Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can a fish climb a tree?

In Kindergarten my son was labeled as a "bad" kid.  He got in trouble all the time.  I grew to hate going in for parent/teacher conferences because I always heard how bad he was.  I think it got to the point that the teacher started looking for things to get him into trouble for.  One time he borrowed an eraser from a classmate who had thrown the eraser at Damian to give it to him.  When Damian threw it back at the kid, the teacher caught him and he got in trouble.  The teacher did not give him a chance to explain what happened.  Damian was one of those kids (still is) that wants to tell you his side of the story.  He was very "fair" and if others weren't "fair" he would be upset about it.  I never had problems with Damian at home.  He did not act up, he did (usually) what I asked him to do.  But I would weekly get calls from his school about him being in trouble.

At the end of the school year we went in for his parent/teacher conference and the teacher told us she was going to recommend that Damian be held back and re-do Kindergarten.  Damian's birthday is in the middle of September, which meant that he was already the oldest kid in his class.  If he was held back he would be almost 2 years older than some of the other kids in that class.  I refused to let them hold him back a grade.  I asked to speak to someone else about his "issues."
We were granted a meeting with the school counselor, principle and Kindergarten teacher.  I was very relieved to hear that both the principle and the counselor said they don't hold students back, they want to address the issue, not put a band aid on it, that will not solve the problems and could make it worse.  The teacher was very adamant about Damian at least doing summer school, which I did sign him up for (the only year he did it).  This teacher had me so afraid that year that we even had Damian evaluated at Sylvan Learning Center. Holy cow!  Sylvan is expensive!!  I can't remember the exact numbers but it was in the 10's of thousands.   If you can afford it, I'm sure it's a great program, but for those of us that barely make enough to pay the monthly bills it is incredibly expensive. 
Anyway, Damian was tested extensively by the school and they found that he had a pretty severe learning disability.  They called it a "general learning disorder," which basically meant that it touched every aspect of learning.  He was put on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan - sophisticated words meaning he would need some sort of special "ed").  His IEP gives him help with tests, in that as long as the test is not for Reading he will get help reading questions, and as long as his test is not testing writing, he will get a scribe.  Which means that he doesn't have to worry about failing math because he can't read the problems.  He also gets longer test times and smaller class settings when he is testing.  He has always gone to a special reading group that is geared toward his reading level.  A few years ago, his math reached standard, and is now his favorite class and one that he excels at, so that is not part of his IEP, other than the help reading math problems when he is testing.
~As a side note, every single teacher since 1st grade has loved Damian and they always comment on what a "pleasant," "polite," "considerate," "hardworking" kid he is.  Parent/teacher conferences have a different feel now then that first year. I often wonder how his K teacher could describe him as a trouble maker when the dozen or more teachers he's had since have had such praise for him.  My opinion is that she just didn't like him because he wasn't very bright and he picked up on it so he acted out more than he usually did/does. 

Anyway, we meet the appropriate people at the school once a year, toward the end of the year (because of his idiot {I am not in favor of  calling people names, but his K teacher was an idiot} Kindergarten teacher he did not get tested early in the year, he had even been to 2 years of preschool and the teacher knew this and still did not see that he may need extra help~enough of my rant, back to the story) to renew or update or just plain revisit the IEP and make sure it is still appropriate for him.  We just had that meeting on Tuesday.  Since he is now in 7th grade, the classes are different, he now goes to standard classes, but has 2 periods of extra help, one is the Resource room (or as the world knows it Special Ed) and one is help with phonics since that is the core of his problems. 

This year there was a psychologist in the meeting and I really liked how he labels "learning disabilities," he called it a "learning difference," and I like that a lot better.  Damian's brain just does not translate marks on the page into letters and words.  He works extremely hard to read a 5 word text on his phone, so can you imagine trying to read a book?  This psychologist did a lot of testing this year (I don't know if it's new stuff or not) and told us that Damian is still in about the 2% for his age in reading and writing (he reads at about a 4th grade level).  However, his math is in the low average range, and his comprehension is in the 61% for his age level.  (I was told a couple years ago that kids with his level of disability are often very low on the comprehension as well, but Damian is able to understand and think about a story - as long as it's read to him.) 
What really, really caught my ear was what the psychologist said about his spatial reasoning.  The psychologist said that Damian is on the high end of percentage for his age.  (If he said an exact percentage I didn't catch it.)  Spatial reasoning is the ability to draw accurate conclusions when observing a 3 dimensional environment.  Here is a link describing it.  In a nutshell, Damian was able to teach himself how to solve a Rubik's Cube (it took him a while, but he did it).  He's always been interested in origami, he's now really into making and setting traps (we don't let him catch animals, but his stuffed animals have a few rope burns).  He could become an architect, an engineer, a graphic artist, a pilot, an inventor, a cartographer . . . the list goes on.

Here is my Thankful note for today.  :-)

Maybe I should explain the second to the bottom.  I work in a mental health agency, we have psychiatrists that prescribe our clients medications.  The drug companies want our dr.'s to prescribe their meds, so once a month each of the drug companies that are peddling their drugs come to the office to "bribe" us with breakfast.  Some have crappy breakfasts, some have awesome ones.  Today was an awesome one, and as I wrote this list I was eating.  :-)


  1. I love that AE quote. I think of it often when I'm frustrated with things that are not my strong points. Good for you for standing up for your son. You're a good mom.

  2. I'm glad that your son is doing well in school--but his experience with his kindergarten teacher is so unfortunate! I'm glad that he's been able to get the kind of help he needs!