Monday, August 1, 2011

School Year 2011-12 and I'm Terrified

While a large majority of parents are looking forward to school starting again, I am not. You see, my son has some major learning challenges and school to this point has been hell for everyone involved. He's miserable, we're desperate and the teachers are insane. Will and school have not mixed well and we are all wearing the battle scars from five years of fighting to help him learn, fighting to help him control his behavior, fighting to keep him out of trouble for things he is unable to control. By the end of last school year, we were all out of fight. We have a team of nine professionals that we work with on this. NINE. Nine people to schedule appointments with, Nine people to repeat myself to, Nine people to push push push as hard as I can to do everything they can for Will. We have jobs, another child, pets, family - a life to run, and Will's struggle overshadows all of it during the school year. All we want is for him to have a moderate measure of success in school and to feel good about himself. I don't care if he is a Rhodes scholar or a dump truck driver, I just want him to be happy.

He is barely old enough to be in his grade, he's immature socially and emotionally and has the aforesaid learning challenges that have yet to be entirely defined. We always planned to "red-shirt" our late August baby boy...until we realized his IQ is 148. Yes, he is so damn smart that he is literally the most intelligent child most of his "team" has ever known. He is so smart that no one knows what to do with him. He has no interest in subtraction, spelling or social studies - he is too busy rattling off the life cycle of some random insect that no one has ever heard of until he speaks the words. Or constructing a Lego structure that would make an architect blush.

This is both amazing and discouraging, as how does one challenge and engage a child like this, while simultaneously fostering and encouraging the part of him that is scared, timid and lacking confidence? What do you do with a child who sounds like a tiny professor but has no idea how to make friends? Or one who cannot seem to understand how to write a complete sentence, but can tell you anything you want to know verbally? One who cannot tell time or tie his shoes, but understands what "pixilated" means and can use it correctly in a sentence? One who was not invited to A. Single. Birthday. Party. last school year but who blows the top off his MAP test?

I'll tell you what it means. It means that I talk to his teacher four/five times a week and not because it's good. It means that he hides his daily report so that he doesn't have to tell me about his day. It means that he gets angry with his classmates for not wanting to play the same things he does. It means that he has such a lack on interest in his schoolwork that he could have failed the second grade. It means so many things, and very few of them are good. It means that Will himself thinks he's worthless and stupid. It means that he literally hit his head against a steel post out of frustration at his lack of self control during a social conflict. It means that my gifted, beautiful and amazing son was withering away on the inside.

The last nine weeks of school were so awful that I cried off and on constantly - it just got worse by the day, each more painful and frustrating than the one before it.
So, this past spring, Lawton and I made the decision to retain Will for second grade. Our perspective is that we cannot keep trying the same approach and expecting a different result. Then began the "he's so smart, he'll be bored" chorus interspersed with the "boredom causes behavioral issues" refrain. But he has not mastered some of the fundamentals for second grade, and as the parent of a third-grader last year, I know what is coming. I cannot imagine him doing the work that Cecilia did - stories, projects, discussion questions, etc. Maybe I'm selling him short. I hope that's the case. I would love for him to prove me wrong, prove me to be some kind of moron - I would be thrilled. But I don't think that's going to happen. Not without some kind of miracle. Maybe it's a stupid decision. Maybe things will get worse. My biggest fear is that he will be so traumatized from the social aspect of retention that we will lose him forever. Or that his innate love of learning will be destroyed. If there is one question I would die to know the answer to, it would be this one. We would give anything to help him. Anything. I just wish I knew what it was.









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12 comments:

Angieaprilfool said...

Wow, Rebeccah, I had no idea you had such a rough go last year (and preceding years.) The best thing you can do is be an advocate for your kid, because there is no one out there who loves him as much as you. It must tear you up something fierce to see him struggle like this. I sincerely hope your team of nine, NINE, can figure out was is causing the problem and help you come up with strategies to overcome them! Hang in there and give atta boys generously when the smallest efforts are opput forth.
Keep us posted on his progress, whether to vent or share your triumphs. {hugs to your family}

bereccah said...

Thanks Angie - we just have to keep on keeping on and hope and pray that the right situations and people will come into our lives. Thanks for the sweet words...I appreciate it.

Nancy Beck said...

Rebeccah, You are a great Mom to do what you have to for your child even when it just wears you out! My parents held my younger brother, Matt, back in 2nd grade and it was the best thing for him. They also had to fight the school to make it happen. My dad finally told the school if they did not allow Matt to stay back then they would just stop studying with him so he would fail and then they would have to hold him back. Having a kid with Tourettes, ADHD & OCD I understand when your kid doesn't "fit". Sending him to school everyday is the hardest thing I do!! I will be praying that this will be a great year for all of you. God made these kids and I truly believe he has great plans for them and all these trials will be part of the testimony of what God has done for them. It's just hard being the Mom!! Nancy Beck

bereccah said...

