High school and AD(H)D is like oil and water; you can mix them as rigorously as possible, yet they will always continue to separate. The trick is to understand they don’t mix as well as other substances. Teachers, parents, IEPs, and IPRCs are the breads and flours we need to complete this mix. It takes the right combination of each to get a solid mixture.
When my mom got the call from Mr. Cousineau, she knew that I was finally going to receive the help I needed. We met with Mr. Cousineau at the end of the school year, probably with a week or so of school left. It was my grade 12 year, and next year I would be challenging myself with the OAC courses as I prepped myself for university. Everyone wanted me to transition successfully to university–everyone except me; I just didn’t care.
We sat down with Mr. Cousineau, a tall, beefy, foot-ball-coaching type of guy. He was calm, and reserved. My mom sat down, ready to tear into him as a representative of the failed system that left me for educational-death. Mr. Cousineau made a quick move as he introduced him self:
“Thanks for coming, I’m Mr. Cousineau (I’m sure he used his first name; I just don’t remember it,) and I’m just distraught and so sorry.”
And just in that introduction my mom was stunned to silence. Now, if you knew anything of my mom, silence does not come cheap for her. She was raised in a family of four kids, she was used to getting her way, and she was one of two girls in our household of seven. She yelled, a lot. This time, she just sat down and as robotic as any other meeting and she said:
“My name is Lynne Wachna, this is my son, Matthew.”
Mr. Cousineau quickly took control of the meeting. He apologized over and over and explained how turnover in the special education department has led to a bit of unorganization. He acknowledged that I did not receive the help I needed and took full responsibility, even as a new teacher. He explained how there was nothing to be done about the past but learn from it to prepare for the future. Next year he was going to make it his duty to see to it that I get the help I needed. My mom was at the break of tears. Everything she needed to hear, he said it. Finally, a rope was thrown out to our sinking ship.
…Then my OAC year started. Nothing but heart break for my mother. Mr. Cousineau was transferred out to another school. I’m sure it had something to do with budgets (I hope it did.) Of all points in my schooling career, this I will always identify as having the second largest impact. With no assistance, and a heavy course load, I quickly fell behind. Ashamed to show my face in class, I skipped classes on a regular basis. I started to hang out with the other students that skipped classes, getting involved with drugs and alcohol during school hours. It was a mess. It was my OAC year. I had many highlights that year:
- A “0” in English
- An average of 35% in all of my classes
- Over 100 total absences
- OFSAA Swimming Finalist (finished 6th and 13th)
Ya, I know, the last one doesn’t seem to fit. I see the last part as proof that I wasn’t a loss cause. There is a lot to share about my OFSAA experience and my medication, but that will be in my blog about my treatment.
I ended that year applying for university and college. I met with my councilor at school to figure out what programs to apply to. I wanted to be a radio DJ, and he had no clue what program I should take. He had me apply to anything that was drama. One of those programs was the Drama in Education program at the University of Windsor. This program had a full day interview requirement for its 2000 applicants (they would end up only picking 20.) I made it to the interview and was actually selected. They sent me a letter telling me that all I had to do was pass my OAC year with a 65% average. I knew I was far from it. I finished OAC with a 35% and no clue what I was going to do with my life.
My parents continued to push me that summer to upgrade at summer school and to register for a second try at OAC; a sixth year. The first thing we did was meet with the vice principal, Manny. My mom and I sat in his office, and the meeting started with a tone. Manny sat down and told me I couldn’t come back. He showed me my marks and absences and said I was over 18 and they didn’t want me back. My mom lost it. She somehow managed to release the anger inside without having to raise her voice; I had never been so scared. She cited the years and years of lost education with no resources and no help. She cited my files and their recommendations from doctors and psychologists. Manny was stunned. He swallowed his pride, and offered me a contract. One missed class and I was out. That year I skipped about 10 classes for school functions with Manny’s blessing.
I received the help I needed from a great LST teacher. I received extra time on exams. Teachers actually worked with me, rather than against me. It felt so different, and I got caught up in it. I started to develop into an organized student. I worked on things like routines, organizational plans, and study plans. It was great. I finished that year with an 85% average and my first year tuition paid off in bursaries and scholarships.
Years later, I ended up in teachers’ college. In my education, a fellow teacher candidate asked me if I would make a presentation about teaching students with AD(H)D. I shared my story and was asked a burning question. “Can you tell us some more positive stories, we feel like you have been bashing teachers the whole time and we kind of feel bad.”
To this I replied: “Well, we’ve come a long way since. When I was young, good stories were far and few. My story should show that we are moving in the right direction in special education.”