Musings on a six-year-old

When I posted that there was much I couldn’t write about Zachary because I did not want to invade his privacy, many of you send supportive emails saying you were facing the same issues writing about your kids on your blogs.  I invited one blogger to guest post here anonymously so that she could write about the problems her son is having without fear of reprisal for him.  So, here is her post.  Please, read and respond to the below guest post as you would if you were responding to something of mine.  Help her with some support or ideas or answers (if you got ’em).

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Having a boy means phone calls from school.  Since starting first grade, J’s teacher has contacted us a couple times.  Typical of a six-year-old, he never revealed there was trouble until we found out from the teacher, which resulted in some stern discussions about honesty and forthrightness.

One afternoon, after the standard, so how was your day? he breathlessly informs me it was fine and I know it was fine, so you don’t need to email [my teacher]! Red flag.  I gave him the look.  After a bit of finagling, he reveals there was an incident in gym where he made a very adult, very rude hand gesture at a classmate.  Not surprisingly, he had no idea what it meant.

After multiple deep breaths, I sat him down and insisted he tell me WHY it happened.  What had spurred such a dramatic response? I got a blank look and the standard I don’t recall. For a minute I thought I’d given birth to [insert politician’s name here].

Over an hour later he tearfully informs me that the gym teacher was giving instructions and another student was talking in his ear.  Mommy, I was trying really hard to pay attention, and he just kept talking and talking.  And I wanted to hear what the teacher said!

And that made you really frustrated, huh?

Uh huh.

Do you have trouble in the classroom, hearing the instructions?

Mmm huh.

:::

Most parents would have been immediately been discussing how out of line his response had been.  How a distracting classmate does not merit an angry meltdown and an obnoxious hand gesture.  How inappropriate it was (because that is our generation’s parental catch phrase).

But remember the last time you tried to have a conversation in a noisy bar?  Maybe that was a long time ago, so we’ll wait … now, remember how frustrating it was?  Remember how you got some of the information wrong?  Remember the annoying guy at the movies that wouldn’t shut up?  You wanted to make an obnoxious hand gesture didn’t you?  Now imagine that your entire day is like that.

Like many parents of a child with a learning difference, I’ve known for a long time that something was off, different, an issue.  Little things are coalescing into a bigger picture.  Just a little speech therapy for an articulation problem here.  A little OT for some fine motor delay there.  Some clumsiness here, a bit of social awkwardness there.  What it all adds up to is a very loved  (yet at times very frustrating), and very bright little boy who will face a challenging time.

Most likely my son has an auditory processing disorder, along with some visual processing problems.  He is behind in reading.  He has difficulty paying attention.  He has trouble following directions.  He has a poor concept of time management.  He is not savvy in the social element of elementary school.  He cannot ride a two-wheeler bike.  He does not understand knock-knock jokes.

Although there have been preliminary evaluations, we have not embarked on complete educational testing, that will come in time.  Right now we are feeling our way forward.  Getting outside help.  Dancing around the system.  Getting ready for the day we need to push for more.

I think facing this is, and will continue to be, my biggest challenge as a parent — maybe even in my life.  The more I learn about his problems, the more certain aspects of our life make sense.  The spill over for kids with LDs goes far beyond book learning.  Social and interpersonal skills are impacted equally, and at this age these deficits feel even more prominent than his delayed reading or poor penmanship.  I try to share this with my husband – school him on the need for patience, more realistic expectations.  And yet the next day, I find myself losing it over the exact same issues.

We are fortunate.  Our son is bright and enthusiastic about learning.  He enjoys school (so far).  He will certainly be able to finish high school and likely go on to college.  However this is going to be a bumpy road.  And I worry about some pretty big pot holes.  There are days it makes me angry to have to deal with it, sad to see him face it, reluctant to give up more of myself to it.  At a time I thought I’d be rejoicing in his independence, I’m worrying about hours spent advocating, tutoring and remediating.  That makes me feel selfish, like a bad mother.  Will I fail him?  Will his younger siblings lose out?  Will our marriage suffer? What if he learns to read, but not to really make friends?  How do I explain his social awkwardness to others without penalizing him?  He needs greater consideration in some areas, but do I really need to brand him LD to everyone?  What is the right thing to do?  I hate the uncertainty.