Thank you so much Nancy! I had no idea about Matt and your parent's struggle in school. It means so much to hear from other people who share this same struggle. I keep reminding myself about the power of a mother's prayer and believe that God has fantastic plan for Will. Just got to keep on keepin' on, you know? :-)

Not Hannah said...

Holy crap, lady. Like, seriously? I want to french kiss this post, because YES. Just...yes. THIS is what I feel every school year. THIS is what it's like to love my kid and think, "I am BREAKING him with this school crap." You don't know me, and I don't know you, and your college football pick leaves me a little shuddery, BUT I want to drive up there and give you a high-five of really-smart-socially-messed-up-anxiety-causing-precious-little-boy-mothering sisterhood.

bereccah said...

Thank you very much! If you are a GA fan, then I suggest we crow about how dominant the SEC is, okay? And if Tech is your ilk, then we'll brag about how much smarter y'alls kids are. :-) Seriously though - there should be some kind of support group/drinking club for parents of kids like this. I wanna high five you too!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your son's struggles with school and your struggle with helping him grow into a happy, healthy adult. That sounds very difficult for both of you and I can only imagine how you deal with it! I'm just curious if your son has been screened for autism? My nephew has it and your description reminds me a lot of some of the issues he had before he was diagnosed. Just a thought! I hope I haven't offended you. I truly hope all turns out the best for both of you!

Oysterblogger said...

OMG i can not believe there is another person out there who has a very similar problem. I was just on Blogher because Nie had led me there and I clicked on this post and I about died because I sat in a mtg with a principal. last years teacher, this year's teacher, and the special ed specialist. My Sept 1 son young for his grade was sooo darn precocious that he was pooping alphabet letters at 3 and melted down at 2 because his green w was missing from the tub and he realized it seconds after I dumped the bag of foam letters in the tub. I thought omg he has a photographic memory or he just really likes the W.. But then he went to school and teachers told me he was avg and wellbehaved at first he didnt read til 1st grade he never sounded out words but he retained everything spoken or read and now he reads Harry Potter or Eragon series 800 pg book in 3 hours at 9. I asked them how we could help him utilize his gift so he could graduate college early etc and they just looked at me like I was crazy and more like how can we get him to fall in line like the rest because he has an attention problem forgets to turn in work and last year came home crying all the time and felt like a piece of crap because he couldn't keep up with the work unless you ask him and he could repeat everything about the assignment with his photographic memory. He does not sound as smart as your son or as severely distracted but I had a huge taste of it last year. MY point is they could care less about his gift and hardly believed me that he is reading that fast they were skeptical, but last years teacher albeit sweet as she was and she was the one who discovered he had a photographic memory just complained about how much of a distraction to her his distractablity was! He is immature for his grade too like your son and he gets mad when the older kids do not want to play what he plays. Everything you described was sooo what I had experienced.

Susan Hill said...

I was reading this and it sounded like my son who has Asperger's. I saw where you had a team of people but has anyone suggested that or do they already know? Two years ago (and more) we went through almost the same stuff, but then we moved and we are in a school now where the 'learning-level' (if I can say that and not sound tacky here) was at a higher level. (Public school, not private) He almost had zero problems this last year. The teacher says she just has to keep him focused on facts and stuff that keep him (academically) challenged. This last year, I breathed calmly for the first time in years. Saying a prayer for you and your family...

bereccah said...

@oyster - I'm sorry you've had such a go of it. Your child sounds like he's sooooo freaking smart and I'm so frustrated for you that his gifts have been put second to conformity. I hope things improve for you. Keep me posted!

bereccah said...

@susan - we are actually doing an experiment at the moment. The deal is that if he does the work we've asked him in a timely manner, he gets to chose what he studies next. This has afforded him some autonomy and seems to be helping challenge him as well. That and being in a class with kids his age seem to be helping so far, thank goodness!

K Lemons said...

My son just started High School this year. He was very simular sounding to your son and we did hold him back starting school in Kinder. In 3rd grade we were called into the principals office with teacher saying he needed to be tested for ADHD, HYPER. WE had him tested with a psychologist of our choosing not through the school. He found areas of brillience, and areas of severe problems. He also found minimal executive function. This last one is the one that has had the most effect on his school. Where people have an innate sense of how to approach a problem, I have to provide a step by step lesson on how to deal with the problem. Like how to figure out how many pages he needs to read to finish te book in 30 days. What does the teacher mean when they say study for a test. In 7th grade he was clinically depressed talking about suicide over school. He hated learning, fought for 2 hours over 10min work. We did 2 years of family therapy, and I quit my job and took him out of school. I enrolled him in a free online charter school that uses K-12 inc curriculum. It was the best thing I ever did. He has flourish with 1 on 1 attention. He can progress as fast or slow as he is able to finish lessons with 80% correct. We have a trampoline that he uses between each lesson which helps his focus. He loves learning now, and keeps a list of things that he wants to learn. His depression is gone. I am his learning coach, executive secretary, and we have grown so much closer through all this.