Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sometimes, There Isn't a Band-Aid Big Enough

When you have a child with issues, the beginning of every school year is cause for stomache clenching uncertainty. A good teacher can mean a world of difference to any child, but to a child with a learning disability, it can mean the difference between misery and triumph.

Last year, Diminutive One's teacher was completely uninterested in helping me help him. It was frustrating and demoralizing for both of us. The years that he has had good teachers, he has absolutely soared. He liked himself. He believed in himself as a smart kid. But the bad ones have set him back so far it's sometimes hard not to feel a cold hard surge of anger at their careless dismissal of him.

This year, I am enormously encouraged. His teacher has been patient, constructive, and eager to assist in making the classroom environment work for him. And...best of all, she believes in creative teaching. I could have wallpapered my whole house with the worksheets Diminutive One did last year. He was bored silly. He shut down. And then, because he made no progress, he once again began to think he was stupid. And the hell of it is...he is so not stupid.

Anyway...at a meeting the other day, she asked for volunteers to fulfill various roles in the classroom. One of which was "Creative Curriculum Parent". Can you guess who was holding her hand in the air, supported at the elbow by the other and hollering "OOH! OOH! OOH!" like Arnold Horshack on crack? Yes. That would have been me.

I got the job.

Basically, I will be working with her to come up with fun, interesting, and different ways to teach the required curriculum. How. Cool. Is. THAT.

So that's good.

But there's this other little matter.

Though Diminutive One passed the portions of the CRCT required to move on to fourth grade, he did not pass math. There are two reasons for this. First, math is difficult for kids with ADHD. At this stage of the game, there are multiple steps, which require a lot of focus. If you miss a step, you've messed up the entire problem. Second, he hates math and so, he has simply refused to learn the facts that he needs to know in order to perform more complicated equations. He does not know his multiplication tables, for instance.

Oh, we tried. I bought flashcards. I won't even tell you what a nightmare that was. I bought a "multiplication rap" CD for him, thinking that because he likes music so much, this would be a great way for him to learn. But he's no dummy. He knew what I was trying to pull. And oddly enough, a week after I brought it home, that CD disappeared. We tried rewards. We tried punishment. And the response to each and every tactic was a resounding screw you. Not a literal screw you, but an attitudinal screw you.

So. He now qualifies for special assistance in math, which I think is a GOOD thing. I mean, it's kind of stupid that the kid has to fail before he qualifies for help (I'd been begging for help for him in math but was told since he had scored well the year before last, he didn't qualify.) but, yannow...better late than never. He CAN learn math, he just needs a little more attention and instruction, which he will now be getting.

So today I told him that he would be starting EIP (Early, my left foot. They should call it the finally pulled their thumb out of their ass and realized the kid needs help intervention program, but I suppose that's a somewhat burdensome acronym.) next week.

First, his face crumpled. Then, he thunked his head down onto his arms, which were folded on the dining room table. Then he started to cry. He doesn't like anyone to see him cry, so he fled to his room. He slammed the door and buried his face in his pillow, but I could still hear him sobbing his little heart out.

He's a pretty stoic kid, so when he cries, I come undone. I know he's hurt deep down, and that hurts me deep down.

I gave him a few minutes and then went upstairs. I knocked on the door and was told to "GO AWAY". But I didn't.

I rubbed his back for a minute and then asked him why, exactly, that upset him so much. I knew, of course. We've all been that kid a time or two. The one who was, in some infinitesimal way...different. But to be so publicly different...well, it sucks.

"Mom", he sobbed, "Everybody is going to know that I'm STUPID!!!"

How the hell do you refute that?? Because that's exactly what every kid will be thinking when the aide comes to the classroom each day. And I felt his heartbreak and shame as if it were my own. I said the only thing I could think of.

"You're NOT stupid. Don't I tell you that all the time? You know what? I was really bad at math too. But I wish I had tried a little harder. I told you how poorly I did in school, and how it made me feel so terrible about myself. I don't want that for you."

"It doesn't matter if I try or not. I'll always be too dumb to do math."

"Well..." I said, searching for the right thing to say, becuase Dr. Spock doesn't tell you what to do about THIS shit..."You've already tried not trying and that's not working so good, right? You are SO smart, that I think if you did try, you would blow yourself away. Seriously."

He looked at me dubiously. I'm just his Mom. He knows Moms are supposed to say stuff like that. It isn't really my opinion that matters to him at this point in his life anyway

I changed my tack.

