I have come to the frightening conclusion…

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My recent ramblings Twitter:

My five year old just proved that the middle finger doesn’t exist.  Mathematically & anthropologically. #KidIsRight

I have come to the frightening conclusion that school isn’t working for Mr. Sensitive.  Bright, funny, social and oh-so smart, five year old Mr. Sensitive is the poster child of the gifted-LD learner.  Super smart, and struggling with letter recognition.  Add in significant sensory demands, anxiety issues, physical mobility issues with a serious medical diagnosis and you have a multi-exceptional learner.

Which means that a one-size fits all, 28 student kindergarten classroom does not work for him.  The noise, the smells, the visual demands of sheer movement alone, never mind all the brightly coloured posters on the wall means every day is like entering a tilt-a-whirl ride and being expected to learn something.

Imagine you’re spinning on a carnival ride and a teacher holds up a flash card, demanding, “What letter?  What sound?”  I want to throw up just thinking about it.

But that’s what my son faces every day.

Einstein (another super-smart, multi-exceptional thinker) said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting the same result.

So sending poor Mr. Sensitive back to school day after day is insane.  Illogical.  What parent in their right mind would send their child to a place where they fail day after day?

He’s hanging in socially.  Mr. Sensitive has made some friends, so we see the social value in school.  He meets kids that he wouldn’t meet otherwise.  And we look at school as a place where we have some free childcare respite and Mr. Sensitive hangs out with kids his own age.  He enjoys being part of a group, and talks about playing Batman and Robin, Lego or cars with a small group of boys.

But we decided very early on that school is not a place where he learns. 

Or rather, he has learned that everyone can do things he cannotOther kids can read, write, and can sit still on the carpet.  He can’t.

In our province kindergarten in a two year program in the public school system for four and five year olds.  When Mr. Sensitive started kindergarten as a four year old we thought he’d do well.  He sunk.  A year and a half later, with intensive support and enrichment at home, we finally got him believing he’s smart.  We went through tantrums, tears, and sudden onset of a weird eye tic and bedwetting.

One of the problems we face is that teachers are notoriously bad at identifying gifted and bright children.  Mr. Sensitive’s divergent thinking, his scary-smart logic and connections are lost on them.  What do you mean you don’t have a background in microbiology so Mr. Sensitive’s references to bacteria are lost on you?  Google it.  I did.

At parent interview time the teacher tells me that Mr. Sensitive has a very good imagination.  And he does.  But he also has an amazing memory for all verbal information.  If you tell him once, he will remember it forever.  Trust me on this one.

The really scary part is that he understands what he remembers.  Or at least most of it.  And then asks questions.  Endlessly.

His teacher had no idea that his recall of verbal information was so strong.  I tried to explain about the rocks, and the bacteria.  And I gave up.  She stared at me, blank-faced.

She doesn’t see it in the classroom.

She sees a little boy who is highly distracted and well below level for all academics.  He can’t read at the level he’s supposed to.  He can’t write the way he’s supposed to.

The teacher looks at me, concerned, “I really don’t think he’s ready for grade one.  I think he should remain in kindergarten another year.  He can’t keep up, academically.  He’d be lost.”

Another teacher chimes in, “Those grade one teachers are under a great deal of pressure to get their students from reading level 3 to reading level 16.  You don’t want him in that.”

I said that he could keep up with the curriculum.  He just can’t read or write.

They looked at me blank-faced.  Those teachers cannot separate knowledge and learning from the skills you use to demonstrate what you’ve learned.  Honestly, you’re not really reading for learning in grade one.  And if someone read something to Mr. Sensitive he’d understand it anyway.

“So what about keeping him back in kindergarten part-time, just a trial?” the teacher tried to compromise.

I said I’d think about it.

What’s Einstein’s definition of insanity?  He’s already done two years in the program, and not progressed as well as anyone expected.  Why torture the kid with a third year, albeit part time.

This is one of those inspirational quotes for educators.  I’ve taken some liberties with I in my title.

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  Haim G. Ginott


About Angela

Super-powered, Special Ed teacher and special needs mama to FOUR (!) children with an assortment of special needs; including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Prader Willi Syndrome. Our family features a heavy dose of good ol' ADHD). I blog about our halfpastnormal life.
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6 Responses to I have come to the frightening conclusion…

  1. I just want to say “Hang in there.” One size does not always fit all.

  2. Don’t be too hasty to throw in the towel Angela…! We have a 7 yr old in mainstream ed, sometimes it’s not perfect. But, somedays we just need a break. Desperately. And if he comes away from school, having achieved some social interactions and you have had a break, or indeed, been able to go to work because he is at school, well, that’s at least 2 things achieved! Our son has struggled terribly with learning to read in the current taught method (phonic mad in the uk!). But we worked on whole word recognition, but now he’s 7, he’s starting to ‘get it’ (phonics). So, sometimes success come at different times and from different directions.
    With regards carpet time/ circle time can I make a suggestion? Our son (and a few other kids too) struggle with this. What the school have learned is that these kids can’t focus on sitting still and listening. It’s a multitask too far… But, they are able to sit on the carpet with a small whiteboard and pen, do whatever they want (write, draw, scribble, doodle…) and this ‘enables’ them to listen to what is happening on the carpet. I know of one kid that seriously struggles to not hurt others, and so, he actually sits away from the group (within the room) and is able to take part.
    Here in the uk we have an organisation called Parents in Partnership. They are advocates and help negotiate the interface between parents and the school. Sometimes it really helps to have this buffer zone! I don’t know if you have anything similar available, or if you could maybe ask someone who you know to sit with you in meetings if this might help? (This is not to suggest that you are stuggling, but to acknowledge that meetings for parents of kids that ‘don’t just do the regular thinking…’ Can be tough, can be challenging, and can result in feeling misunderstood. So, it’s nice to have backup. Someone to talk to afterwards, have a calming cuppa and plan a strategy with…
    And finally, I know a parent who home-educates her son for one day a week. And he attends school for the rest of the week… And a growing movement in schools here is the introduction of Forest School, this is great for kids like mine (and maybe yours too), but sadly there’s not enough of it. But it’s a shift, towards something a little more holistic.

    Ps. At our last school review, we confirmed that our son was not able to do the standard three part event of learning/doing/demonstrating a task, simply because he would not stay focussed for that long. We know he knows stuff, he just can’t demonstrate it to them – he can’t perform in a test situation at all. So the teacher finds it hard to know when to move him forward. We have agreed it needs to be more intuitive. And they have to be masterful at testing! Eg. Put him on a computer game to test maths skills, rather than pencil and paper test. If kids don’t get moved on, they get bored. But, if we are to get the teachers to bend the rules, look at the child and assess from a different angle, we are sure as heck going to need them on our side! Angela, I know how difficult it is to do the best for our kids. Good luck, and keep writing your blog. I love to read it.
    Big hugs! Jo

  3. Angela says:

    Thanks for your support. It’s great to hear others’ experiences.

  4. Darcel says:

    Just found your blog. You know your son better than anyone and if you feel school isn’t the place for him, pull him out now. Don’t wait. Like you said, why keep sending him to a place where he can fail day after day? You get it, you see it, he’s learning in his own way, all the time. Trust you mama instinct.

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