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I Wish They Could See What I See: Advocating for My Exceptional Champion

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” -Rita Pierson

This quote by Rita Pierson is my mantra as an educator and school psychologist. The root of all learning starts at the connection level. In order to connect with students, educators have to build positive relationships with them and have to be able to see their unique individual strengths.


I am a proud mom of an "exceptional champion." My son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has been diagnosed since he was four years old. My son is a bright light; his personality shines in every room that he enters, he has a contagious smile and laugh, and people naturally gravitate to him. Throughout my son's elementary school years, he has had some really great teachers who loved his energy and personality and were able to channel it in positive ways. He was able to persevere in those classrooms because they spoke to his strengths and utilized that to encourage him.


Throughout my son's elementary school years, he has had some really great teachers who loved his energy and personality and were able to channel it in positive ways.

Sadly, he has also had many teachers who can only see his diagnosis. They could not look past his ADHD symptoms. They would make comments like "Can he just sit still?", "He is all over the place!", or "He needs to try harder!" These comments and the negative interactions that these teachers had with my son affected his overall self-esteem.


Sadly, he has also had many teachers who can only see his diagnosis.

I was not going to allow anyone to "dim my son's light." So, I began to intentionally speak positive affirmations with my son every morning. It was important for him to know that his diagnosis does not define who he is. I wanted him to understand that he is so much more than that. I continuously speak encouraging words to him every day so when others are trying to negatively pour out of his emotional bucket, I pour back into his bucket with positive deposits.


I also decided that I was going to have to advocate for my son in the school setting. But more importantly, I made it my purpose to reframe the way educators view my child with ADHD. It has never been just about my child, but about all of the children, especially those with neurodivergent abilities. I was not going to allow them to focus on the negative impacts of his disability; I wanted them to see it from a different perspective. When his teachers would come to me with a concern, I would listen to it, but I would ask follow-up questions to make them think outside of the box. I provided them with strategies, I explained his strengths, and aided them in seeing things from a different perspective. I wanted them to see how they were viewing him from a deficit perspective instead of seeing his strengths and valuing his differences.


It has never been just about my child, but about all of the children, especially those with neurodivergent abilities.

For example, they viewed his energy as a deficit, but I helped them recognize his energy as enthusiasm. I was able to guide them in channeling his excitement into his learning. When educators view students from a strength-based perspective, they are purposefully stating that all students are capable of succeeding. Each school year brings its fair share of challenges as my son moves from grade to grade. It is my goal to continue to reframe the way he is viewed and to leave each teacher with a positive perspective. Children with ADHD are so much more than their disability; in fact, they have many unique gifts. I will not allow my son's diagnosis to become his title.


When educators view students from a strength-based perspective, they are purposefully stating that all students are capable of succeeding.

This article was written by Melissa Laster, an educator and school psychologist. Melissa is passionate about advocating for children with neurodivergent abilities, and especially children with ADHD. She loves helping educators see their biases and guiding them in reframing how they perceive children with ADHD. Additionally, she enjoys supporting families of neurodivergent learners navigate the school system. You can find her on instagram @motherofanexceptionalchampion.


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