7 responses to “Musings on a six-year-old

  1. This isn’t my area, so I can give no advice, but I am sorry you all are having a hard time with this. We all want our children to have an easy, enjoyable time of it, but sometimes it’s the difficulties that benefit us teh most in the end (and, uh, sometimes not).

    Your child is fortunate to have parents like you who are compassionate and involved.

  2. It is bound to be frustrating and make you angry at times, but I also hear your compassion, understanding and love for your son. You will figure it out and you will find a way to balance his needs and others’, including your own.

    My own view is that the earlier you get help for him, the better, and the sooner you have a complete assessment the better because you can get more and better help that way. He already knows he is different and is frustrated and sad and all the rest. I’m not sure that a label is a detriment–it may be a revelation and a hope to him.

    Everyone has a different anecdote which may or may not be helpful, but I’ll offer mine. We have good friends who started out with love will cure all, then with an assessment but no label, and finally when their child was 10, moved her to a private school that addresses specific LD issues with a neurological approach, using what seems like odd exercises to create new pathways in the brain. All I can say is that within 2 or 3 months, her daughter went from being a virtual non-reader to reading chapter books. That is not to say that all issues have been erased, but the change and progress is huge.

  3. Ihave an autistic sister, and it has colored my life. Much of it, though, wasn’t my sister’s disability but the way my parents felt, the way people treated us and the strategies available to us. There are numerous families who have dealt with a disability in a positive way.

    My second daughter was VERY late to talk and needed speech services. Something clicked when she was about 4.5, and now you would never know. Well, except that when she loses her temper she loses it BAD.

    And sometimes people are just a little off, and that’s the way it is. Forgive me, I’m saying that badly, but I’m applying it to myself. Seriously, until the age of 34 I felt like I was “off” in some way. It was like a switch went off. In my case, I think it was yoga and meditation (not advocating anything), but it might have just been age. I’m just trying to say, we all grow and develop at our own pace and in different. Don’t feel bad about your frustration, but I’m sure you’ll start to see the shades of grey in “normal”.

    Good luck.

  4. My hat is way off to you here for your awesome Mom action — you think about your child’s challenges, you learn about how they can be managed, and you manage to advocate for him and teach others at the same time. Is there anything that is “right” beyond that? Thank you for making me remember how we need to think about all kids with patient and understanding first and foremost — and seek to understand them at whatever place they may be.

  5. I could have been reading about my own youngest son, when I read about this little boy. I just have one thing to say, other than it sounds like this mom is really in tune with her son; and that’s BE the advocate for him. I ‘rode things out’ for a year in 3rd grade, because the teacher was smiling and almost sticky-sweet when we conferenced, and said things like “he’s gonna be fine, he’s just Dillon” and put off the uneasiness I felt when I listened to HIS conversations, where it felt like he was singled out and picked on. Turns out, he was. I’d give almost anything to go back and re-do that year. So, keep on listening to your boy, even when he’s not talking. 🙂 Blessings to you.

  6. Well, this is my area and I think delaying an evaluation is delaying getting formal support in the school. A good, caring, competent professional can do a thorough evaluation and provide a lot of info and resources. When I do this type of work, I always focus on the child’s strengths because those strengths are going to be what help with the areas that are not as strong and need support. Without an evaluation, the school can just focus on it being a behavioral/parenting problem and will resist instituting things that will be helpful. Plus, the longer all of this is “likely he has” the longer he goes feeling badly about himself and not knowing why he’s always getting a bad reaction from teachers and others. Sometimes it’s a relief for a child to know that it’s not their fault there is a problem and that there are ways to help that can make school a much better place. There are plenty of us (professionals) out there that want to help children and are not interested in labels but rather the whole person and making life easier for them. It’s tough seeing a child struggle and feel badly about themselves.

  7. Hi, I followed links from the Just Posts to your site.

    I have a great deal experience in this area… I could write a really, really long response but instead you can invite your anonymous poster to leave a comment on my blog. She can read this post and this one and this one.