Jax: Challenges that make a mom feel like she sucks…

I need to talk about some challenges we’re facing with Jax. I don’t have any trouble at all talking about these issues, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to terms with having to do something about them.

Jax has always been a vivacious, happy go lucky kiddo. His energy is never ending and he has the enthusiasm to match. I talk a lot about the great results I’ve gotten from integrating techniques from Attachment Parenting theories, and about changes we’ve had to make or try in order to adjust some of Jax’s behaviors. But what I haven’t talked openly about is the challenges we’re facing with Jax. We re-enrolled Jax into his preschool in Massachusetts. Jax and I were both so excited to have him back in his element with his school.

I walked Jax into the classroom for his third day back when I heard the dreaded words: “Kate, could you take a second and have a little talk with Inga? It won’t take a minute.” Awww, Crap. Its like getting sent to the Principal’s office. Sure, I’ll go outside with Inga and get my ‘You’re a bad mom bitch-slap’ from Inga. Does she have a whip!?

Inga’s ‘very concerned’ about Jax. He’s five, you know, she says. I give a gentle ‘I know what you mean smile’, but I’m thinking to myself ‘I’m not such a terrible mother that I don’t know how long ago I squeezed my son out’…and I resist the urge to tell her he’s only been five for three weeks, but I have to admit, she’s right. I’ve been a little worried too, I just have no clue where to start and how to help him. Or, I have a clue or two, and some ideas on where and how to help, but its an overwhelming can of worms to tackle.

Here’s the thing. A little while back, we took Jax in for a screening for some speech therapy. What started as a simple screening for a lisp and some letter replacements turned into a two hour meeting with an IEP (individualized education program) to address the fact that Jax didn’t want to stand on one foot on the Occupational Therapist’s ‘X’ mark on the floor and ended with them telling me if they enrolled my son, he’d be an easy case to get more funding from. (Incidentally, the assessments the occupational therapist was doing with my little guy oddly resembled a field sobriety test, minus the ‘recite the alphabet backwards’, and he would have failed. Miserably.)

When we were sitting in the meeting to discuss the many ways my poor little guy wasn’t measuring up, the director of the program said something along the lines of adding my son to their program, with his needs being ‘easy to address’, that they get the same funding for any child and our case is ‘great for funding’. Realistically, of course the funding would come to the programs per child, its done through the school system. But really? Who tells a parent they want their child to be enrolled in their school for easy funding?! Duh. Say it when we’ve left the office, please.

Jax needs a little extra help with his grip to hold a pencil, crayon, etc- apparently this will help his teachers’ issues with the fact that he doesn’t want to color in the lines. No Big Deal. (Although technically speaking the ability to color in the lines falls into the ability to write legibly.) He’s clutzy, and thinks its funny to slide into home on his knees on the playground, always wearing through the left knee of his pants. So randomly playing a lousy game of baseball when the other kids aren’t playing is out for this kid too. Heaven forbid. When the Occupational Therapist asked Jacob to balance on one leg, and then to walk on the straight line touching his toes to his heels, had Jax been capable as an almost 4 year old, he would have told her to shove it. (See? Just like a field sobriety test.) Sometimes kiddos just aren’t interested in what the teachers want them to be interested in. Other times, in teacher speak, they say the child isn’t ‘interested’ (fingers in air making quotes) because they can’t do it.

I’m grateful Jax’s needs are simple but need time with special treatments. We are fortunate we aren’t facing the uphill battle of special needs some families are. Some I hope he’ll grow out of or are just a phase, but my deepest worry is that they might be searching for underlying issues with the ones his teachers keep bringing up. It concerns me that parents and some teachers today may have the tendency to jump onto names and conditions and medications instead of relying on simple, gentle coaxing of a child’s natural need to be just that- a kid!!

Honestly I’m happier to keep us trudging along, with faith in our little guy to catch up on his own time, than to have him toe the lines of experts who say he is lacking fine motor skills. Don’t they see him build cars and assault vehicles out of legos!? Obviously we’ll get him whatever help Jax might need, but I love my Jax just the way he is.

