Little Man is quite the complex puzzle of a kid. But then again, I suppose most kids are at least a little bit of a puzzle. Well, this one is what some people call an alphabet kid: he wears a handful of diagnoses with all sorts of letters, like SPD, ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety.
He’s been growing up and is definitely in those tween years (he’s firmly into his eleventh year now) where his interests are less with his parents and more with his friends (as it should be). And school is still his least favorite place to be.
But, so far this year, Little Man has been having his best year in terms of being able to get off to school and deal with his time there, that he’s had since kindergarten… until last week. He came down with a nasty cold just before last weekend and missed that Friday’s school. When Monday came around, he had slept so poorly the night before that I let him crawl back in bed, missing Monday’s school. There is something about when he’s severely congested that makes paying attention in school and having to process everything around him, very difficult.
Tuesday was only a half day, so Little Man went off to school with no issues. But, when Wednesday came around, the shit hit the fan. Crying and whining and “I’m so tired” and everything came out of that boy. He was far enough in his cold and had already gone back to school so I couldn’t figure out what the big flack was about. Then, something he said about the class’s upcoming Valentine’s party hit home. It dawned on me what was probably going on.
Little Man’s teacher has a limited set of tools that she uses to try to keep her classroom quiet. She either yells or uses threats such as reducing or taking away recess or privileges such as class parties. The problem with all of these tools is that they really bother Little Man a lot. I mean a huge, big-time lot. (And they are a short-term fix that doesn’t really work).
This kid is so exquisitely sensitive that he can’t stand to be yelled at. And when his class is being reprimanded for something he might not have done himself, he takes it very personally. When this sort of blanket punishment tool is used, the kids who do not talk are not singled out; they get punished too, like it or not. And he has no control over losing recess when the kids who can’t keep their mouths shut are having a gabby day. Recess for him is a physical and emotional necessity. He can get into a helpless and hopeless cycle that really brings him down.
What clicked in my brain was when Little Man was telling me that the teacher had written the words Valentine’s Day on the board in the classroom. Each time the class got too noisy, she’d erase a letter. When all letters were gone, the kids would lose their Valentine’s Day party. By two days before the party, all letters had been erased. However, the kids could do things to earn back letters. Sound like a good system, right?
Well, the problem is, Little Man knew this was just a way of trying to manipulate the class’s behavior, and no matter how they behaved, they’d earn back the party. He knew that the party would happen, despite all sorts of threats. And for the days leading up to the party the class would be a rollercoaster of emotions as they earned back and lost letters. He sees right through his teacher’s tactics and all it does is piss him off and make him depressed in his powerlessness.
And this is why he didn’t want to go to school on Wednesday. I made him go anyway. He was so pissed; but he survived.