-one support, however he still found it a struggle.
Laura with her son Alfie
Keep on trying different avenues until you get the support you feel your child needs
At the age of six, Alfie and I moved to Scotland and he started a new school where the headteacher didn’t put any support in place. After a year Alfie moved schools and shortly after starting I was called in as the teachers had picked up on his behaviour and raised concerns. We then started the process of diagnosis once again, and he was diagnosed with the same conditions.
Following this the school started putting measures in place including one-to-one support and he attended a nurturing group, where he was supported by a teacher and behaviour therapist in a small group. He would still become very anxious if he wasn’t able to follow his own agenda and would act out though. I used to be at work dreading a call nearly every other week to say that he had been excluded due to his inability to follow the rules.
Eventually he ended up spending more and more time in the nurturing group following his own agenda than in his mainstream class but this was still a struggle. I could not fault the assistants who were working with Alfie or his teachers, but the size and pace of the school was far too much for Alfie and he couldn’t be given the attention and direction that he needed.
Finally, at the end of primary six Alfie was referred to Falkland House School where he became a residential pupil, coming home at weekends and school holidays. From the day he started I began to see a difference, as I knew he was getting the support he needed and I was able to be more supportive when he was home. It took him a while to settle in but he wasn’t being excluded every other week anymore. Since being at the school he has come on in leaps and bounds although his ADHD means he will always face certain challenges in life.
My advice to other parents who feel their child may have a similar condition is to keep on trying different avenues until you get the support you feel your child needs. A parent always knows their child best and although it can be difficult, there will be light at the end of the tunnel when your child is in an environment where they can flourish.
Laura Le May is a mum who is speaking out about here experiences to mark ADHD Awareness Month, which is organised by a coalition of ADHD awareness charities and other organisations.