“Mom, I think something’s wrong with me,” my son said to me one morning when we were leaving the house.
I gently closed the door and waited a moment before speaking. “What do you mean something’s wrong with you?” I asked. That’s how it all started.
My son is 15. We moved from Mexico to New York almost six years ago. He was 8 when we got here, and he barely spoke any English.
He’d always been very active—maybe a bit too much. He couldn’t stay seated calmly. I used to call him “the grasshopper” because he was always jumping. He’d jump from the table to an armchair, on the bed, in the street when hailing a cab with me—everywhere! At the movie theater, he’d squirm in his seat through the entire movie. I could only imagine what he was like in class!
My family reassured me his behavior was normal. They said I was the same when I was little—worse, even. So, his constant movement became a normal part of our daily life.
I never suspected anything else was going on until he started sixth grade. That’s when his grades started to drop.
My son is really bright. I’ve always been awed by his ability to reason and the types of questions he would ask me ever since he was little. How is it possible that someone that smart couldn’t get good grades? I wondered.
And then one day, with a worried smile, he said, “Math is really hard for me. I get distracted and then I’m totally lost for the rest of class. And that makes me nervous on tests. I think I need some help.”
If this had happened a few years ago I would have felt overwhelmed or lost. I might have even completely denied it.
But thankfully when he said that to me, because of my job as an Understood editor, I had all the information I needed at my fingertips. And that made me feel safe, confident and ready to take action.
My son was so brave in telling me about his concerns. Now it was up to me, as his mom, to take the next steps to get him help.
The first thing I did was take him to the pediatrician. She reminded me about the options for evaluations: a free evaluation done by the school or a private one, paid for by me.
The second step was talking to his teachers. This time I asked them specific questions about how much he moved around in class and whether he got distracted easily—things I noticed often at home.
I found out that they were all aware of his hyperactivity and were willing to help him with that. They explained that they let him stand at his desk or get up from his seat every once in a while in class and move around.
One teacher told me that in her experience, kids with attention issues were some of her brightest students—and that, even though he hasn’t yet been evaluated, my son seemed to fit into that category.
I left the school with a lump in my throat, but not because I was sad. I’d finally realized there was nothing “wrong” with my son. He was just different. And I was happy to know that my son’s teachers were looking out for him and willing to work in partnership with me to make sure he could be successful in school.
This post was originally written in Spanish. Click on the “Español” button at the top of the page to read the post in Spanish.
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About the author
Gaby Bobadilla, MA started her career as an editor and translator 20 years ago at Scholastic in New York City.