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Being someone with mental illness and also someone in school can be rough. For me, as someone with anxiety, I would try to get to class early so that no one was watching me walk into the room. Also, I would try to get a seat in the back of the class. It may sound paranoid, but I felt like if people were sitting behind me they were watching me and I didn’t like that feeling. So sitting in the back of the room made me most comfortable and able to concentrate on the teacher better. Also, if I ever had to get up in front of the class is was almost debilitating. I would physically shake, my voice would shake, my mouth would go completely dry, and my heart would pound. I hated it.

My 11year old son also has anxiety. For him it is very difficult to ask his teachers questions in front of the rest of his class. It gives him anxiety to speak in front of everyone. During this time of COVID-19, he is doing virtual school and even typing his question in the chat feature of Google Meet gives him anxiety because the other kids can see what he is asking. It makes it difficult for him to learn at the same pace as the other students because he gets behind.

My oldest son has ADHD and school was very difficult for him. He had trouble sitting still, he was constantly disrupting other students in his class. He also had trouble concentrating and paying attention in class. He was very smart, he just needed help staying focused. In 4th grade we were able to get him an IEP, which gave him accommodations that were very helpful for him. He was able to use a Trideer Inflated Wobble Cushion – Flexible Seating Classroom (Extra Thick), Core Balance Disc (Multiple Colors), Wiggle Seat for Sensory Kids (Office & Home & School)""“>wiggle seat in class, so he could be antsy without being disruptive. They allowed him to use fidget toys like this Tangle Therapy Relax for Hand and Mind Wellness (color may vary)""“>Tangle toy so he would keep his hands to himself.

Some other accommodations he had was to use a computer to type long assignments instead of hand writing them. He could have tests read to him, or he could have longer time to take tests or have less problems to do. I am happy to report he graduated on time with the rest of his class and is now 22 years old. He is currently working for his dads moving company as a mover which is an absolutely perfect job for him, as he is constantly on the go. He would not do well at a desk job just sitting there all day long. I am so proud of him.

Our school district is amazing when it comes to helping kids who have mental illnesses and disabilities. They really do everything they can to make sure the kids can learn using whatever means necessary. They are also great about communicating and working with the parents to ensure the kids are getting what they need. We are really lucky in that respect.

As I sit here and watch my 11 year old do virtual school, I am seeing a lot of the same traits that I saw in his oldest brother who has ADHD. He can’t sit still, he is playing around instead of paying attention, I have to keep redirecting him, etc. I had him tested for ADHD a year ago, but they didn’t seem to think he had it according to the teachers report. I may have him re-tested in the future, because I still think he has it. If the kids are ever allowed back at school, then I will let the teachers know that I am going to have him tested again and to keep an eye on him because they will need to fill out an evaluation for him.

One thing I learned from being a parent of a child with a disability is that you as the parent need to be their biggest advocate. When my oldest son was young, I ran an ADHD support group in conjunction with one of our local hospitals. It was a chapter of C.H.A.D.D. At the meetings I would have speakers come, I had books and other materials families and caregivers could take with them, and it was a safe space for us to discuss our kids with others who knew what we were going through.

I highly recommend you find some sort of support system if you are a parent or caregiver to someone with mental illness or you yourself are struggling with mental illness. Having a community of like minded individuals around us makes dealing with it so much easier.

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