Thursday, 23 May 2013

Getting the right tools... supporting children

Now here comes a more personal post...
... but if it can help others, then its totally worth posting...

"and here I become angry"

Since my son was 2 years old I have known his approach to life was different...
The spring he turned 6 we went to the Child and Youth Psychologists (BUP) to see what could be done before he started school. His preschool continuously said there was no problem - and yet there so obviously seemed to be one - I mean for years I received little positive feedback when I picked him up. He needed his routines, he had a hard time with transitions a VERY hard time with instructions - especially if they are said to a group or there are more than one instruction at a time. He also had a hard time with things not going his way.
The psychologist said that it was ADHD or Aspergers or both - but the preliminary meeting there was not enough to make a proper diagnosis (4 meetings and an observation). They said he had the cognitive skills of a 9 year old but the social skills of a 3-4 year old...(he was 6).  They also said that I knew enough to be able to support him - and that a full diagnosis would require lots of meetings and at the end I would only get the knowledge from them that I already possessed. So it was left with a "if it doesn't work out in school give us a call again...". They also said that there was probably a meaning that he was "given" to us... because we had the love and capacity to meet his needs... it was a HUGE thing to hear, that we were doing things right, although life would have been easier if... but I would also not be so wise as I am now - he teaches me many things...

Michael loved his first year of school - as it is preschool in a school environment - plenty of play and not so much traditional school learning. I had also met the teachers before hand to explain about how important it was not to see Michael's misbehaviour as a child acting up, but as a child not understanding  the social codes and not able to control his impulses. The teacher's were wonderful - and my beautiful son went from a child that HATED going to preschool with a passion to LOVING to going to school. It was a huge sigh of relief.

We had regular dialogues with the teachers asking if they thought all was well, and if they thought he needed extra support. There were strategies put in place - like in the cloakroom he needs to have a spot away from the others so he can focus on putting on his clothes to go outside, and he needed to be addressed individually - as we soon discovered that he is not called "ALLA" (EVERYBODY).

Then it was time to start first grade in 2012. REAL lessons - lots of MUSTS, lots of have-tos and in things that do not interest him AT ALL. He is an intelligent boy - he learns things that interest him - and he LOVES to draw - but HAVING TO - is just not him. School is just not designed for Michael.
He flatly refused to learn to read and write - it was boring...
... as parents we ended up making the choice not to do the homework and informed the teachers that we felt it was more important to foster a positive attitude to reading and writing than forcing him... a year later we have been proven right - he reads EVERY night before he sleeps - and when motivated he can write a lot too. He can also read in English despite never being taught how to (just listened to me reading -  this was the same for his sisters too).
But still the teachers said there was no problem... no need for support... we asked... and we were grateful for the time and energy and their positive view of Michael, but at the same time I wondered why they thought everything was OK...

Today my husband and I had a long meeting with his new teacher (since January)
this time it has resulted in is calling BUP again... and we await the letter now for suggestions of a first meeting to get things going again...
Yesterday he tried to run away from school... he got so angry that he just did not want to stay any more. Luckily there were great teachers that listened ("with zipped lips and big ears") and supported him and calmed him down. Its a case now of working together to find a strategy to get Michael through school - the teachers are quite confident it will go well for him afterwards - he is creative, and when he is motivated he will work hard - and he is popular with others who enjoy his creative games - and all goes well as long as he is leader... and he has control of the rules...
My emotions are all over the place. It was no easy thing to move from that meeting and to go to work. I wanted to cry. I agreed with EVERYTHING the teachers said, and it was no surprise - BUT after 7 years of knowing that Michael would not just fit in - finally there is the confirmation - I am not just an hysterical mother... BUT with that confirmation also comes that knowledge that life is NOT easy for my son... there are many EXTRA things he needs to learn.

Control is an important thing... and finding ways for him to gain control of his life and yet still be under our "control umbrella" (to keep him safe, to support his learning - cognitive and more importantly social) - is something we have to continuously work with. Ensuring he gets to bed on time so that he can sleep enough - even though he does not want to go to bed - is a fight we take every night more or less - and he is asleep within 10 minutes just about every night - but if he doesn't get  enough sleep - then all HIS problems become bigger and feel impossible to deal with - which means he get frustrated, angry, sad - or all of them - and they all look like loud shouting anger...

