20 April 2016

Baby Turns Eight (and Mum Ponders his Struggles)

Today I'm writing a post about my youngest child - the ray of sunshine affectionately known as Scrag.
He turned eight this week. EIGHT. My baby.
Scrag was born happy. He was a delight and a joy, the pet of the family and everybody's snuggle bug from his earliest days.
I remember being in the hospital, wracked with post-surgery pain (like nothing I've ever experienced before; so bad I wanted to die. The morphine did nothing.) My newborn baby was lying there gazing into my eyes, and he knew me. As we locked eyes, me in pain, him serene, I said to myself: it's worth it. This pain is worth it to have this child.

We used to call him "Mr Happy".
When he was a toddler his tantrums were laughable. I mean, really? You call that a tantrum? He just couldn't pull it off, he was too sweet.
I always said he was my reward for surviving the babyhood of my first two. I got my "easy" baby last. The other two had me running from morning til night to save them from traffic/deep water/electrical plugs/strangers, but Scrag had some kind of internal bungee cord that attached him to me. He wasn't a daredevil like the other two and he never ran off. He had no death wish, I could relax around him, even as a toddler in public.
His default setting was "happy" and his personality was "sweet".

Energetic, adventurous, fun-loving, sure. This kid was all boy. He loved to run races, climb trees, bounce and swing. But he was rarely upset or angry.

So imagine my horror when he went to school, and school started to change him.
As he struggled to fit himself into the system, to concentrate and learn by sitting still and listening, as he compared his progress to others and put pressure on himself to catch up, his frustration grew.
His emotions intensified, and for the first time in his happy-go-lucky life, he began to rage.

With each new school year, life has grown more difficult for him, not helped by the fact that he is the youngest in his Year (born just before the "cut off", thanks to an early C-section).

By now I knew the signs to watch for - there was no confusion about what was happening here. I've had two children pass this way before. In my heart I knew that he had to be dyslexic, like me. Like the other two. And yep, the tests confirmed: dyslexic AND gifted. He is now also being tested for ADHD at the school's request.

The discrepancy between his intelligence and his processing abilities is massive, which means that his frustration is also massive.
This boy is smart. He is intuitive. He understands things that aren't on the radar of most kids his age; his empathy and kindness, the depth of his feelings for other people are something else.
But in the linear education system, which he is trying to cope with and make sense of, he struggles.
Every day he comes home exhausted and depleted from trying so hard to listen and learn and do the right thing and sit still for long periods every day.

Don't even mention the word homework. Last year he could cope. Last year he was keen as mustard and eager to please, but this year the workload has increased, and he has lost his spark.
Mention homework and he falls apart. So do I make him do it? No, I do not.
He dreads every day. He hates school. This child who started school so eagerly and approached learning with such enthusiasm. The system is wearing him down and I am stumped.

I have looked at alternatives and can't find anything that might work for us.***

(*** I have looked into Steiner School, but this is not an option for two reasons: 1= they have no spaces and 2= some of their underlying philosophies are very strange. 
I would consider homeschooling if I could find a group to be part of, as Scrag is VERY social and would struggle to be on his own too much. Also I am hopeless at follow-through unless there is exterior motivation (I am dyslexic myself, remember, and struggle to be linear).
I have looked into One Day School for gifted kids; he would qualify, but I think I've left it too late. 
We do have an amazing in-school tutor for one hour a week, who he loves and is amazing; he is in learning support for reading -which he hates.)

We are going to have to make the best of where we are for now, thankful that at least our school is trying to help.
It's not the school's fault. It's the system.
Our child just thinks in a different way, and needs to learn that way too: hands on, moving and using his body, with pictures and actions and textures and adventures. He needs to do and act and taste and touch and feel, and then his brilliant mind will be set free to race ahead and discover all kinds of possibilities.

I wish I could find a school like that. I wish there WERE schools like that, all over our country, for dyslexic kids and ADHD kids who really have nothing wrong with them. They are just wired differently, and need to learn in a way that is compatible with their wiring.
These are the noisy ones who can't keep their bodies still, who blurt out the answers before they lose it, who don't sit quietly on the mat and raise their hand like they should; they are the ones who wriggle on the mat and swing in doorways and rock on their chairs and daydream instead of listening, so they miss the instructions and don't know what to do, so they ask their friend and get in trouble for talking.
These are kids like mine.
When the frustration grows for these kids, and their sense of self-worth is battered and bruised by endless "failure" of course they will give up trying. Of course they become the "behavioural problem" kids. Unless we fight for them. Unless we have their back and leave no stone unturned until we find something that works.

My child is smart and clever with a beautiful soul.
I can't let the struggle to fit in steal his spark.
I may be stumped right now, but I will not give up. My kid is too precious to let the system break him. We will find a way.

(Any suggestions or encouragement will be most appreciated.)


Dyslexic Brains are Good Brains Too
Detours, Road Blocks & Getting there Eventually
The Upside of Imperfection
This is Normal, Apparently
The Perils of Thinking Straight

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