Story spotlight: How I helped my son thrive
Coming off of National Parents’ Day earlier this month —a time to recognize and celebrate the important role parents and guardians play in their child’s life —we’re spotlighting the story of Understood.org’s director of product marketing, Shelby Coyne.
While every story and journey is different, Coyne’s experience with her son Finn and his ADHD diagnosis represents different challenges and triumphs many parents of kids with learning and thinking differences encounter. From noticing the signs and symptoms of ADHD, to having the “aha” moment with her family, to taking steps to get Finn support — here’s Coyne’s story, and how she helped her son thrive.
Last summer, my son Finn graduated from preschool, and we spent the summer at my parents’ house. He had a hard time adjusting to summer camp and being in a new place. He started running away from camp counselors or just shutting down and not talking or moving for long periods of time when he was upset or frustrated. This behavior continued as he started kindergarten.
I was concerned about his behavior. This wasn’t typical for Finn. After some time, I thought these signs might be related to ADHD — particularly because my family has a history of ADHD and dyslexia. So I went through my pediatrician to schedule an evaluation. Finn was diagnosed with ADHD in the fall of 2021.
Our ADHD “aha” moment
My husband actually hadn’t fully understood or believed in learning and thinking differences prior to my son’s diagnosis. He was part of a family and community in which people had little awareness of learning and thinking differences.
So, when we started noticing signs in my son, had him evaluated, and discussed it with an expert, he had this “aha” moment and saw the differences in Finn. He said he wanted to become an advocate and help others.
I was so relieved and touched by his reaction. And I also felt relieved to finally get Finn’s diagnosis, because that meant we could take steps to get him the support he needed.
The next step
I considered medication for Finn but decided to start with a behavioral therapist. It took me some time to find options and get referrals, but I found a great therapist who we saw until about March 2021. I was looking for reassurance that we were doing the right thing and wanted to get new ideas for what to try when we faced challenges ahead.
The therapist we found to support Finn actually used tools similar to Understood’s Take N.O.T.E. for observing and reporting back on behavior. I also shared the diagnosis with friends — some of whom were also seeing signs of learning differences in their children — and teachers at Finn’s school.
My research online led me to CHADD.org, which is dedicated to helping people affected by ADHD. But I also found support when I started working at Understood.org in January of this year. I visit our site and listen to podcasts for work and personal reasons all the time.
Some days it feels like we’ve made so much progress, and on others, it feels like we’ve taken several steps back. I’ve found that building my knowledge, trying things to see what works, and supporting Finn is a continual process. Since taking action and making sure I’m prepared to help him as much as I can, I feel more confident I’m doing everything I can to help him thrive based on expert advice, others’ experience, and research. It makes me feel less helpless, and more in control.
Finn, 6 years old, is doing very well now! My husband and I have learned and taught Finn many coping mechanisms for when he has impulses or gets frustrated. He’s stopped or reduced many of the concerning behaviors we saw last year and is learning to thrive with ADHD.
I do realize that there will be ups and downs in the future. But I feel confident that Finn and our family have the tools and know how to get the support we need to navigate them together.