And so we sat in my son’s classroom, in small chairs at a group of desks like school students, to go through the educational psychologist report…
I HATE advocacy! It isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and even less so for my peace-loving husband. But when it is your kid’s success that might suffer, advocating for them is just part of what you MUST do.
Most other parents don’t get that – the ones with average kids (no offense meant). People who think it is exciting when you share the news your son is highly gifted, when YOU are really thinking I actually wish they were just “normal”! Somewhere they have calculated that – for parents – the best IQ for a child to have is around 120 – where they breeze through school, learning at the pace put in front of them, and with no learning difficulties to hold them back in any area. That was me, a straight A student who worked conscientiously to get there, but no doubt found it easier than some.
So I never had to have my Mum or Dad step up like that for me. This world of advocacy was new to me. We have now had a few year’s practice; all through our son’s journey towards his ADHD diagnosis at age 6 3/4 and then after, plus when it was confirmed our daughter has dyslexia. For each issue that needs to be discussed, advocacy is different. Until now, for our son, it was all about strategies to improve his behaviour and social skills… strategies that hadn’t factored in the element of giftedness.
We really have been blessed with the majority of the teachers our children have had to date. Sure – at times I have been frustrated; I have flippantly commented AND seriously contemplated homeschooling my son numerous times!!! I have cried in front of his teachers, in disappointment over my son’s actions. The school’s old principal seemed to think medication was the answer to everything, but the current one has gone above and beyond to put extra things in place for our son.
Last term, before my son’s assessment I mentioned to my son’s teacher that I had been speaking to some experts who believed that the reason my son was disruptive in class was because he was bored. I was hesitant to push without something in writing to back me up; but using a third party approach sat well with me. And I always start discussions with a compliment. To my surprise – and much happiness – his teacher spent the weekend devising a new daily school programme for my boy – where he gets to work on his own research project for about 2/3 of the day then present it to the class each week or so! And… (to no surprise) his behavior did show some improvement!
This term, the new programme wasn’t quite as structured (for a number of reasons) and there were issues again – mixed in with good days. I put my thinking cap on and emailed the teacher one night suggesting my son be moved back to his own separate desk (instead of in a group) and that same afternoon his teacher and principal had already decided to do that very thing! I see this as setting him up to succeed. And although others (including myself in past tense) are concerned that this will limit his social skills, I have been told by experts that our son can only develop those skills with people of a similar INTELLECTUAL maturity (which are not most year 5 children).
This week we finally had a formal meeting with the school (including the principal) to go through my son’s educational psychologist report and its recommendations. I had been waiting for this meeting for three weeks. I asked one of my son’s teachers at the gifted programme he attends (and who has been an amazing support through all of this) if she could attend the meeting, and she readily said yes. I think she quite likes the challenge my son gives her 😉 That took a real weight off my shoulders, as I knew she could expertly guide the school through the report recommendations with some more specifics. We had been in touch almost daily since receiving the report, tossing around ideas.
And so we sat in his classroom… We started by discussing my son’s strengths and how to build those and stimulate him. It was agreed he would attend a second day each week at the local gifted programme! His two sets of education providers (traditional and gifted) are going to work more closely together including Mr 9 doing his passion project at both places and linking into things such as the school science fair. There was even some excitement from all of us at the idea that one project could be for him to develop his own app and make some big $$$!!
We asked for him to have dual enrolment and try a high school maths class out – but settled on trialing an online maths programme initially, together with another student of high ability. Maybe grade acceleration next year. Relationships do require give and take, so it is important to listen to both sides and both be prepared to try out each others ideas where reasonable. We will revisit everything in 4-6 weeks.
We then looked at his weaknesses. We agreed he should use a computer wherever possible (for his dysgraphia) and continue his lunchtime teacher aide for social skills. The teacher was keen to try out a card system for my son to use when he needed some “time out” – to hopefully self-regulate his behaviour. We were told it was pointless trying to go through the public system with regards to our son’s speech/conversation difficulties. Luckily we have a literacy expert just one block over from our home. I have since got a meeting set up with her for this Wednesday which I am very excited about – she thinks that a lot of his speech concerns are anxiety related and she can make a real improvement in him in just three months! (I almost cried with relief on the phone – wouldn’t that change things!!). We are also looking into enrolling him in a dance class to help with his possible dyspraxia.
Still, after the meeting, I feel this concept of 2E and our son being HIGHLY gifted hasn’t been fully grasped by his school yet. The teacher hadn’t heard of this terminology before. They referenced tests he has done and where these show he sits academically – without fully understanding how these tests being paper-based and timed, impacts them not being a true reflection of my son’s high abilities.
We all still have some learning to do. We placed the chairs on top of the desks and left the classroom. One meeting over.