While we’re busy going low and slow with Dora’s ADHD medication increases, I throw myself folder-first into “building a partnership with the school” to ensure they have a solid understanding of Dora’s learning needs.
I start my emails presumptively, “Dear Team Dora.”
Welcome to the team to which you have been drafted, where I am the Coach and together we will win the championship on Dora’s behalf!
Next, I introduce everyone with titles and roles, just like in the school e-mail examples provided by the ADHD Experts in the three latest ADHD research books I have purchased and read twice.
I bullet-point key updates and bold key takeaways. In the Team Dora Emails, I am concise and succinct in a way I cannot manage to be in real life. It takes a village, I think, as I edit and clip and prune these emails. These women are Dora’s village, and I will hand-train them until we have that trophy in our hands.
I request a meeting to update Team Dora in person, because everyone knows that in-person meetings provide more data and better outcomes. Team Dora is lovely and accommodating with the meeting request and so here we are once again, seated across from each other in the cramped school office, separated by a bright pink box of freshly glazed donuts.
“I think we can begin now,” says the Learning and Development Specialist.
“Super,” I say. But right in this moment I realize I only knew how to get everyone into a room together, how to get them to sit up and pay attention. Beyond that, I have no idea what to do next, or what to ask for.
“– Does anyone want to start?” I ask.
“This is your meeting,” the counselor says, deferentially. They wait, pens poised over blank notebooks.
I stumble through an “update” which turns out to be a repeat of the email I sent them two days ago.
They tell me what they’ve been telling me all along, which is how they see no evidence of difficulties or poor attitude or tantrums or “crashing” at school. “I just left her playing happily on the playground,” her teacher says.
They laugh, “Yes. She’s fine. She’s doing well.”
“Okay,” I say, “Because I’m seeing some behavioral — variance at home and I — I just wanted to check in and — be sure we’re all the same page.”
I may be the first parent on earth to describe a meltdown requiring two glasses of Merlot and a promise to get a pet as “behavioral variance.”
Dora’s doing fine, they affirm. They’ve notified all the relevant teachers about her ADHD diagnosis, but they’re quick to remind me that they’ve “known Dora for years” and have always provided the accommodations she needs to be successful — the wiggle seats, the special “errand running” tasks, extra testing time.
I can’t shake the feeling that Dora’s not actually fine, that I’m not describing my fear accurately. The feeling that I’m supposed to be asking for something more, or getting more insight from Team Dora, but neither happens. Fifteen minutes into my meeting no one has taken a single note. For a moment, I see myself through their eyes and I imagine what they will whisper after I leave:
Crazy. Over-involved. Helicopter Parent.
Just as the meeting ends out of simple lack of conversation, someone mentions the upcoming fourth grade overnight field trip.
“I’m glad you brought that up,” I say, “I’ll be sure to let you know how she’s doing with the medication side effects when the field trip begins, but I’m assuming she’ll be able to attend.”
Team Dora seems surprised that Dora’s attendance would even be in question. In this instant, I realize I am either unable or unwilling to accurately describe what a behavioral tantrum looks like. If I did, no one would want to deal with it in the Sierra Foothills. I chicken out of what feels like my last chance to clarify, mostly because I doubt they would believe me.
“One more thing,” I ask as we stand to leave, “Who administers the kids’ medication during the field trip?”
Team Dora look at each other.
“The teachers,” one of them says. Then she looks at the others, “Right?”
The others pause, then nod. Yes, yes. Someone adds, “The staff.”
Several red flags appear in my brain.
“Okay,” I say, “So…the teachers administer the medication?”
Yes, they say. No one says “the staff” again.
“So,” I press on, “Only the teachers, and not the campsite staff or anyone else, and none of the parent volunteers will have access to Dora’s medication records, correct?” The last thing I need is for some nosey parent to start Googling Dora’s medication.
Team Dora look at each other in a way that doesn’t inspire confidence, so I poke around some more.
“It’s a question of privacy. I’m sure you understand. I don’t want Dora to be labelled as ‘ADHD’. I assume the parent volunteers won’t have access to either the kids’ paperwork or their medication.”
The Learning and Development Specialist takes over, assuring me that the medications are private and no one other than school “staff” have access to the information.
Great, I say, laughing, as if it’s not a big deal. But I don’t feel great and it is a big deal. Who is “staff”? The bus driver? The AV guy? And why didn’t anyone seem to know the answer to my question right off the bat?
On my way home I imagine the parent volunteers, some of them millionaire wives in their lint-free North Face jackets sneaking a look at the medication left laying around by the school’s part-time library “helper”. What would they think? Would Dora and I be ostracized? How could Team Dora fix this?
I decide that Managing ADHD Is Very Complicated, and I let myself wallow in self-pity for a while.
While these wheels spin, imagining all the possible ways to control the uncontrollable, the little swirls of wind that have been circling quietly at the edges of our lives pick up more and more speed.
They are waist-high now, the whirlwinds. They are no longer a gentle hints or notions or fleeting ideas. No. Somewhere in the universe, a decision has been made.
The resulting decision will give exactly zero fucks about donuts or teams or villages, and least of all, about an innocent little girl with honey hair and almond eyes named Dora.