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Friday, June 25, 2010

ADHD: Dude and I strike a New Deal

What Mom hasn't stood in the doorway of their kid's room rolling their eyes, threatening to ship them away to private school, or simply throwing stuffed animals while grunting out caveman sounds?  Moms and clean room angst are like chocolate and peanut butter, wine and cheese, or bitch and moan, they just seem to fit.

Sit down, pour some tea, and let me tell you a story about what I learned about clean rooms from my 12 year old ADHD son that we lovingly call, Dude.

I decided on a Saturday to brave the depths of Lego madness and enter the land of lost socks and dishes from the Bush administration and help Dude clean his room.  He certainly wasn't Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about this deal but he humored me and actually pitched in with a decent effort.

For hours we sorted Legos into the plastic bins of organizational heaven that I had chosen just for him, because I love him.  Every ADHD mom scours The Container Store searching for clues to a calm from the chaos like a thirty something woman searches for her Prince Charming. It's a quest. A quest for answers and solutions and a fix for "their problem".

Easily 4 hours later, with the sweeper cord wound, the bedding found and replaced, I laid on the bed with a ridiculously deep sigh and said, "Don't you just LOVE this."  Dude's room gets this clean about as often as Macys runs their semi annual white sale. This was a moment to take in. I wasn't really expecting a response from Dude, it was more of a rhetorical question. Except, he answered.

"No Mom, I really don't."

Whoa whoa whoa - What did he just say?

I was so intrigued.  I said, "O.K. I get that you don't like to actually do the cleaning part, but don't you like it when it's done?"  And then it happened. My moment of enlightment about his ADHD mind that has changed me forever.

He said, "No Mom, I really don't.  I only do this because I know you like it. When it's all put away in the drawers, you put my ideas away."

I laid there on the bed, curious, embarrassed, shocked, and needing to know more.  What Mom puts away their kids ideas? That's insane. That's criminal.  So I delved in.

"So let me get this straight, don't you find it easier to build stuff when you know exactly where all the pieces are?  You know, little men in this drawer, long red strips here, square blue blocks here?  I thought you hated it when you couldn't find a piece you wanted?"

With the calm and profoundness of a scholar he said, "No, it's not that way at all.  I get my best ideas when it's all laying out and I see this piece of a building and then I stumble on this part of a helicopter and I think, wow, what if I put these things together. Then it gets me thinking about all kinds of things and I get excited and just want to build and build. When it's in the drawers I don't really have any ideas."

So at that moment, just like Roosevelt, I struck a new deal. I said, "Hey, how about you agree to scrape it all off the floor once a week onto your big table so I can run the sweeper and we'll call it good."

His eyes lit up, "Really?" Yea, really. No kid of mine has his brilliance locked up in a plastic box.

He's not wrong, he's just different. Let the building continue and the ideas flow.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

No Child Left Behind: Hey, you missed one, MINE!

Summer has finally arrived and I'm so glad school is out I almost cranked up the Alice Cooper and danced around the house myself.  It's not that we have some crazy town vacation planned or that summer is all that easy for us 'work from home' types.  I'm just glad that SCHOOL IS OVER for a little while.

Remember my interview with Dude on why school sucks?  Well, this is Dude's Mom's perspective on why school sucks. Crank up the Alice Cooper and here I go ......

At the beginning of 6th grade, test were given to determine our kid's proficiency in key areas. Dude was reading at a Senior level and writing as a Sophomore.  Pretty good, huh?  Dude is also ADHD so school is not exactly built for his brain.  Teacher lectures mostly sound like Charlie Brown's teacher while he thinks of cool stuff in his head. Because he's smart he still does o.k..

Here's how things went on the reading report card for the year.

1st Semester -      B-
2nd Semester -    C+
3rd Semester -    C-
4th Semester -     D+

Then I get his ISTEP scores

Is anyone else scratching their head, more than a little perplexed?

If you double click on that D+ you see out of 57 grades, 28 are A's and 10 are F's mostly for homework that was done but lost or late.

So this begs the question, is the D+ a measure of Dude's reading ability or of his organization ability?

