But when her school shut down in March and classes shifted to Zoom, Isabela’s grades took a nosedive. She signed on for her virtual class from a desk piled high with books, papers and stuffed animals and then spent hours trying to clean her room instead of focusing on schoolwork. She found herself “paralyzed” by assignments, McLaughlin said, but she wouldn’t tell the teacher over email that she was struggling, as she would have done in person.
“It was meltdown after meltdown after meltdown,” said McLaughlin, 53, a mother of three from Delaware, Ohio, who works in a high school with chronically truant children.
McLaughlin recalls one time in April when Isabela, who was already diagnosed with severe anxiety, was given a language arts assignment and “fell to pieces.”
“She was crying and screaming and hyperventilating and started to get some tics, moving her head and flapping her arms. She had never had them before. That’s when we started to consider that it might be ADHD.”
McLaughlin spent months trying to bring more structure to Isabela’s day by writing lists, schedules, timelines and checkboxes. But as someone who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder herself a decade ago, McLaughlin realized that she was seeing the same behaviors in Isabela. She thought, “I’ve got to nip this in the bud.”
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