Last year was the first year that my son Jake enjoyed school. He is 15.
Jake has spent many years just tolerating school. He has several issues that have made school difficult for him – ADHD, general anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (try saying that 3 times fast). On top of those conditions that make behavior a problem, he has learning disabilities – reading is extremely hard for him, math is a little better, and he prefers not to write very much if at all possible. He can go from being pleasant to being irate in 5 seconds flat (okay, maybe a little faster than that, but you get my drift).
I tried since first grade to get him an aide. School said they couldn’t afford it. If I wanted to pay for an aide, he could have one. Really? Over the years, I kept bringing it up. Nope, they wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t until we moved to a different school district did they believe me that he needed someone to help him. He had help there, but he still wasn’t thrilled with school. Then we moved again and when I went into the office to register him, I said, “Hi. This is Jake. He needs an aide.” Looking a bit wide-eyed at my matter of fact statement, they said, “we will need to see his school records.” Once they got his school records (which I would imagine was quite hefty), they sprung for an aide – all day, just for him. And he started to enjoy school.
Last year was not perfect, mind you – even with the aide. He still didn’t want to read or write and do much math. He still had temper flare-ups. But his aide was there to talk to him – to find out what set him off and to try to figure out a way to help. She helped calm him. She helped him communicate his frustrations. She encouraged him and reinforced good behavior – listened to him and laughed at his jokes. Having someone there truly made a difference for him.
It was also the first year Jake actually had friends. Real friends. Not “I like you today, but I hate you tomorrow” friends. Not friends that are many years younger than him. But friends his own age – who enjoy the same kinds of things – that come over and play video games or ask him to go out skateboarding with them. Having friends is a huge thing – and has enriched his life and helped his self-esteem.
After a full summer of camping and fishing, skateboarding and swimming, he is now back at school. A Sophomore! While he has only been back a week, there is real hope that it will be an great year for him – he is happy, has a good attitude and has friends in several of his classes. His aide is there by his side, to encourage him along the way. I am thrilled that he is finally enjoying school – it is too bad it took so long to get there, but it is definitely better late than never!