Here's my biggest complaint.  What kind of message do we send to Dude with this D+ grade?  The teachers feedback to me via email before the end of the year was, "Dude needs to be more organized." If you remember from the earlier post my response was, "yea, and the deaf kid needs to listen more." ADHD kids are not usually organized.  We have now sent the message to him that he's not smart. That he barely passed. What in God's name do you think that does to a kid's self esteem?

I've had it.

I sat down with Dude and we had a great conversation.  I don't let him off the hook completely with grades because he does need to find strategies to deal with his ADHD, but never will grades be a measure of his ability, intelligence or capability.  I'm hopeful that he'll have a virtual assistant that handles all of this organization crap that he's not good at and he'll be changing the world with his brillance and creativity.

To be clear. I'm not down on teachers.  They've got the 2nd hardest most underpaid job on earth after stay at home moms.  Yes, some of them suck. I won't name names here, but for the most part they are great people with a huge heart working in a system that fails them and our kids every single day.

Not one time throughout the year did ANYONE from Dude's school call and ask to speak to me that his test scores and his grades seemed to be completely out of sync.  His test scores helped them get the funding they wanted and needed and that was the end of that story.  No need to worry about the lasting effect a D grade gives a pre-teen about who they are and what' they're capable of.  There's no funding for that. 

Next up on my School Sucks Rant: Look What Your School Book Money Bought

Note: If you buy something from Amazon with those links, I get some dimes and nickels. No harm, no shame.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stupid TV

I went to 2nd Grade Field Day at Small Town USA Primary School today. This is a BIG deal. Lunches were packed. The right color shirt worn by kids and old-timers like me. All a well orchestrated and coordinated pre-game.  There was prep and planning like Spring Training in Florida.

After kickball and tug o war and every other sweat-making kid game known to high humidity mid western families, it was time for lunch.  We packed a lunch so I guessed we weren't heading to cafeteria hell.  This day was special.  I asked a couple of the kids where we were having lunch.  No one seemed to know.  I pictured maybe the shady tree out back but that'd be hard for the hoards of wheel chair grandmas that show up for field day.  Honestly, I'm not sure that many grandparents came to my high school graduation.

So we ended up having our sack lunches in the classroom.  Really? I wouldn't have bought the good turkey if I'd known it would be eaten sitting on the same chair that Spelling Tests are given.  This was special sack lunch day!  I adjusted and settled in, sharing a chair the size of a cock-a-poo with my sweaty-haired baby girl. Man, I love that girl.

Half way through our zip-lock bag of chips and turkey on wheat, heavy on the mayo, I strike up a fascinating conversation with Luke across the table.  Luke has a deep infatuation of the military, driven by his grandpa that died at 107 years old.  He loves tanks and army men and museums his parents have endured to fuel his healthy passion.  Luke lights up talking about tanks like I do thinking about a new season of The Bachlorette.

Then there's Hayden.  Hayden eats peanut butter with NO JELLY!  Whoa, kid what's that about? We struck up a healthy debate about the need for a life with jelly and how he is surviving one without it. Not even on his toast! Fascinating!

The two Alex's can't wait to weigh in on our debate.  We're learning about each other and envying each other depending on if your mom let you come with the cardinal sin of a caffeinated drink.

Then it happens..... mid chip .... mid Mountain Dew swig .... mid military tank debate ....... all things come to a screeching, mind numbing, sugar fueled staring halt. Mrs. Really Good Teacher turns on the STUPID TV!

Like a moth to a flame they all go into a trance from their 143rd viewing of Lady and the Tramp version 23.  Seriously?  These kids have seen this movie more times than Luke's grandpa lived!  I watch it happen. Each one of these bright eyed Gifts from God shuts down their conversation to stare at the little black box perched in the corner, above the tissue paper sun.

Luke and I are still having our Nazi tank discussion which is far more interesting than those annoying animated dogs.  And get this! The other kids are "shooshing" us for trying to TALK through their movie!!!!  I resist the urge to stage a movement and solidify my daughters fate in therapy for more money than college and force myself to just sip my coke and eat my chip crumbs while highly paid actors do the voice overs for animated dogs until it's time for the next activity.

Stupid Stupid Stupid TV.