ADHD: How My Son Is Already Failing The First Grade

*I will preface this blog post by stating that I adore Man’s teachers, his school and our school district.  They have been completely supportive since the day we began our journey.


The phone rings and I see the number of Man’s school pop up.


My heart begins to beat faster, my chest tightens, and an overall feeling of complete anxiety fills my body.


“What happened now?” I think


I toy with the idea of ignoring the call.  Maybe if I don’t answer it the problem will go away, magically disappear into the vastness of my voicemail, left to be dealt with at a later time when I feel more up to it.  That thought is shoved out quickly and replaced with, “I have to deal with this right away, or I might never call back.”


“Mrs. R, this is Mrs… the assistant principal.”  I wonder why she even bothers to introduce herself at all anymore; she calls more often then my best friend or some family members.


“Man is…”


That blank is often filled with information on some physical altercation or some refusal to do his work all day, thus a removal of some important activity has occurred.


This same information comes almost daily in the form of e mails from his teacher, the school psychologist, or the special education teacher.

(*I will add that all of these women are lovely ladies dedicated to their jobs and helping Man. He does not make it easy.)


Man has ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  Many people are misinformed, or just have some preconceived notion of what ADHD is, so here is a very brief description-



Just being hyperactive and unable to sit still.

A behavior problem.

Caused by poor parenting and lack of discipline.

Magically treated by medication.

Something small children just outgrow.

Treated with sports or other physical activities.

Just a child being lazy.



The inability to regulate one’s emotions.

An inability to identify and pick up on general social cues.

An inability to filter out the input around you, therefore, causing extreme distractibility.

An inability to control impulses.

Abnormal levels of activity.

Difficulty organizing and staying on task.


This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics associated with this disorder and a child can have some, many, or all of the characteristics.  Additionally, any one of the symptoms may be more present and cause greater challenges than others.


Man has begun first grade this year and the transition has been TREMENDOUSLY difficult.  In kindergarten he was able to have some freedom to play and roam; the expectations were not as high.  Now, in first grade, he is expected to sit still for longer periods of time, do much more class work and pressures have increased one hundred fold.  In many ways, he is crumbling under these pressures.


When Man crumbles, it isn’t into pieces — it’s into a fine dust, a total and complete meltdown.


There are days when he absolutely just. Can’t. Sit. Still. long enough to do any work.  He refuses.  He must suffer the consequences accordingly.  There are rules of the classroom and he is given plenty of leeway, but at some point, something has to give and his work must be completed.  It often is not.




There are days when he calls out so often that no other student can get a word in edgewise.  He is so enthusiastic, so excited about the information in his head and he wants the class to know his thoughts.  When Man is an active participant, which is every day, he is truly an active participant.  But you can’t cut people off; you must give others a turn.  You have to raise your hand and wait patiently to be called on, as do all the other eager and smart students in the class.  He often cannot.


There are social situations that Man seems to perceive or interpret incorrectly.  He often uses his words once, but then if a student does not immediate do as he has asked, he will use force to get what he wants.  My sweet child (and I don’t say this because I am blind, he truly is the sweetest, most sensitive child you will meet) sees this as a slight or an insult, has absolutely no impulse control and goes right to pushing or hitting.  He uses the method of a child half of his age to get what he wants.  It happens so fast, so quickly that even when someone tries to stop it, it often does not happen in time.  He feels terrible when these events occur. Yet he cannot control them.


The phone calls and e mails begin to flood in.  Man had a difficult day; he refused to do his work all day.  He comes off the bus looking neutral.


“What was the best part of your day, my love?”  I ask, praying for something positive.


“Seeing my friends at lunch.”


“What was the worst part of your day?” the silent prayers beg that he doesn’t burst into tears for the third day in a row.


“They took away recess.  I had to go to the assistant principal again.  Bad kids go to the assistant principal.”


“You have to try and do your work,” I explain, “I know it’s hard to concentrate.  And you’re not bad.  You’re having some challenges and we are going to work it out, I promise.”  I make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.


“I can’t focus, mom,” he cries, hysterically, “Help me.  Help me be able to concentrate.”


Other days the conversation goes more like this:


“Man, I got a call that you hit someone today.  You KNOW you can’t do that.  You MUST respect personal space.”


“I know mom, but they…”


The explanation as to what the child did is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that in his mind, he truly believes he was slighted in some way.  Or, in some situations, he uses his words to try and mediate once, and then the impulse control takes over and he just takes care of the problem physically.  This is UNACCEPTABLE.  I imagine a long list of parents who assume my kid is an asshole, a bully, an undisciplined, unmanageable, jerk who just goes around hitting and kicking.  I know I would be thinking the same thing.  However, this is just NOT the case.  He does use force, and it’s a huge challenge, but it’s not because he’s a bully or just a mean and nasty kid.  It is because he literally has no impulse control.  He has no impulse control in many other areas as well (think calling out in the class, taking someone’s turn during gym or music class, etc.) it’s just that in this area, other kids get hurt.  I want to call all of these parents, apologize to every one of them.  Give an explanation of the situation.  I’m not sure that would do anything.


