Trenna Stout, B.Ed., BCEA, Fellow

As I began this journey advocating for my child, my husband, family, and I were right there, offering unwavering support, comfort, and a friendly push whenever things felt overwhelming. In those tough moments when I stepped out of my comfort zone, their guidance helped me find my way back. Along the road, we found so many helpful resources and supportive friends. That saying about it taking a village? It's absolutely true, especially when you're raising a unique child. So, I'm here to be that helping hand and a source of support for you, ready to walk beside you on your own path.

As a parent, I began advocating for my child at 18 months with an Early Intervention Evaluation request when he was not hitting milestones. At 2 years old, I sought a speech evaluation, and it was determined that services were needed for a phonological processing order and articulation.

At 6 years old, learning to read became a fight that we quickly lost; feeling like a failure, thinking to myself, "This is what I do for a living, and I can't help my own child." After Jude told me that words hopped like frogs when he tried to read and punctuation would getting smaller until, "Poof! It disappeared", I knew this wasn't just about reading. He received a comprehensive visual exam by a developmental optometrist (not to be confused with a visual acuity exam). Here is his story that was issued in a 2015 Press Release by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. This resulted in a diagnosis of farsightedness, amblyopia (lazy eye) and an astigmatism. He started intensive vision therapy for 6 months, and this made a world of difference, resulting in an academic and personal growth explosion!

Then, after completing vision therapy, an occupational evaluation was suggested by his developmental optometrist, confirming what we already suspected; sensory processing disorder/sensory seeker, developmental coordination disorder, and dysgraphia. Therapy began utilizing various strategies including integrated listening therapy, astronaut training, and sensory diets. As a parent, you have a gut feeling about things, and we knew more progress was possible. After researching, he started therapeutic horseback riding for these issues. He flourished and "graduated" from therapy riding. He went on to learn both English and Western Styles, earning many ribbons in his divisions, including Champion and Reserved Champion! Unfortunately, allergies got the best of him, despite trying to manage them, and he had to step away from what he loved.

When distracting behaviors began interrupting learning, we mistakenly paid out-of-pocket for a private evaluation at the end of second grade, resulting in a Combined ADHD diagnosis. Learning since, that this should have been the school's responsibility. As a parent, you don't know, what you don't know; that is ok and not your fault. It was a process that ended successfully through collaboration with the district to put a 504 with related services in place; incorporating many natural, holistic and alternative options before including medication, which is a very personal choice. For my son, it was like a light switch had been turned on for the first time!

As ADHD often does, it brought about anxiety in fourth grade, a common-coexisting condition. After exhausting, mindfulness techniques, guided meditation, aromatherapy, gluten/dairy and dye-free diets, we once again reached the limit of our know-how. He began seeing a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to assist him work through his anxious thoughts and find additional ways to manage stressful situations.

As he grew, we continued to use his strengths to build confidence. He participated in activities that he expressed interest in that promoted movement and/or structure, like swimming, chess, parkour, and martial arts. At 12, he applied and was accepted into a highly-sought after ADHD Trip Camp (pictured in Margate location photo- second from right, blue hat and glasses with teen smirk) for boys to help develop his lagging executive, social and emotional skills. He happily attended for two summers, and it was the only camp that he enjoyed and begged to return! He was excited to be around boys who he understood and who understood him.

As a high school freshman, he is adjusting better than we thought he would, and he's getting involved in extracurricular activities with gentle nudging. There have definitely been bumps in the road, as there will always be in life. However, we are both working on having healthier, positive mindsets. Our new thoughts when making decisions are to ask, "Does this serve a purpose, does it make me happy, does it push me out of my comfort zone a little, and will this decision hurt others?" Then, with these answers in mind, the decision is made.

With a 504 still in place, as his needs change through the years, so do the requests for appropriate support. This means that both his journey and mine is not complete. We all strive to do the best for our children, and we have made mistakes along the way. But, we have both grown so much, and for that I am grateful.

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