I am constantly worried about how my son's behavior can impact those around him. We have to constantly keep an eye on him to ensure his safety and the safety of others. At the same time we want him to have normal childhood experiences. This isn't always possible for THAT child. He wants to have friends, be invited to birthday parties, and have play dates. I want that for him as well.
Last year we had a horrible school year. Starting with his teacher quitting within the first week of school and it went downhill from there. I can't explain the dread I would feel every time I saw the school's name show up on caller ID. The pit that would form in the bottom of my stomach as I would be told of our son's latest escapade at school. To go from his kindergarten year where he was regulated the majority of the time to having him out of control the majority of the time was a challenge and heartbreaking.
I could see him physically change as we walked into school. Getting tense and going on high alert. I had to stay with him through breakfast, morning recess and walk him to his class in an attempt to ward off any problems first thing in the morning.
The problem when your child is identified as THAT child, is classmates pick up on this and learn how to push his buttons. I witnessed many occasions where a classmate would say something mean, push or in some other way provoke junior. The minute he said something back, the students would yell his name to get the teacher's attention. Junior was then reprimanded for his actions, and sometimes I was told I had to watch him closer. Instead of being asked what had transpired all blame was immediately placed on junior. I never felt like I had a voice to share information about the situation, I was viewed as not being able to control my kid.
We work at home and in counseling on strategies he can use to stay in control. We repeatedly tell him to walk away, tell a teacher, or ignore behaviors of others. This is not something he is easily able to do. He's made progress with this but he still is quick to act when he feels he has been slighted.
Last year we came very close to pulling junior out of school and home schooling him as he wasn't able to stay safe at school. The school worked with us to try and come up with a plan that would work, but nothing did. In the end they gave up, letting him do what he wanted as long as he wasn't disturbing others.
For his safety and the safety of those at school we chose to take a big risk and enroll junior in a private school that was in its first year. Much smaller class sizes, more chances for independence and staff that was willing to meet kids where they are and see them grow.
One month in and I have already noticed a huge difference, even though once again we are dealing with a situation where the teacher left after the first week of school. Junior is upset when he has to stay home from school because he is sick or it is a weekend. He talks about how much he likes school and that he feels safe there. He told me today that he is able to ask questions and learn because he feels safe there.
Every day I ask junior one thing he learned and his responses this year have included:
- I can be a positive role model for others.
- Sometimes it is better to do work on your own and sometimes it is better to work together.
- I can ask for help if I need it.
All of the responses have been about social aspects and his interactions with others which is not at all what I was expecting. By no means do I think that we are in the clear, but seeing the difference between last year and this year is massive.
He still is and may always be THAT child and I will constantly worry about that.