"Look...you told me Andrea had to have a resource teacher for reading last year, right?"

He nodded morosely.

"Did anybody think she was stupid?"

His face, which had cleared a little while I talked, crumpled once again and he wailed..."I DIIIIIIIIIDD!!!"

I gave up talking and just hugged him. If he were bleeding or broken in some way, I would know just what to do. But how do you fix a kid with a fractured self?

A word to Moms whose children are young enough that their ailments can still be kissed away...sometimes there isn't a band-aid big enough to cover the hurt. And sometimes, you, as a mother, will feel crushingly powerless.

So here is my secret recipe for dealing with those kinds of situations.

1 ice cream cone
1 hug
1 lifted ban on prohibited activities even though it's a weekday
100 I believe in yous.

Combine all ingredients. Apply liberally to injured soul.

38 Comments:

  • At 12:17 AM, Blogger jen said…

    i love that recipe. i love you as the main ingredient. you two will figure this out. of course you will.

     
  • At 1:33 AM, Anonymous mel from freak parade said…

    This post hits home with me. Before I switched to homeschool, I was living the situation you described. What totally amazed me though, was the multiplication thing. We tried flashcards, computer games, everything. And I thought we were the only fools in the world with that stupid multiplication rap CD. The Boy still doesn't have them down.

    Reading about your son just breaks my heart. Poor little guy. So hard to be a mama in those situations. Your recipe sounds like a good one.

    Have fun coming up with creative curriculum.

     
  • At 4:44 AM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    OK, first of all, Horshack? How many of us are going to get that reference? I did, and it made me laugh. I don't think I've seen that name in years...

    I ache for him. But he's got quite the mama looking out for him, helping to eradicate that dumb-ass worksheet mentality and giving him ice cream. A superhero mama.

     
  • At 7:08 AM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    This just rips my heart out - all of it.

    And yet, I'm a little in awe. What an amazing confession and learning experience - and one that we all repeat throughout our lives. When we judge someone, it comes back to bite us in the butt sooner or later. (Just happened to me last weekend, exactly - I'd been feeling pleasantly superior to someone I know, and then I found myself in a similar situation and did the exact same thing he had.)

     
  • At 7:21 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    Oh BA~~~ I can so identify with Diminutive One.......30 + years later. Except, back then, there was no EIP. You just had to sit in the classroom. Lost. While everyone else understood what was being taught.

    I wish I had some sage words of advice to offer. Just know that your constant support of him is what he will carry, and what he will remember the most when he is an adult.

     
  • At 7:25 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    This made me cry. (And I have copied and saved the recipe because everyone needs it and it is good.)

     
  • At 7:28 AM, Blogger Magi said…

    That recipe is so important. I see so many kids in class that are broken because they didn't have anyone at home to encourage them. In my opinion, the number one factor between students who succeed and students who don't is parental involvement. Of course, there are exceptions. Aren't there always? But having someone believe in your and back you up can help surmount so many issues.

     
  • At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    When I want to tell my kids something I know they won't believe -- I tell them to file it away for later, that I know it sounds silly or stupid, but that if they will just listen they can not believe me, that's fine. But if they stick it away so if they ever need it, they can get it, remember it, whatever, that will be good enough. I think it makes them listen and actually file it away.

    He'll file away all the "I believe in you's" -- I promise. They will help him through many many moments.

    You done good.

     
  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger Jen said…

    This post brought me to tears. Without getting into too much detail, my third grader was diagnosed with CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). This disorder often presents itself with ADHD behavior and is often misdiagnosed. We paid privately for testing that we did not trust the school district to do. Last November, two months into the school year, his second grade teacher wrote him off as ADHD and persisted that he be seen and medicated. Often, this simple solution makes things easier on the teacher's job. I was adament with the school, however, he spent most of his second grade year chastised and reprimanded for his issues. He ended up disliking the teacher, and really I couldn't blame him. Your story sounds like mine. When your child clearly needs help, schools often wait until they are failing before offering assistance guarenteed for our kids. This year is off to a great start (fingers crossed). I spoke with his teacher about seating accomodations and filled her in on what will help him succeed. I am also room parent for this class, meaning it would not be in her interest to piss me off. She is kind of forced to "play nice". I got an immediate response from her that was very reassuring and accomodating. A receptive teacher is a HUGE deal to a child with a disability. I too, experience anxiety at the beginning of the school year. As a mom, my first instict is to just keep him home and protect him. Unfortunately, I can't do that. I love your recipe. I have used it often and sometimes it's the best we can do. Luckily, we are part of a school discrict that practices inclusion. Kids with all kinds of disabilities are jumbled together. This means that several kids leave the classroom at different points throughout the day for speech, reading, math help, etc. The kids at this age don't really bat an eye at it. They think they are cool because they get out of the classroom. It is reassuring to know that there are other parents dealing with similar issues. Thanks for this post.