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One thought on “Jax: Challenges that make a mom feel like she sucks…

  1. I went down this “school perceptions vs what I know about my child” road, also. The mistake I made was believing that because those employed by the school were “professionals”, they must be correct in their assessment of my child. I initially took all their advice, program recommendations, testing results, ect, to heart. I took my daughter to countless counseling sessions, put her on the recommended medications and tried every thing they threw my way. All the while knowing in my gut that these weren’t the answers, But then again, I was not a professional, just a mom. In my experience, your first “red flag” should be the mention of funding!! I had one “counselor” send me home with the paperwork and strict instructions to fill them out so that my daughter could be put on SSI (for ADHD) so that “funding would be available” for her to continue with this particular counselor as insurance had a cap. I vividly remember sitting in front of that paperwork, torn as to what to do. On the one hand, this would allow more “funding”, and “they” were telling me this is what I MUST do (if i were to be a good parent??). Yet on the other hand, what was nagging at me was my gut instinct that all these things they had already recommended were only making things worse as they were trying to conform my daughter to meet their expectations of what was “normal”. And in order to continue this agenda, they now wanted me to sign over my daughter’s individuality and label her as a problem child for life! Once an official label is put on a child, that label does not go away. It stays in their permanent record even if the child eventually overcomes what ever is going on at the time that label is placed on them! My other daughter, who is shy and socially uncomfortable to this day, they sent to a shrink who diagnosed her as Bi-Polar 2 after spending a mere 20 min of chit chat. I know, I was there! They wanted her on meds, too, followed with the official paperwork to allow more funding!! Thank God I finally woke up!! It was an amazing moment when it occured to me that there was nothing so “wrong” with either of my girls that we, as a family, could not figure out on our own. All it really took to turn things around was to listen to my gut, listen to my children and STOP listening to the professionals! We sat both daughters down, seperately and when the timing was right, and just honestly talked to them. We discussed what the professionals had to say. We discussed how their behavior was interpreted by others and how continuing this behavior would only continue the misconceptions about WHO they were. That although they were fine as people, the behaviors needed to be modified in order to harmoniously interact with others. And we worked on it. And worked on it. And worked on it. As a family! The ADHD daughter eventually matured enough to have self-regulation and learned to know what her triggers were that could cause a melt-down. She learned consequences for her behavior instead of excuses. And yes, we let her learn the hard way! Because for her, the bad consequences are what got through to her. The Bi-Polar daughter…that was actually a little trickier for us. And a lot more hands-on and hand-holding as she was not able to express her self as adeptly as my outspoken ADHD child. So we had to really listen, to the things not being said. Because she was so socially awkward and so easily taken aback by the misunderstandings about why she was the way she was, we took her out of school and home schooled for a number of years, until she was finally ready to give traditional school another try when she was in 10th grade. Just giving her that time to grow, to mature and to be herself made all the difference in the world! Was it difficult? Oh my God, yes it was!! Both my husband and I worked full time, only to come home and do extensive lesson plans, go over schoolwork, tutor, and make sure she was fine in her relative (although wanted) isolation. I made sure she had a part time job with a great crew where i worked so that she learned interaction skills. My little home schooler went on to become an AP Scholar and is now in college with a biology major. My ADHD daughter is entering her senior year in college studying to become a teacher. I shudder to think where they would be right now if we had continued to listen to the “professionals”. My children, in no way, turned out to be that “problem’ that the professionals tried to tell us they would become if we didn’t follow their advice! Not every child fits the mold that society has set out for them. They are individuals and have their little “perks” about them. I love that!! As a parent, you have got to listen to your child and listen to your gut! And make no excuses for doing so!! A wild animal will make no excuses for acting in the best interest of her off spring…and neither should we! We must all be Mother Lions and if your gut is telling you something is not right…listen to it! If it means ‘going against the grain”…do it and do it with gusto!! Your child is depending on you to be their voice, to be their advocate, to be the one person in the world who “gets” them! When the professionals look at your child, remember this….you can look a whole lot deeper into your child’s eyes than they ever will even take the time to do!! YOU are the “professional” when it comes to your child…no one else!! And by the way….I have met Jax and he is an outstandingly bright child with a passion for everything he does. And because of this, he is apt to be a handful….embrace that…he is gonna do amazing things!! And you are going to learn amazing things about yourself on your journey with him! And you know what….it’s all good!!

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