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This is the story of two men; one eighteen years-old and full of promise, the other a juvenile delinquent with nothing to lose. Both struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyslexia. Both found ways to cope. This is the story of one man’s determination to overcome his own obstacles and to pave a road for his son to follow.
WE BEGIN WITH THE FATHER
It goes without saying that the world is a tough place for boys. If you happen to be a boy with a learning disability and ADHD it can be downright cruel. Now imagine your Swedish mother and Wallachian father name you Carroll Mikhail Edvard Vlakfeld XXIV (for those of you unfamiliar with Roman numerals, that’s 24). By your third playground beating you doubt the presence of God.
If the playground isn’t bad enough, there’s the classroom. At the time “Mikhail” was in elementary school, children with dyslexia and ADHD were coded as “special needs” and assigned to a “special” classroom. It didn’t take long for Mikhail to get bored and begin to act up. The Special staff soon realized that not only was he not special needs, he was intellectually exceptional (later tests would reveal his I.Q. to fall in the 150 range). It became clear he would need to be reassigned to a mainstream classroom. Sadly, not all the teachers were on board.
Due to his new teacher’s woefully inadequate training in the field of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Mikhail was deemed impudent any time he raised his hand or asked the question “why?” The majority of the time his questions went unanswered and his enthusiasm was regarded as boisterous or disruptive. And despite the fact that Mikhail would get answers right on his tests, he wasn’t given credit for his efforts and more often than not was accused of cheating. Demoralized doesn’t begin to describe how he felt.
Those early years were the beginning of a downward spiral for Mikhail, fueled by bullying from students and humiliation from teachers and a world of adults who looked the other way. Factor in a home life of neglect, abuse and at times abject poverty and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. By the time Mikhail was thirteen he was well on his way down a path of self-destruction.
What followed his childhood were teen years of violence, sexual promiscuity and rampant drug abuse. He spent more time in a jail cell than he did in a classroom, and the culmination of abuse and neglect resulted in a case of PTSD on par with most Vietnam Vets. Anyone who knew Mikhail at the time chocked him up to a lost cause. It was no secret that Mikhail wore his dysfunction like a badge.
ENTER THE SON
Like most juvenile delinquents, Mikhail became a teenage father. When word spread of his impending fatherhood, people everywhere doubted his ability to parent, going so far as to take bets on when he’d either abandon his son or lose him to the state altogether. People everywhere would lose those bets.
Not long after Mikhail’s son Michael turned two years-old did he notice the same behaviors and actions in his son that plagued him as a child. It started as an inability to sit still that by the time Michael entered school became an inability to concentrate or complete homework assignments. Mikhail, knowing what was in store for his son, took every spare moment to educate himself on ADHD and dyslexia. Mikhail was determined his son not endure the same ignorance and apathy that plagued him into adulthood.
Luckily for both Mikhail and his son, the world of education had made great strides in educating teachers not only how to teach dyslexic children, but how to handle ADHD with sensitivity and compassion. With every grade Michael advanced his father was there by his side, at the school or in the gym or at the playground. Mikhail even went so far as to stay up well after Michael fell asleep to teach himself from his son’s text books all he had missed while he was in and out of school.
As time went on, Mikhail never missed a parent-teacher meeting or an open house; not a football game or a birthday party. Mikhail would even go on to join the PTA and become his son’s Cub Scout troop’s Cub Master. And even though Michael struggled with the exact same obstacles as his father, he grew into a man who never spent a night in jail, who never came home drunk or high and who has been the recipient of more awards for his efforts in Community Service and selfless acts than any other citizen of his town. Many of them make the newspaper.
The world is still a cruel place for boys and men. Sensitivity and compassion are not rewarded when shown to one another. Troubled men are encouraged to isolate themselves. Many develop mental health issues because of it. Many suffer in silence.
Despite his success as an adult, Mikhail still bears the scars of his childhood. Some, like the track marks or cigarette burns on his arms, you can see. Others are deeper and infinitely more painful. But thanks to the love and dedication he has shown to his son, Michael will never know the pain of a parent’s hand or an unkind word. It’s no secret that Mikhail wears his fatherhood like a badge.
For more about the wild history of Mikhail, visit HR NIGHTMARE @ heellisgoa.com
For more about the struggles and successes of his son Michael, visit PRINCE CHARMING @ heellisgoa.com