I recently read an article written by a teacher titled “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-murray/dear-parent-about-that-kid_b_6154898.html) I loved it; it did a wonderful job of highlighting the fact that there is usually an underlying reason why “THAT kid” might possibly be displaying some of the behaviors he does. I finished it, nodding in agreement as I silently thanked her for sticking up for “THAT kid”.
Then I realized she had been using a term that was actually quite offensive. I am guilty of using the term myself, as I’m sure many of you are.
Who exactly is “THAT kid”? “THAT kid” is a little person, just like the one sitting next to the teacher and quietly completing her assignment.
I am a mom of “THAT kid”. No, I am the mom of Man.
Man has trouble walking past anything without touching it. He cannot sit still. He has a hard time listening. He has no impulse control, poor judgment, and needs a large amount of sensory input. At times he disrupts the class. If you invite him to your house, he may or may not leave it fully intact.
Man also has a smile that will make you melt, gives award-winning hugs, loves to run and play, is insightful, brilliant, kind, loving, musical, funny… I can go on and on. Man is not “THAT kid,” he is A kid, one of 13 in a class. I’m positive that at times he requires more attention then many of the other children, and I harbor quite a large amount of guilt over this.
Like so many others, Man is just a little boy learning to navigate the world with the body and brain he was born with. His brain betrays him sometimes, giving him the impulse to do things that he consciously knows are wrong. He just can’t help himself. You might be thinking that this is an excuse, a way for me to rationalize some of his less desirable behaviors. It is not – you have not watched him literally talk to himself and try and put his arm behind his back instead of knocking down his friend’s Lego creation. You have not watched that hand dart out with frenzy, without any time to catch it, and tip that block tower over. You have not seen him distressed over the fact that he upset his friends by doing this.
Today’s society places so much pressure on our children to be better, study more, and go farther. Somehow 13 different little brains are expected to learn in the exact same way. Children are no longer children; they are adults in training. Maybe it’s time we see the classroom as a whole, as a living, breathing, dynamic environment- a supportive place where children can teach and learn from each other. A place that celebrates their differences, instead of justifying them.
By labeling children we only deepen the divide between what society deems a “normal” child and “THAT kid.” We focus so much on disruptive behaviors that it’s easy to overlook the fact that having such a child in the classroom might teach fellow classmates something other than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Being around a challenging child can help classmates to be more flexible, to feel empathy, to uncover new ways of learning, and how to be more assertive when they want to be heard. While in turn, a calmer, more focused child can demonstrate how using words to express feelings is a better approach then tossing a block across the room.
I will not deny that certain types of children can take a lot of time and focus from teachers, time that they could/should be spending with your child too (I harbor a lot of guilt over this fact). As a parent we want what’s best for our children and it may directly conflict with other parents and children’s needs. But maybe, if we try to remove the labels and see all children as they are-just children- it can help them leave the classroom having not only learned their ABC’s, but also being that much more prepared to face life’s challenges.
On a personal note, this is written for all of the teachers and therapists who have always seen my Man for the beautiful, happy, unique boy that he is.