How Musical Theatre Saved My ADHD Son

How Musical Theatre Saved My ADHD Son

6th grade. It’s enough to rock any family to the core. Now let’s imagine a 6th grade boy with ADHD. Then add to that a failed IEP, a stinky Intervention Specialist, and puberty. It’s a recipe for major 6th grade failure. As the school year progressed I watched my spirited young man grow further and further disconnected. He was slipping into this “giving up” place.

That year a young girl who was in all of my son’s classes hung herself in the bathroom of his school. He knew her well and even said she was kind to him when others weren’t. He had seen what happens when the black cloud of depression takes over. I wasn’t going to allow this to happen to my son. I wasn’t going to let him give up.

If you knew me in real life you would know I don’t give up.

I started looking, searching, and desperately hoping to find a place for him. A place where he felt loved, where he wanted to give his all, and where all of this quirk and wiggles would be celebrated instead of scorned.

That’s when I ran across this church with this -not so little- theatre program. It was just a town over from ours with little barrier for entry. We started rehearsing for an audition. We didn’t know how to follow the rules so we planned to sing Tomorrow from Annie… with a you tube karaoke track for back up. Cause we’re high tech like that.  And because I didn’t realize there would be an accompanist.

The day of his audition he got a call back. We were excited. I hadn’t expected anything. I was just hoping he’d make the chorus cut. We spent the next few days getting ready for this call back. He wasn’t cast as the lead (obviously… it was his first show) but he was Nugget Ape in Tarzan and that was enough for him.

That summer began his first journey into the wonderful world of musical theatre. It wasn’t without it’s troubles. We had to meet with the director because he seemed un-focused and disorganized with his notes and well ADHD. It’s not uncommon to have to explain. After this meeting, he realized what he could lose.

And he definitely didn’t want to lose this new found love.

You see, he fell in love with musical theatre. Theatre is a place where differences are celebrated not frowned upon. His quirky, slightly odd personality could be anything he wanted it to be. He could be any kind of character he wanted. He could imagine himself to be anything he wanted. A knight, an ape, a nerd, or even the dashing prince. Anything!

In theatre, you rarely stand still. His wiggles and toe tapping were actually working for him instead of against him! Even during rehearsals the cast rarely sits still. You’re moving your body to rhythms or within a certain space. He learned how to move his body. How to stand with confidence. How to present and speak with others. He also found a group of like-minded kids who didn’t make fun of him for being just a little socially different. Kids of all ages and interests were now part of his theatre family.

He recognized he was a GREAT singer. Having a talent made him even more valuable. He had something that made him special and unique. He was a talented kid with a great singing voice… not just a kid with ADHD. Not just the kid that struggled at school. He was more than that. He was useful.

He left rehearsals with a sparkle in his eyes and a glow in his heart. As the parent, I was often overwhelmed with thanks. Not only for the program but for the vision of love and acceptance that these people had created. I found myself in tears often because I was so very grateful for the changes I was seeing in his life.

He wore his first show shirt with pride. So much pride that it’s now faded and worn out. So much pride that the first night he got his shirt he laid down in his bed and said… “I’m never taking this off.”


What I knew in that moment was that he had experienced what I had so many years ago. You see, once you fall in love with musical theatre, you never take it off. It always lives within you. The stories of your fellow cast members. The long hours of perfecting the perfect pitch, or all of the silly inside jokes that only those people will understand. That something you feel when you connect to an audience in a spectacular way. When your acting or singing moves someone. When your parents and friends beam with pride. When you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are right where you belong. It’s a powerful, emotional, and meaningful feeling that only belongs to those who love the stage. I understood it. And now he did too.

Now, he’s on his third show. Having several castings and a solo. He misses the program when it’s over and can’t wait to be there again. He continues to develop his voice and his musical skills. He now has a thing. His very own thing. His own place to be love and accepted. A world where he fits perfectly.

epiphany lutheran church drama ministry

Musical Theatre and this little church saved my ADHD son.

And now. We’re all there. Because of his love. Because we believe in the program. Because we all love theatre. Because you have to support something that has the capability of curing the emotional side affects of ADHD.

So after 15 years of absence from the stage I myself have returned to be a part of the production. We go to rehearsal together. We drive there listening to the soundtrack and practicing our parts. He corrects me when I mess up… because well he’s still a 13 year old boy. We do rehearsal together and he tells me what he liked and gives me notes on what I should improve. He smiles at me differently. Because he’s so proud to have a mom who does something that he loves with him.

Musical theatre made us friends. We’ll always have these memories to share. He’ll always have a cool mom who played the stage with him.

And I will forever be thankful!

Musical Theatre saved my ADHD son.

Do you live local to the Dayton, Ohio area? Come see us! In the Dragons cast, I play Sandra Bloom, wife and mother to the two men who set off a series of crazy stories and a son’s struggle to understand his father. While my son plays the cheesy sidekick to the hometown bullies.

epiphany lutheran church drama ministry

Thursday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. (Daffodils cast)
Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. (Dragons cast)
Saturday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. (Dragons cast)
Sunday, July 17 at 2:30 p.m. (Daffodils cast)

Thursday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. (Dragons cast)
Friday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. (Daffodils cast)
Saturday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. (Daffodils cast)
Sunday, July 24 at 2:30 p.m. (Dragons cast)

at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 6430 Far Hills Ave., Centerville, OH

Tickets on sale now! Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for students and seniors; $5 for children 5 and under; and $25 for premium front row seating.

Directed/Choreographed by Megan Wean Sears

Big Fish is a new Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and a new book by esteemed screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Based on the celebrated novel by Daniel Wallace and the acclaimed film directed by Tim Burton, Big Fish centers on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest… and then some! Edward’s incredible, larger-than-life stories thrill everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales.

Overflowing with heart, humor and spectacular stagecraft, Big Fish is an extraordinary new musical that reminds us why we love going to the theatre – for an experience that’s richer, funnier and BIGGER than life itself.


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  1. Great post! My son is ADHD and my husband has a background in musical and technical theater. Never thought about it as a possible outlet for my boy. Thanks!!

  2. This is so inspirational! While I’m not active in local community, I have always had a love of theater and music. Music for me is so therapeutic and often says what I cannot.I’m so glad it was such a lifesaver for your son (and you!).

  3. Thanks for sharing! If I was in town, I would definitely attend the show. I love how your perseverance made such a visible, beautiful impact. You are a strong and amazing mother!

  4. I have ADHD so I can really relate to how your son felt! For me, horse riding is the outlet I needed. I got introduce to it when I was 5 and have never looked back!

  5. I’m sitting here with tears. I don’t think I had the honor of meeting you during Tarzan. I wish I had. My son Kean was one of the Tarzan’s and this post could have been written about him. Musical Theatre has been the biggest gift in his life as well. He also has ADHD. He has found his extended family among the theatre folks in this beautiful community. He was sad to not be in Big Fish but is heading to Interlochen for a 3 week musical theatre camp so would have missed the second weekend of performances. We will be at the July 14th show. I really hope I get to meet you. Thank you for this beautiful piece. Coleen

  6. How wonderful. Your right they just need to find an interest that sparks and that makes them focus. Wish I was closer so we could watch!

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