     
  • At 10:17 AM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    I had to smile a little at his, "I DIIIIIIIIIDD!!!" retort. Kids are so real.

    Listen, I'm an adult, and I still need that recipe for myself from time to time.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

     
  • At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Lisa said…

    This post just broke my heart. He is not dumb just wired differently, how I wish were lived closer so that I could tell him all about that. I think if we all sat down we could think of an area of our lives that leaves us totally dumbfounded - while others easily grasp the concepts that allude us.

    I love your recipe and unfortunately I see myself referring to that in my future.

     
  • At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Organic Mama said…

    My heart goes out to your son. I thought your comment to him about the whole not trying thing NOT working was important - he knows you know what needs to happen now to address that issue and with that recipe, made it clear that no matter what happens, people are trying to help. Perhaps when he succeeds, it'll spur him to recognize that sometimes, everyone just needs a little help to succeed. Along with love and iee cream.

     
  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    BA- I laughed and cried at this one. First of all, he might actually get to *enjoy* EIP - I loved it because it was a small break in the stress of the day. Plus I was in EIP for math with other kids that didn't get it either - it made me feel better to see there were others.

    Also, tell DO that he just has to squeak through - those of us that don't excel in math really don't have to use it later in life anyway. It always teed me off that they hounded us saying that we would need to know how to do fractions, etc. - NO I DON'T NEED TO KNOW THAT. I barely have to know multiplication. That's what they make calculators for - and there's less room for error.

    DO is one hell of a bright kid. He will get it if he applies himself and doesn't get frustrated. (Which, in my case, is near impossible when it comes to math...) If he chooses not to apply himself, then so be it - that's why there are so many different professions. If everyone was great at math, there wouldn't be any beautiful art, literature, or music in the world.

     
  • At 12:43 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    A wonderful recipe indeed... I hope his hurt heals quickly and that this is the year that Math "clicks" for him so he won't have to feel bad about it anymore!!

     
  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger Cathy said…

    Poor little guy. I so relate to his frustration.

    High school: Failed Algebra II - had to take summer school

    College freshman year: Couldn't pass a required university test, so had to take Basic Math. Um. Yeah.

    College junior year: Required to take a 5-hour Trig/Pre-Cal class for a journalism BA (stupid!) Took me two tries to pass it.

    College junior year: Also required to take chemistry or physics. Dropped chemistry when it became clear I wasn't going to pass. Got a D in physics only because I showed up for class and labs. One day, the instructor stood in front of my class of 100 or so and went on and on about how one of his students had actually received only a 10-percent test grade. It was me.

    Keep encouraging him. Your recipe is fantastic.

     
  • At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Momish said…

    That is a recipe for success! I just love the way you tackle and handle these situations. As a mom of a two year old, your wisdom will resound in my ears for years to come.

    I know your heart is breaking for your son, as mine would be too! I still agree with you that a little pain now is worth saving a lot for the future. Not that the future helps today's pain at all. Wouldn't it be great if it did?

    As for the math thing... Ugh! I think math screws with so many self esteems. I suck at math and stuggle with it constantly. On the other hand, I also majored in logic while at college and graduated with honors. Go figure that one! Just because he may struggle with numbers does not mean he has problems with logic. It took me a while to realize these two things were radically different.

     
  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    Oy. Poor kid. Your recipe sounds like just the thing for an injured heart.

     
  • At 4:22 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    I didn't like to take my asthma medication for the same reason your son doesn't want a math tutor (well i thought i would look like a nerd instead of stupid but same thing). after gasping for breath all the time I figured out it was just part of what I had to do to stay involved in things. Maybe he will come to that point as well? I also don't know my multiplication tables, once I was allowed a calculator I figured they were forgettable.

     
  • At 4:25 PM, Blogger Tracey said…

    Oh, I hear you. We seem to have a good teacher this year, too. Hope his continues to work out for him. I guess another thing to say would be that people can tell if you're struggling withOUT the help. Getting the extra help is no surprise. Yes, kids will be mean. Yes, some might think they are better than he is because they don't need extra help. But that doesn't make it right for them. And it doesn't make THEM right.

