*I will preface this blog post by stating that I adore Man’s teachers, his school and our school district. They have been completely supportive since the day we began our journey.
The phone rings and I see the number of Man’s school pop up.
My heart begins to beat faster, my chest tightens, and an overall feeling of complete anxiety fills my body.
“What happened now?” I think
I toy with the idea of ignoring the call. Maybe if I don’t answer it the problem will go away, magically disappear into the vastness of my voicemail, left to be dealt with at a later time when I feel more up to it. That thought is shoved out quickly and replaced with, “I have to deal with this right away, or I might never call back.”
“Mrs. R, this is Mrs… the assistant principal.” I wonder why she even bothers to introduce herself at all anymore; she calls more often then my best friend or some family members.
That blank is often filled with information on some physical altercation or some refusal to do his work all day, thus a removal of some important activity has occurred.
This same information comes almost daily in the form of e mails from his teacher, the school psychologist, or the special education teacher.
(*I will add that all of these women are lovely ladies dedicated to their jobs and helping Man. He does not make it easy.)
Man has ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). Many people are misinformed, or just have some preconceived notion of what ADHD is, so here is a very brief description-
ADHD is NOT:
Just being hyperactive and unable to sit still.
A behavior problem.
Caused by poor parenting and lack of discipline.
Magically treated by medication.
Something small children just outgrow.
Treated with sports or other physical activities.
Just a child being lazy.
The inability to regulate one’s emotions.
An inability to identify and pick up on general social cues.
An inability to filter out the input around you, therefore, causing extreme distractibility.
An inability to control impulses.
Abnormal levels of activity.
Difficulty organizing and staying on task.
This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics associated with this disorder and a child can have some, many, or all of the characteristics. Additionally, any one of the symptoms may be more present and cause greater challenges than others.
Man has begun first grade this year and the transition has been TREMENDOUSLY difficult. In kindergarten he was able to have some freedom to play and roam; the expectations were not as high. Now, in first grade, he is expected to sit still for longer periods of time, do much more class work and pressures have increased one hundred fold. In many ways, he is crumbling under these pressures.
When Man crumbles, it isn’t into pieces — it’s into a fine dust, a total and complete meltdown.
There are days when he absolutely just. Can’t. Sit. Still. long enough to do any work. He refuses. He must suffer the consequences accordingly. There are rules of the classroom and he is given plenty of leeway, but at some point, something has to give and his work must be completed. It often is not.
There are days when he calls out so often that no other student can get a word in edgewise. He is so enthusiastic, so excited about the information in his head and he wants the class to know his thoughts. When Man is an active participant, which is every day, he is truly an active participant. But you can’t cut people off; you must give others a turn. You have to raise your hand and wait patiently to be called on, as do all the other eager and smart students in the class. He often cannot.
There are social situations that Man seems to perceive or interpret incorrectly. He often uses his words once, but then if a student does not immediate do as he has asked, he will use force to get what he wants. My sweet child (and I don’t say this because I am blind, he truly is the sweetest, most sensitive child you will meet) sees this as a slight or an insult, has absolutely no impulse control and goes right to pushing or hitting. He uses the method of a child half of his age to get what he wants. It happens so fast, so quickly that even when someone tries to stop it, it often does not happen in time. He feels terrible when these events occur. Yet he cannot control them.
The phone calls and e mails begin to flood in. Man had a difficult day; he refused to do his work all day. He comes off the bus looking neutral.
“What was the best part of your day, my love?” I ask, praying for something positive.
“Seeing my friends at lunch.”
“What was the worst part of your day?” the silent prayers beg that he doesn’t burst into tears for the third day in a row.
“They took away recess. I had to go to the assistant principal again. Bad kids go to the assistant principal.”
“You have to try and do your work,” I explain, “I know it’s hard to concentrate. And you’re not bad. You’re having some challenges and we are going to work it out, I promise.” I make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.
“I can’t focus, mom,” he cries, hysterically, “Help me. Help me be able to concentrate.”
Other days the conversation goes more like this:
“Man, I got a call that you hit someone today. You KNOW you can’t do that. You MUST respect personal space.”
“I know mom, but they…”
The explanation as to what the child did is irrelevant. What is relevant is that in his mind, he truly believes he was slighted in some way. Or, in some situations, he uses his words to try and mediate once, and then the impulse control takes over and he just takes care of the problem physically. This is UNACCEPTABLE. I imagine a long list of parents who assume my kid is an asshole, a bully, an undisciplined, unmanageable, jerk who just goes around hitting and kicking. I know I would be thinking the same thing. However, this is just NOT the case. He does use force, and it’s a huge challenge, but it’s not because he’s a bully or just a mean and nasty kid. It is because he literally has no impulse control. He has no impulse control in many other areas as well (think calling out in the class, taking someone’s turn during gym or music class, etc.) it’s just that in this area, other kids get hurt. I want to call all of these parents, apologize to every one of them. Give an explanation of the situation. I’m not sure that would do anything.
I want to help my sweet boy. I want him to feel smart, for he is truly brilliant. I want him to feel socially accepted, for he is the nicest, kindest, most loving child. I want him to feel happy every day, because that is what a six year old deserves. I’m not sure I know how to do that right now and it terrifies me.
I wish society understood just how difficult this disorder truly is. I want parents to understand that it’s not that our children are undisciplined or lazy; they actually work twice as hard as a typical child to function day to day. I want schools to get their act together and begin to design programs that work for children who are wired this way. Why is my child made to feel less than every day because he cannot fit into the mold of the current educational expectations? We have to do more for children as a whole.
A smile for the first day of first grade