From difficult diagnosis to high school success

School supplies on desk

Mum shares her top lessons from two day workshop

When Kate McLaren attended our two day workshop in Camden 2012, she made a conscious effort to listen and take notes on everything. What she came away with was three key points that would immediately have a positive impact on her family’s life.

“There were a few key things from the workshop that I thought would immediately have an impact”, Kate told us.

“One of those was the planning matrix, another was getting my son into a social group and finally that I need to be an unwavering advocate for him” she continued.

Kate’s family consists of herself, her husband and her two children; Carter, aged eight and Hayden aged twelve who was diagnosed at eight years of age. Now that Hayden is entering “teenage-dom” Kate tells us she “needs to be as armed and ready as possible”.

Hayden has been diagnosed with Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder (ADHD) in December 2010 and Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) in June 2011. Diagnosis was initially complicated with Hayden’s behaviour being labelled as “immature” and “naughty”.

It was through starting school, consultations with the deputy principle, assistance from therapy groups and input from the infants’ coordinator that the ADHD diagnosis was made.

“However the paediatrician felt there was more going on, as despite the improvement for symptoms of ADHD, there were characteristics, behaviours and mannerisms that warranted further investigating” Kate explained.

“A year later, after many reports and questions the diagnosis for PDD-NOS was made.”

When talking about her son, Kate says “Hayden is very kind hearted and thoughtful soul.”

“He loves his sports and is an avid collector of Lego and cars” she continues.

“I often quip that the ADHD messy side won out the on the neat freak autism streak. However the things he loves, like his Lego, are proudly and methodically displayed on his shelves.”

As well as attending the two day workshop, Kate has made use of many of the resources on the Positive Partnerships website.

“I preferred this over reading a plethora of books and articles on autism, because you could listen to other parents and relate. You could give an example of your own situation and get a suited answer.” Kate said.

“So for me the workshops are more tailored to where your child is at, and they are a great way to meet and connect with other parents in your area.”

The planning matrix was one of the key learnings for Kate. “I was in awe of a lady who had her son’s handwritten matrix at the workshop” she said.

“I started Hayden’s but I admit I hit a stumbling block and put it to one side, his diagnosis was just on a year and we were still figuring things out. Later that year I opened it up again and it all just poured out.”

Kate also put her own spin on the matrix, telling us “I flipped it so as you read across the behaviour type you can read the corresponding characteristic, impact and strategy.”

“I recently handed it to his high school teachers and they were most thankful for the information. Two teachers even asked for blank copies for their children or grandchildren.”

At the beginning of this year Hayden transitioned into high school. According to Kate “he was very excited about the move to high school, he does quite well academically.”

“However there were still challenges to face like a different block of classrooms, different teachers and a different uniform.”

“During the holidays we went through his desk at home together and set up some simple strategies to help him manage at school” Kate says.

“So far two weeks in, he is going really well.  With the input the school has had, together as a team we have set him up for success.”

As for her ongoing goals for Hayden, Kate keeps a level head. “I want for Hayden what every parent wants” she says.

“Stability, for them to excel at their best level, to be responsible and have independence.”Kate offers some sound advice for parents is a similar situation. “Firstly, you need to be an advocate for your child. Don’t sit back and wait for meetings, reports or therapy. If you or your child doesn’t click with a therapist, it’s ok to move on. You might have to tell your story again but you will be better for it.”

“Secondly, there are so many different ideas and strategies out there, try them all.  You will know very quickly what will and what won’t work.”

“Finally, be in a support group for you. There are so many forums either on Facebook, through your therapy centre or within the school with other parents in the same position as you. You aren’t alone, other parents, like myself, know how it feels, what it looks like and how we can help” Kate concludes.