I want to help my sweet boy.  I want him to feel smart, for he is truly brilliant.  I want him to feel socially accepted, for he is the nicest, kindest, most loving child.  I want him to feel happy every day, because that is what a six year old deserves.  I’m not sure I know how to do that right now and it terrifies me.


I wish society understood just how difficult this disorder truly is.  I want parents to understand that it’s not that our children are undisciplined or lazy; they actually work twice as hard as a typical child to function day to day.  I want schools to get their act together and begin to design programs that work for children who are wired this way.  Why is my child made to feel less than every day because he cannot fit into the mold of the current educational expectations?  We have to do more for children as a whole.



A smile for the first day of first grade

12 thoughts on “ADHD: How My Son Is Already Failing The First Grade

  1. I could have written this post 2 years ago. I especially recall the panic whenever seeing the schools phone number light up on my cell. Then it was just any time the phone rang, period. And then any time I heard a buzz that could be a phone and might not even be. Parents told me that they felt sorry for me that I had a child like J. Did they think they were being sympathetic? For about 4 months in 1st grade, I was a zombie at work and didn’t eat until 3pm when I knew he was home and if we had survived another day. During that time I focused on working with the school, getting him support, even if it meant things – labels, supports – that I knew could be damaging in their own right. It’s two years later and there are no more phone calls, and I’ve even been able to get the labels reclassified to things that make more sense. When he’s bullied in school I refuse to allow “he’s just too sensitive” to be an acceptable answer to why he is upset when being physically and verbally teased (and he’s not lashing out at them). I realized that this is a major challenge now that he is getting older – getting teased – make the school accountable to him as much as any of the kids he may have hit when he was younger. Just because he has an invisible disability doesn’t make that okay. I have seen that it can get better, but I still have PTSD about phone calls. I’m starting to be able to talk to the parents who traumatized me without wanting to throw up. But it’s a slow process. It will get better.

  2. Right here with you. We are in a different district now and it’s somewhat better, but it’s not easy. The teachers here are more understanding but not the parents — they seem less tolerant. Keep giving him love. You’re his safe space. I’m sorry it’s such a hard year.

  3. This blog post is everything that is my life with J. There will be ups and there will be downs, but our boys are exceptional human beings that are so lucky to have mothers like us. Xo

  4. I work with a lot of amazing kids who have ADHD and the struggle is more than real for them and their families. Most people don’t understand. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what so many parents experience, but can’t or don’t articulate. You’re article and perspective will no doubt help me be a better psychologist. You’re a great mom and Ryan is lucky to have you.

  5. It all is so hard. And if you’re a SAHM it makes it super hard to relate to the other moms. You have my sympathy. The only thing i found helpful was a social skills class so my daughter could learn and practice how to behave approptiately. So she holds it together at school and lets loose at home.

  6. Pingback: Parenting: One Part Helplessness, One Part Hope, And The Rest, Blind Faith | Man vs Mommy

    • That’s a great question. In general I think education should be much more play based for the younger grades. Hands on projects that require critical thinking and problem solving that don’t require a child to sit still and watch a teacher lecture and then fill out a boring work sheet at their desk. This is ok as children get s bit older. These kinds of projects also help foster social skills as well and working together instead of individualized working. More recess and active time. But in all honestly, I’m not sure. At the very least, don’t allow my child to feel like a failure every day because he learns differently. That alone is killing his self esteem. He already think “bad kids go to the principal so I’m bad.” He’s not bad, he’s frustrated and doesn’t know how to handle the demands of a classroom. Kids need to learn, but I’m not sure the approach America takes at this young age is the best one. With that said, who am I to say, just a parent watching her kid struggle.

  7. I want to let u know that my daughter failed her first year of first grade too. We switched to public school that second go around of first grade and she didn’t find out she did two years of first grade until she was older and she still struggles now that she is in 6th grade. She has too study twice as hard and her 504 plan helps her have extra time on tests and assignments. So if your Man repeats a grade it will b ok. I enjoy your blog and find your stories very relatable.

  8. Just want to say thanks for your eloquent words 🙂 So much of what you wrote reminds me of my son and our situation with school and life. I love C so much and wish everyone could look through his struggles to see his STRENGTHS. I will say, this year is a lot better than last year.

  9. Seems like for 10 years of my life I spent fighting the schools my daughter went to. Trying to get them to follow her IEP or 504 plan. Then we put her in a private school that didn’t follow it at all and she almost failed. It is so difficult for our children and not many understand THEIR frustration. They don’t want to be like this and yet they come up against obstacle after obstacle that is unnecessary. Others could make it easier for them. I know this myself as a person with mild Tourette syndrome and a muscle disease so I use a scooter when I go out. If you are different then you are treated that way. I probably should not be reading blogs right now as I am sick and have a fever and will not speak eloquently as I leave remarks. But I’m glad you posted this

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