9.12.09

Fear of flying

I spend an impressive amount of time managing my children's behavior. I suppose some could call it over-parenting, but I work really hard to keep my children from exhibiting the behaviors that most find socially unacceptable. For instance, when Bella is on the verge of melting down in the grocery store, I'm the parent who grabs a pack of gummies from her pocket or whisks her away to find something distracting to do.

But managing Javi's behavior is so much harder and more complicated. No amount of distraction or replacement works to sway him when he's barreling down the wrong path. When he's with the mountain man or me, we can help him reset his brain and his behavior -- but only after the inevitable collision. We can help him stand up, brush off the debris, and find a way to move forward.

Unfortunately, his teachers don't have the same amounts of time or patience. They aren't interested in finding a way to press his reset button. They aren't going to sit him down after his many daily crashes to help him sort through the wreckage, figure out what when wrong, and come up with some solutions to keep it from happening again next time. And they definitely aren't going to attempt to understand what key actions or behaviors pushed him down that course to start with.

What they will do is call out his name. Furrow their brows and raise their voices and yell at him to "PULL YOUR STRIP!" They will skip warnings because their nerves are worn raw and he just won't stop singing at his seat, interrupting their lessons, talking out of turn, touching the students around him, tossing paper balls into the air, and talking back. And and and. The list could go on forever. Actually, I could google a list of ADHD signs and symptoms and just paste that in here, because his behavior is classic attention deficit disorder.

So what do I do? Do I sit behind him in his classroom all day, the ever-watchful mama hawk ready to swoop down on him when I spot the downward spiral beginning? Do I follow him around with a belt in my hand ready to spank him into submission? Do I take him off the bus and instead wait in long lines in front of his school for hours each day? Do I remove him from the overcrowded public school in favor of better teacher-student ratios at the over-priced (and religious) private schools in our area?

Or do I do nothing? Do I make him pay the price for his actions when the price could be a constant presence in the behavioral modification room, poor grades, ostracism among his classmates, and suspension from the bus? Do I allow him to fail when I know that his behavior is something he can't completely control? Do I try to bend the rules to accommodate his disorder (which his teacher already told me she thinks is abusing the system) or do I sit back and hope he learns the hard lessons.

I don't have an answer. 85 percent of me screams and rails at the injustice of it. That majority says I need to make the school lighten up off him and give him what he needs to succeed. The other 15 percent of me wonders why they should. Why should his teachers have to cater to this child when the world won't? He can't expect his future college professor or boss to count to ten and talk him through it every time he has the impulse to talk or shout or jump or hit.

This is the ultimate dilemma when you're raising a child who can't control his attention span or impulses. Coax him into flying as you fly right underneath him or stay in the nest as he launches, hoping against hope that he'll soar. I am flexing my wings, but I have no idea whether I should start flying or just keep our roost warm for when he needs a safe place to fall.

3 comments:

  • Jack

    The other 15 percent of me wonders why they should

    School is a different sort of animal than the "real world." In theory they are trained to handle various types of behavior. In some public schools there is funding for classroom assistance.

    I don't know all of the particulars, but if you're eligible to benefit from them it might be worth checking out.

    As you know sometimes it is the squeaky wheel that receives the grease. Nothing wrong with trying to look out for your son. It is far better than parents who shrug their shoulders and do nothing.

  • Linda

    I know I'm like 2 months late on here, but my son has ADHD too and has been tested by the school psych who has written up an IEP for him that must be obeyed by every teacher. His school work is modified, he takes tests in the Learning Resource Center, there is an acknowledgement of the fact now that information is simply integrated into his brain in a different manner than that of kids without ADHD, and that's been amazing. The teachers have to change to suit the child; the child doesn't have to change to suit the teacher because he can't. Really.

  • Kelly

    Hi Linda -- unfortunately, we have been denied an IEP because Javi is a high performer. In our district, the child must be struggling academically for any interventions or accommodations to be put in place. I agree with you 100 percent, though -- especially as the third grade progresses and he takes test after test in quiet rooms where he must always be quiet and sit very still.

    We are in constant communication with his teacher and she's very open to trying things, though they are only small, convenient things. I understand that, too, though -- she's one person (they cut the budget, so no more assistants) and Javi is one of her top students. She really doesn't see the point.

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