     
  • At 5:52 PM, Blogger Lucy's Mom said…

    BA - Since you are going to help with curriculum, check out this link: http://teachers.yahoo.com/

    If you find something you like or that might help, you can share it with the teacher. It's a very cool place. I had hoped to use it myself, but it's aimed at younger kids than those I teach.

    I have no idea if knowing how others sometimes struggle would help Diminutive One or not, but here's my story. I am smart. Not conceit, just a fact. I am a college professor. I have a graduate degree. BUT when I went to school, I had to take calculus as a required course to get out of college. I couldn't understand it. No amount of studying and earnest effort helped. I hired a tutor. Over time, I paid that kid enough money to buy a car. I simply could NOT understand it. It made no sense to me. It did not compute. I got out of that class with a "D" and I was thrilled to get it. I was a straight "A" student in all other courses. I just simply could not grasp that subject matter. It happens to us all in some area of learning. My brain is simply not hardwired for calculus. Maybe knowing that EVERYBODY has a learning problem about SOMETHING is a useful thing for him to know.

     
  • At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Sharon Muzzana said…

    I've been reading your blog for quite a while and just had to comment. I have a 23 year old son who has struggled through the school system, and thankfully graduated from high school on schedule, but not without lots of love, support, meetings called by me and creative solutions. Hang in there. You are doing all the right things. Your full time job is being your son's advocate.

    I work as a special education IA in a k-5 school. I want to suggest that you buy a "multiplication wrap up" for your son, if you haven't already tried it. I loan them to struggling 4th & 5th graders at my school and they love them and are very successful in learning their times tables.(If you want specifics on the best way to use them let me know.) I also explain to my students on an IEP that I am working with them because they are very intelligent but just learn in a different way than is being taught. I also make sure to wander around the classroom and work with other students in the class. A lot of students don't know that I have a specific student that I am helping. I also pull out a few extra students with my student and help them at the same time.

    The truth is, if a student doesn't have above average intelligence, they usually don't qualify for special education. It helps my students to know that their mind is a muscle and the more they use it the smarter they become.

    Sounds like your son has a good teacher this year, especially since she is asking for input from parents. Hope you all have a great year. Sharon M.

     
  • At 7:25 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    This just about broke my heart. But ice cream does help. And hugs, even if he pretends not to like them. Keep hugging.

     
  • At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Sandy said…

    You know as the Creative Curriculm room parent, you can come up with interesting ways to learn math for him. Math applied outside of the classroom will put it into perspective which may help your son be more encouraged and want to try to learn it. Like you say - it may be the way he's being taught right now.

     
  • At 8:33 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    He isn't stupid, his brain just works differently. That's the most important thing for him to understand. Working with LDs is tough, but if he gets that he's just as smart, if not smarter than the other kids, but his brain has a different way of getting the information, then it's easier for him to be able to defend himself if other kids are mean.

    My daughter has two severe LDs, CAPD and NVLD. She CANNOT understand directions. She just can't. She barely reads. She knows HOW to read, but reading is physically painful for her. Between the directions and the reading, she's often terribly frustrated. One of the ways we've work on multistep math problems is to get her to parrot. You tell him how to do a step, then have him tell you what you just said. Then you do it. Move on to the next step and do the same thing. Instead of 4 steps, it becomes 4 one-step processes, which is easier to digest.

    Flashcards are never going to work with an ADHD kid. He can't remember that much info. But sensory information will help. Use cusinaire rods, m&ms, cheerios, whatever. Make him FEEL the amounts.

    Have him put different numbers of things on paper. Like 7 nuts, 8 bolts, 9 tictacs, etc. Then, when he's going multiplication, he can SEE the actual amount and figure out how many of each it takes to get the answer.

    And you're just gonna LOVE percents. My girl is 15 and she CANNOT figure them out. I do them over and over and over and she looks totally blankly at me. SIgh.

     
  • At 9:19 PM, Blogger *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* said…

    HI! I don't think I've ever left a comment on your blog, but this post demanded I chimed in.

    I know exactly where you are coming from. I don't know if this is an option for you or not but we used Sylvan last year. I can not express how quickly and amazingly this program worked for my child.

    He was reading at a level 2 years behind and in 6 months he is now able to read and comprehend at an 8th grade level. He just started 3rd grade. His math skills improved even more so than the reading.

