You have have to read this
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|Mon, 04-20-2009 - 8:26pm|
I found this on a website link through the school board. It's long but well worth the read.
I could have written this...it's my life exactly.
I sit uncomfortably in the little room where we have gathered to discuss my son's behaviour at school. The principal is friendly and tries to put me at ease, but when I look at the unfamiliar faces gathered around the table, I can't help but worry: how can I make them see my son through my eyes?
His teacher begins, describing his defiant and rude behaviour in class. Who is this child? There must be some mistake, this isn't my son we are talking about!!! My son is polite and easygoing, surely they must know that? The psychologist asks us how we deal with these types of behaviours at home. I look at her blankly, searching for a similar example to those his teacher has described, but nothing comes to mind.
It hasn't always been easy at home. He was a difficult child, determined to carve out his own path. But that was when he was three or four. We worked on clear and consistent routines: the morning routine, dinner table rules, the bedtime routine...
And we practiced.
And practiced some more.
And now, after getting dressed in the morning, he heads downstairs to put his shoes on and make his breakfast. When I turn off the lights in his room at 9:00pm, he is tucked in bed with pyjamas on, teeth brushed, having already had his glass of water and read to himself for half an hour. There are no bedtime battles.
This is the child I know.
Sure, there are those days when he needs constant reminders, needs to be brought back on track. Those are the days when I head into the kitchen to find him with his head stuck in the pantry, a packet of instant oatmeal in his hand, a blank look on his face. Lost in a daydream that is far more captivating than the task of making breakfast. Annoying, yes. Irritating if we are already behind schedule. But defiant? No.
I sometimes yell at him and then feel badly. He is only 7, after all, and constantly fighting the pull of that other world. He really tries, and he is improving with age. Would I do any better carrying out mundane tasks if I carried around an imaginary universe in my head?
Short attention span for tasks that do not interest him. Those are the words THEY use. I know I should feel concerned, but having only recently finished writing a thesis, all I can feel is sympathy. I think back on the mountains of sunflower seeds that I ate while writing the literature review. The days when I only wrote one or two pages. Short attention span for tasks that do not interest him. Aren't we all like that?
But no, they're right. He is different. He has a short attention span for anything anyone tries to teach him. He has always been a self-directed learner; the idea that someone else can impart useful knowledge is completely alien to him!
He taught himself to read when he was three. He picked up basic phonics rules and applied them to anything in print, including license plates. He read many words incorrectly - the English language is fraught with inconsistencies - but he didn't give up, sounding out words of any length. He then worked backwards, deducing longer words from the context and applying the newly discovered phonics rules to other words.
Trial and error, that's how he learns.
That's how he learned to use my work-related software on our home computer, teaching himself features of the software that I had never explored. When we both sat down to learn how to use a web design package, he was the one who taught me. How did he know so much when he had never seen that package before???
He doesn't want to be taught, and why should he? His self-directed approach has served him well so far! He asks for help when he encounters a problem he doesn't know how to solve, and then he listens attentively.
I have always maintained that what sets my son apart is not how advanced he is academically, or how quickly he learns new material, but rather his intense drive to invent and explore. Just as other children need recess to burn off physical energy, he needs time to create in order to burn off mental energy. Maybe the reason he behaves so well at home is that here, he has so many opportunities to do just that.
Making treasure hunts for his little sister.
Building miniature golf courses out of construction paper and toilet paper rolls.
Reading the mountains of books I continually buy for him.
Designing his future laboratory using "3D Home Architect".
He keeps that mental energy focused and uses it constructively. Surely this characteristic is a strength? This is something we should work with and nurture, not try to fix! It will serve him well as an adult, when he starts up his computer software design company...
I dream of setting him free in a room filled with books and educational materials, to pick and choose based on his current interests, with an adult to guide him when needed. I have no doubt that in this way he would eventually cover all he needs to know to receive a high school diploma, and then some. But this isn't possible in the public school system. He couldn't be counted on to dutifully follow the government's predetermined curriculum: "What, learn two years of math in 3 months and not pick up a math book again for the rest of the year? That's unheard of!"
And so he is disruptive.
He refuses to participate in group activities.
And they want to evaluate him for behavioural issues.
But the behaviour is merely a symptom, how he expresses his anxiety and frustration over the disparity between his preferred mode of learning and the classroom environment. Wouldn't it be nice if he could learn to behave even when uninterested? Or politely suggest strategies that would make it easier for him to be a participating member of the class? But he is only 7 and bright though he may be, he does not understand why he is different. The carrots and the sticks work, for a time, but his frustration always wins out in the end. Like treating pneumonia with cough syrup, there is a risk in ignoring the underlying problem.
I tuck my son in bed. He is sound asleep, clutching his favourite stuffed rabbit. He looks so serene. And vulnerable. I hold him in my arms and cry - I am not strong enough to mother this complicated child! And yet, I love him all the more because of his special nature. His needs from me, to protect him and ensure his happiness, are especially great as a result of it. How can I make them see that?