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 what his IQ is. 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.
Photo Credit: Avolore.
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