    YES: It's an expensive program. We had to sacrifice a lot those 6 months. However, it was the best 300 dollars monthly I've ever spent. EVER! I mean... EVER!

    My child developed a LOVE of learning and he begged to go to go to Sylvan on the days he wasn't scheduled. The care he received from his tutor was outstanding. They bonded. She could tell him all those "Mom things" that sometimes don't mean anything coming from us. When he heard those things from her... he believed her. The system is amazing.

    How can one put a price on a child learning to LOVE learning... that my dear.. is priceless...

    Hugs to you!

     
  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger Miguelina. said…

    I love you and your son's honesty.

    You're right--there are no guidebooks for dealing with this stuff. Dealing with a toddler who is afraid of the wind (the wind!) is nothing compared to this.

     
  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    "A word to Moms whose children are young enough that their ailments can still be kissed away...sometimes there isn't a band-aid big enough to cover the hurt. And sometimes, you, as a mother, will feel crushingly powerless."

    OOOf. I so look up to you BA. Thanks for the wise words of warning.

     
  • At 12:58 PM, Blogger Dory said…

    OMG, that is the first time a blog entry brought tears to my eyes.

     
  • At 1:58 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    Man, that mom thing can be hard on the heart, huh?

     
  • At 5:19 PM, Blogger Six Green Zebras said…

    Oh - you just nailed my worst fear. I'm not the praying type but I pray that my guy will 'graduate' from special ed this year so that by the time first grade roles around, he's not on 'the short bus' and being pulled out of class. Kids are mean and it's not fair.

    I'm so sorry, I wish I could make you, and most importantly him, feel better.

     
  • At 9:37 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Ooh! Ooh! I get the Horshak reference!

    Good luck to your little guy. He knows his mama has his back.

     
  • At 10:46 PM, Blogger WI Mommy said…

    As a former 4th/5th grade teacher and a current instructional coach, please let me know if I can offer either you or your son any assistance this year. (You can e-mail me from my blog) I know his teacher is lucky to have such an enthusiastic volunteer - I would have loved to have had you in my room!

     
  • At 11:40 PM, Anonymous slackermommy said…

    I totally know what you are going through. My ADHD daughter is also in 4th grade and struggles with math. I so agree with you that having a teacher that knows how to handle our kids makes such a difference on their school success. I'm really excited about her teacher this year because she also has a child with ADHD and she's big on behavior modification. Both me and my daughter need behavior mod! Thanks for the recipe. You are doing a great job!

     
  • At 8:11 AM, Blogger Magpie said…

    Nice recipe. It will come in handy.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Deb said…

    This is exactly why my kids go to the good school, in the bad neighborhood! They are in prek and 1st grade. The 1st grader has ADHD mild, but he needs prompts to do tasks. We switched from a female teacher to a male teacher, and we have seen a huge diffrence already! We also noticed that having a few kids with disabilities in the class, that had them last year, was a big help, so when the para educator worked with them the kids didnt feel uncomfortable becuase there were other kids who needed help too.

     
  • At 11:09 PM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    Aww, poor boy. I don't even know what to say. I can imagine quite well how he feels about what the other children will think.

    Does he have any friends who are good at math? I didn't like math in school, either, and didn't want to learn my multiplication tables, either, and I always thought I sucked at math, and was always ashamed of this, until one year I found a good patient friend who was willing to help me with my math homework. This friend also happened to think he was bad at English, and I could help him with that subject, which made me feel not so bad about asking him for help with math.

    It turned out that I wasn't really that bad at math, and my friend wasn't bad at English at all; we'd just neither one of us really given our least favorite subjects a chance.

    I am still mad at myself for not learning those times tables earlier. I wish I could think of some really spectacular bribe that would work on D.O. so that he won't have to suffer needlessly as I did!

     
  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger Mimi aka pz5wjj said…

    This reminded me of my brother growing up so badly! He is by far the smartest person EVER but he had ADHD and he didn't feel smart because he learned differently. He's back at school now -- doing great (all 100%'s) -- getting some sort of electronics degree -- but he's 42 and this is the first time in his life he's felt smart. He had issues with Math too and is such a great artist & writer! So imaginative!

    My heart goes out to you and D1! You will get through it, but it will be hard!

     
  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    Oh. So true. It's gut-wrenching to watch the pain, to feel it right along with them.

    But with you by his side, he's destined for greatness.

     

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