Well, his first week of mainstream school didn’t go very well. He only had to do three days as they didn’t start until Tuesday, and Wednesday was a public holiday in Australia. He has definitely improved as he no longer hurts people at school, and for that I am looking on the positive side! His new difficulty of course, is just being able to sit down and do some school work.
Anxiety is something which makes our child avoid participating in class for fear of being wrong, or thought stupid. Ironically, if he never participates in the classroom, and falls further and further behind, the more he will notice that he doesn’t know as much as the other kids, and the more the other kids will think he’s stupid. Catch 22.
He made a deal with his teacher on Thursday that if he didn’t do his maths work in class on Friday, he would have to complete it all on the weekend. I think with most children, the thought of losing weekend play time in order to sit inside and complete school work would be incentive enough to at least give their work a go in class. Not our little fellow! Doing his work in the classroom is so scary, that the option of doing it at home was infinitely preferable. I wonder whether he thought we might let him off, or just forget that it had to be done? We didn’t of course. We are far too proactive for that. 🙂
I picked him up on Friday afternoon, and had a good chat with the teacher who explained all the work that needed doing. I could see how frustrated the poor teacher is. She is trying so hard to engage our son in the classroom. She’s being understanding, proactive, and patient. She is taking all the advice I give her and trying to implement it in the classroom, and for that I am extremely grateful to her. The difficulty is that I can see exactly where she is at with my son. She sees the potential and knows how clever he is and as an educator, she just really wants to bring that side of him out. It’s so important for her to let that go at this stage and not to feel as if she’s failing because he is simply not at a stage emotionally to cope on that level in a classroom setting yet. I do feel for her and him though.
We did his first maths exercise on Saturday. It took me approximately 45 minutes to get him calm enough to even attempt the exercise. When I announced that we were going to do the maths work, he instantly went into anxious mode and started arguing and saying he wasn’t going to do it. I finally got him to come over and try, and then he thought he understood the exercise, but when I told him his first answer was incorrect, he threw it all off the table and wanted to leave. This is pretty typical of anxious kids.
It should be said that I was also getting him to do this without Ritalin. Interestingly, by using comforting language and telling him over and over that it was ok that he didn’t understand this yet, and that I was there to help him and explain it to him, and all he had to do was sit for a minute and listen to me, he did come back, and listen, and got all the rest correct all by himself! It’s definitely an exercise in EXTREME patience on the adult’s part, but if you can stick with it and maintain that calmness, it works.
Each new exercise (there were four), took about the same amount of time, so we spread them out across the entire weekend. I was sick on Sunday, so my husband had to play with our son all day, as well as take him through the maths work, and I was so proud of him as he didn’t lose his temper once the whole day! From 8:30am to 8:30pm, he took total control of our son and played with him and helped him and was completely 100% patient and kind with him the whole day! Good job husband! It’s not easy, let me tell you, but the outcome is really worth it!
My son also needed to prepare a little speech about ‘Leaves’ for today, and although he refused to do it at first, I ignored his protests, and his claims that he can’t stand up in front of the class because everyone does better work than him, and just kept pressing forward. I asked him to research leaves, and he refused, so I changed tac and said, “OK, I’ll write down the points for you about what you already know about leaves, and all you have to do is read them out and that will be your speech.”
Me: “So, what do you know about leaves?”
Me: “What are leaves for? Where do they grow”
Son: “On trees and bushes.”
Me: “Great! Ok that’s your first point! Excellent. Why do they grow?”
Son: “They absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into air”
Son:”They make air with carbon dioxide.”
Me: “Yes! That is something very special and interesting about leaves! I’ll write that down!”
Pfft…. ” I know nothing about leaves indeed. Silly sausage!” Anyway, it turned out he knew enough about leaves for me to write a few good points for him to read out. We then got him to stand in front of us and make his speech using his points cards. He was awesome!
He spoke clearly, and read his cards beautifully. He stood still and didn’t fidget, and we made a huge fuss of how great it was!
He practised again this morning, and I just hope that he has the confidence to stand up and do the speech in class today, because I really think it will help boost his general confidence with the reaction he’ll get from the teacher. The only concern I have, is that they’ll expect him to be able to do that each time. He has to do a speech each week, and I’ll keep helping him with them and practice them at home until he can start working on them himself, but my fingers are crossed for today.
Today starts his first full week, and we’ll see how it goes. We will be working on a little bit of maths at home each afternoon, in the hopes that he will start to feel confident enough to participate in class. Sometimes, it’s tough though as parents, that everything has to be an extra level of difficult with our son. We must just take a deep breath, let go of our expectations, and move forward, no matter how small the steps.