Mr. Sensitive is in his second year of Kindergarten. They call it Senior Kindergarten here. There are only two years of Kindergarten before he starts grade 1. The way we’re going, Mr. Sensitive might stretch this out to five. His IEP came home and just confirmed that he does not know his letters, he doesn’t pay attention in class, he’s distracted easily, fidgets in circle time and can’t walk up stairs.
The IEP doesn’t say that at home Mr. Sensitive demands that I tell him long winded, rambling stories about a boy named ‘Trevor’ (Mr. Sensitive’s alter ego) and Trevor’s best friend who face the same fears Mr. Sensitive does. ‘Trevor’ flies on a magic pirate ship and Mr. Sensitive is quick to change the story to add a battle with evil ninjas or spooky skeletons. There are usually escapes from volcanoes and evil warriors. He hangs on every word.
Mr. Sensitive will sit absolutely still, listening with rapt attention and ask ‘What happens next?’ the second I pause for a breath.
The IEP also doesn’t say that if I make a mistake on a character’s name or change a word when I’m reading a familiar story or poem to Mr. Sensitive he calls me on it right away. I didn’t even notice I said ‘Inspector Doghouse’ instead of ‘Inspector Dogbone’. But he did.
Oh, that Inspector Dogbone poem is a 300 word, 4 part epic in true Dennis Lee style.
Don’t tell me Mr. Sensitive doesn’t pay attention.
The IEP also doesn’t say that this kid who is easily distracted spent over two hours looking at pictures and watching videos about viruses and bacteria as I read to him about basic cell structure. Now at least he takes handwashing seriously.
When Mr. Sensitive was in a small, home-based daycare his caregiver said he was one of the smartest children she’d worked with and he’s ready to learn his letters any day now. He was three at the time. At the age of 18 months Mr. Sensitive recognised ‘environmental print’ – signs for the places we went to regularly (doctor’s office, Tim Horton’s). I was convinced he’d be reading short books by the time he was four.
Was I ever wrong.
When Mr. Sensitive was four he realised he could not see letters. I’d point to a letter, and Mr. Sensitive would cough in a loud, fake cough way and pretend he was too sick. Then he’d pretend to be knocked out. I tried playing letter games, tracing letters in flour, making letters out of playdough and he avoided anything to do with letters like the plague.
Imagine what his first Kindergarten year was like. By the third week of school he was coming home saying, “Focus, you have to focus,” crying, and refusing to even look at letters. He wanted me to keep reading him stories, but if I stopped to point out the letters on the page he’d shut the book on me.
This was the kid that had one and a half hours of story time every night. And I couldn’t get him to even look at a letter.
So we stopped trying to teach him letters at home. He knows it is very hard for him, and not-so hard for all the other kids. He sees the other kids saying letters in the classroom and hears the teacher saying ‘Just try harder.’
Since starting back at Kindergarten this year Mr. Sensitive had developed a weird eye tic (he now blinks frequently, especially if stressed or worried) and has started wetting the bed on a regular basis. He never wet the bed before in his life. His sleep patterns are literally all over the place. He’s sleeping at different times (7 pm or 10pm), different places (my bed, the couch) and doing weird things like peeing in laungry baskets or pooping on the floor. Even with enough melatonin to drug an ox, Mr. Sensitive is wide awake at 4 am. We will be seeing our pediatrician about all this soon.
Einstein (someone else who sees things differently) says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So we are doing things differently. We had an excellent Occupational Therapist help us with some visual-integration exercises and she recommended using ‘Printing without Tears’, a letter recognition program based on visual perception. This was a huge help and self-esteem boost for Mr. Sensitive.
Now Mr. Sensitive is busy making his own movies on the iPhone. He writes them, directs them, and stars in them. (I hold the camera.) They are mostly in the horror genre – featuring scary teeth, sharp claws, pointed tails, monsters popping out of shrubbery and the ominous shaking bush.
He is so proud of his creations and rushes to watch them on the iPhone. Then he races to make another movie, this time bigger and scarier.
And he’s happy.