One of the reasons I moved to little “Podunk” Washtucna was to get my son Jake into a smaller school system. Jake has special needs that are especially bad at school. Let’s just say I am used to getting called several times a week to address his behavior to “talk him down” out of whatever hysteria he finds himself in. He also has some learning disabilities that makes reading extremely difficult. He is in the 7th grade and reads at a 1st grade level. I figured that being in a smaller school would reduce the amount of stress – it wouldn’t be as noisy and chaotic – and he could get more one-on-one instruction. So now he attends a school in which there are maybe 70 kids – in the entire school – kindergarten through 12th grade.
I did get calls from the new school. They were unfamiliar with him. He was unfamiliar with them. The transition was difficult for him. It did not take long for the school to figure out that he needed his own Aid to help him throughout the day. And while I had to fight the previous school district to get him one, this little school district just went out and hired one for him. The teachers and staff learned how best to handle Jake – what his stressors were – how to react when he was being non-compliant, etc.
And at this little school, Jake was able to make friends. Because it is such a small town, kids all get to know one another. Jake comes home from school and he is out the door and only pops in once in awhile to get a snack or to go to the bathroom. It is so nice to see him having fun with other kids.
Once in awhile though, something will occur that sets him off. It could be that the lunch lady tells him something different than the lunch lady did at his old school – or that he has to not roll around on the wheeled chairs in the classroom. Whatever it is that ticks him off sets him into a tirade of “Mom, I hate it here! I don’t know why we had to move here! It’s not even a real town! Omak was so much better! Our house is too small! Everyone is so stupid! The school is stupid! I hate it all!”
It doesn’t matter that an hour before he was perfectly happy. It doesn’t matter that he can walk down to the store and get himself a latte before school. Or that he can stay out and ride his bike all over town. Or even that he gets to have sleepovers at his friend’s house. Whatever ticks him off wins out over all that. And it drives me crazy!! Of course I try to stay calm during his screaming and crying. I just listen and state calmly why we are there, that every place is different, that he does have friends and that other transitions in the past were hard too and he got through them okay. He keeps yelling and kicking doors, flashing the lights on and off. After awhile though, something else gets his attention and he calms down. I get him a snack and make sure he is comfortable whether it is to remind him to go to the bathroom, making sure he is warm enough, whatever to help him find his happy place again. After calming down, he is off to play with his friends, like nothing ever happened. Luckily these tirades are decreasing the longer we are here. He is starting to really enjoy school – goes off happy in the morning, comes home happy in the afternoon – AND he is getting his work done regularly. I rarely get a call from school anymore. Moving here has been a wonderful thing for him – hopefully one day he will be able to see it and appreciate it. Even if he doesn’t though, I sure do. And that is why we came to this little Podunk town to begin with.
I completely relate to your situation. My daughter has similar issues and needs and just moving over the state line from DC to MD made all the difference. I’ve even written about watching her get better at self control (“Doing Battle” is the post name, if you’re interested.) You know you did the right thing; the kids don’t really need to get it. They just need to live it. Best to you and your son.
Thank you. It’s nice to know there are other parents out there that totally “get” what I am going through. I’m glad that you had good results with your move too!
You described the nine year old version of my son Brett. When I got here i did not react to any of his tantrums and i just looked at him, and then went back to whatever i was doing. I am so glad to hear of the improvement in your sons life. How exciting this must me to see him do things you wondered would ever be possible. He will get older and his natural maturity will come in and things can just work out. I was told by too many people that Brett would not graduate from high school. THEY WERE ALL WRONG! i watched him to that very thing last year. I cannot tell you how inspiring this was to read.
Congratulations on your son’s graduation! I have found that not reacting to Jake’s behavior often works the best and have had to teach that to his teachers (and others who are with him regularly). Reacting only adds fuel to the fire. Getting him to enjoy school is key in his education. If he does not want to be there, his behavior is worse and that gets in the way of learning. I have seen improvement as he has gotten older too – you are right that maturity does play a huge role in getting these kids to move forward naturally. Thank you for your comment – it gives me more hope that Jake will make it. Thanks!
It was a pleasure. I was jake, many years ago.
I can relate! We didn’t move, but my son was very similar when he was in public school. I pulled him at the end of 4th grade and homeschooled with part time elective participation in a public school. In 1 year using Saxon Phonics Intervention he jumped 9 reading levels and we only got half way through it. I know homeschooling’s not an option for everyone, but there are programs out there that help and you can also pull him from just 1 subject and work with him on that yourself.
We also found out that he is mildly dyslexic and severely dysgraphic. If you want to know more let me know.
Prayers and luck to you! Stay strong because you know him and what he’s capable of better than any school!
I tried homeschooling Jake when he was third grade. That was when I discovered how bad his learning disabilities were. He is more dyslexic than dysgraphic (my older son is extremely dysgraphic!). Jake would write words completely backwards – all the letters backwards, the word going from right to left. He wouldn’t know which was the front of a book and which was the back. He can spell a word if asked, but then cannot read it. I put him back in school mostly to help with his social skills, but also in hopes that someone with more training would be able to figure out the best way to teach him (although I told them that phonics would work much better than learning sight words). He has made progress but it is slow. I am so glad that you were able to find the right learning tools for your son! I applaud you for your hard work and the progress that your son has made!
I’m so glad that your moved has helped him! That is a blessing 🙂