Transitions are still hard... but we are getting better
I will never ever forget being in Manchester Airport - alone with the three children - Michael found it stressful that his suitcase had disappeared, then he had to put his rucksack through security (I had to remove it from him) - and then they expected him to go through the photo security one - he just collapsed into a ball and refused. The security guard looked at me and asked "Madam does your son have a learning difficulty?" - I nodded, dripping with sweat in my own trauma of the situation - trying to keep calm for his and the girls' sake... luckily they could resolve the situation and we could go through security and onto the plane to return to Stockholm.

There are words that physically affect him - the word B L O O D will make him have a physical reaction - which has made doctors etc rather tricky... oh and his operation.... another nightmare situation - despite me talking to the doctors beforehand that he would not go in quietly they still thought they could convince him - in the end it took 5 adults to pin him down as he screamed hysterically and I whispered sweet nothings in his ear until he was under anesthetic - I walked out of the room shaking and crying. The irony was that when he woke up the first thing he asked was "how far did I count before I feel asleep?" (- as I had prepared him that we would count to see how far we would get.).. he remembered NOTHING - it was me that was left with the trauma - he STILL thinks he counted...!!!

OK so the point in this post....

I Love my son. He is wonderful, creative, funny, loving, he teaches me so much - and I am so proud of him - I also know he needs help.

I work in preschools and so many times I have heard the phrase "we shouldn't label children"... and this has made many teachers (I feel) afraid to say - "this child needs help". if a child is short sighted - he is labelled short sighted - and he is given glasses so that he can see better. I feel my son deserves the same - he needs a label - not a stigma - a label - so that he can get the right tools to make HIS life better (and that would probably make the lives of others better too).
I feel we should be like the police... in the sense that they say - "we would rather that you call us out 10 times too many than once to little" (- this is what was said when we were in the park the same time as a mother lost her 5 year old child... he was found, at the other side of the lake by the time the police arrived on the scene (and they arrived fast)).
I feel we should be doing the same with children... putting in extra resources at the first sign of a possible problem ... as I have said to many parents over the years - extra support never harms a child... no support can... AND sometimes a child can NEED extra support just for a phase in their lives... it can be extra time, an extra strategy, or maybe shorter days for a while, or maybe an extra person....

I want to shout out that there is NOTHING WRONG with children with a diagnosis - or the possibility of a diagnosis - these children just see/experience life in a different way from the average person... and they can find it hard how to work out how to be like they are expected. The art is to find a method that allows each child to keep their gifts and talents but to also understand what is expected of them according to society - to give them strategies to make THEIR lives easier and flow with less friction.

There needs to be more knowledge, more understanding to help these children. There needs to be more people who see these children positively - who see their talents - who truly understand
There are no problem children - only problem situations.
More people who strive to create the right situation so that ALL can learn, ALL can play - that ALL are included - and by that I mean that sometimes a child will need time apart so that they can learn strategies and develop the self-esteem to be with others.
I see how my son's self esteem was knocked by his preschool years - the sadness I felt when other parents came to me informing me that their children had told them that one of the teacher's did not like my son - I mean if other children could sense it - what would my son sense - well he sensed enough - as a year later we saw a woman who looked like that teacher on the same bus as us - Michael cowered and held on to me and said "its a witch"...

This is my cry out to teachers around the world -
Take new eyes - take another look and forget the problems - see the talents - see the positives - and focus on building them. Take the time to work out what triggers off a reaction - what situations help - FIND THE KEY to help each child unlock their potential.
And remember to say something positive to the parents about the child's day... that will also help you see the positives especially when some days are tough...

Its not easy. Its not meant to be easy.
As Dumbledore said "Its time to choose between what is right and what is easy"

1 comment:

  1. May your road become brighter and may your family embrace the golden moments to ride out tge darker ones. Seeking help is not something to look down upon but to be admired. Thank you for sharing. You are not alone. We homeschool for some similar reasons.... Blessings

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