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Susan: This year, we're sending Chris in lean and mean. He's going to travel light. If teachers want me to be aware of something....they send it to ME. I will no longer pull full shopping bags of *crap* out of his backpack and binder.

I hope this works for you. We tried it, beginning when our son was in the 6th grade, and it failed due to a total lack of cooperation from certain teachers. These were the ones who did not believe in the existence of ADHD -- their favorite tactic was shame and humiliation of the kid in front of all his classmates.

The few teachers that responded to memory lapses with immediate unemotional consequences succeeded brilliantly with our son, so much so that I have become a believer in this principle. These teachers would say things like this: "Left your essay at home? Okay, sit down over there and rewrite it immediately." It's amazing how well this worked, but we could never convince the other teachers to try it.

Despite endless parent-teacher conferences and changing schools three times -- once even moving to a different state for this purpose -- we never did solve this problem satisfactorily. Our son gradually grew to hate school, and dropped out in a drug-induced haze in the middle of his 11th grade. We were devastated.

We prevailed upon our son to take the GED exam, which he did with a surprisingly good attitude. Best of all, he did brilliantly on the exam, and received a letter from our local community college offering him a full scholarship if he would enroll as a fulltime freshman. I can't tell you how much that letter meant to him. Looking back, it was all-important to him because it represented validation from a completely independent institution.

He didn't accept the scholarship, I think because he still could not face anything that resembled a classroom. Over the next two years he tried to make it out there in the real world, living on his own, and discovered just how difficult that can be. It was truly the infamous School of Hard Knocks. Eventually he cleaned up his act and then came home (in that order), and began picking up the pieces. He applied to a different community college and was accepted into their automotive mechanics program, where he has been a straight-A student for two years now.

Just yesterday the college invited him to join their honor society. When I was a student I used to look down on such things, but now, much older and somewhat wiser, I see this as another crucial morale-booster, infinitely more credible to him than anything his parents could say about his abilities.

Where this story will lead no one knows. We follow him through thick and thin, hoping for the best and doing whatever we can to help and support. It has been the most difficult task either of us have ever had to face. I'm thrilled that things seem to working out well for him, at long last, but I am also all too aware of how fragile he is. It could so easily have worked out very badly indeed, as it irrevocably did for a few of his friends. We feel sometimes as though the last 21 years have been spent threading our way through a minefield, that our successes have been as much due to luck as to skill or understanding.

The experience of raising this child has left us more appreciative of the overwhelming difficulties that so many families face, more aware of the fragility of life itself, far more compassionate towards those less fortunate than we have been.

We wish you strength and good fortune!

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