Friday, March 19, 2010

Work to do

We met with R's teacher after school yesterday. She reassured us that R is very bright, very intelligent, that none of what she wanted to talk to us about was about his intellectual capabilities. (Phew!)

Basically, he has a couple of issues to work on. The first is that he sometimes has trouble starting tasks, especially writing. She said that it's almost as if his brain is working so far ahead - because he has so many ideas - that he can't figure out where to begin. Once he gets started (sometimes with help), though, he's fine. R's teacher thought maybe I could have R spend some time with me when I write for work - or even this blog or letters to family or friends - so he can see how much I enjoy writing and that it's not just a chore. I thought that was a great suggestion.

The other thing is that he has trouble transitioning to new activities. So, if he's working on something, and it's time to line up to head to lunch or art or gym, he has to be reminded several times to join the rest of the class. And, his teacher is worried that his future teachers won't have as much patience as she does with him. We've noticed the same behavior at home: if R is doing something that he's focused on, and it's time for dinner or bed or time to head out somewhere, he HAS to finish what he's doing first. He has a really hard time being okay with leaving something unfinished and coming back to it later. It takes a lot of time and cajoling to get him to move along.

R's teacher showed us a book that she made for her and us to read to R. It's all about him and school and what he likes and doesn't like and what tools he has available to him to help and how he has choice times but how he also has times where he has to do what his teachers ask him to do. She used his picture and other cute pictures to illustrate it. It's fabulous! She asked us if she should offer him a reward for trying to do better in his challenge areas, but we all agreed to try just reading the book to him and talking about with him first. Rewards don't always work with R, and there's something that bothers me about rewarding him for doing what the other kids are already doing. But maybe I'm being too mean?

We also talked about how R is definitely bored by some things at school, and his teacher totally picked up on how interested he is in hands-on, science-related things. She also noted that he has some sensory issues - he hates glue or other sticky things on his hands, he's very sensitive to smells, etc. I've always noticed that, too, but never really thought much about it. She didn't say it was a problem, just that she's provided him with some tools to help with sensory issues.

So, I love R's teacher more than ever for talking with us and for coming up with creative, kind solutions for R. I'm a little bit at a loss for how to help R change his behavior, but I definitely want to do whatever I can.

If any of you have any ideas or thoughts, I'm open to them!


Ericka said...

Wow, his teacher sounds great, & I think I'd feel the same way about the rewards - it works great in the short term, but might set up an expectation that will just be frustrating in the future?

I wonder if doing puzzles with Rix might help with the leaving projects unfinished thing, if they're complicated enough that you guys couldn't possibly finish it in a sitting. You might get stuck having to work on it much longer than you want to though!

I still remember hating the feeling of wrinkles in my bedsheets or in my socks - I hated it! But the real sensory aversion went away after 5 or 6. Though I still don't like to touch gushy things (cat vomit comes to mind), or the contents of the sink drain, so maybe that's a hold over.

Overall, it sounds like he's doing great though, and it is only his first year! I'm sure he'll continue to do well, especially when he's more used to school.

sandwhichisthere said...

your issues sound so complicated. I agree with E about the reward issue. The problem will be with not wanting to abandon something he is working on. I don't know if that is a habit that you want to modify.Perhaps an understanding of priorities is the answer. The wanting to finish what he has started is not neccessarily a bad thing. It will help with school in later years when he has homework. I have no idea what the proper solution is.
What if you were to start keeping a daily journal and make sure that R is aware that you are and let him see you doing it? Then you could help R do the same thing. I wouldn't read his journal unless he asked you to.
The fact that he is able to perseverate on a task is not a bad thing. You will have to be very, very careful with this issue. Or as one of my boyhood mentors used to say "Be vewy, vewy careful. There's a wabbit over there.".
all of my love to you and your family, daddy
P.S. Typing on a blog is not writing. It would be better for him to see you writing. The next crisis will be in the third grade when he has to learn to put tails on letters to connect them. I remember being terrified of that and not wanting to go to school.

Kansas Bob said...

In first grade the teacher told us that our son was a slow reader. The following summer I gave him a dime for every little book that he read. Amazing how many books he read. Today he is an amazing reader - both in speed and comprehension.

I do think that schools and teachers are not always good at teaching boys and they use shaming tactics to get them in line instead of using a more creative approach to challenge them. Many boys learn more from a hands on approach than an academic one. Might be something to consider when you speak to his teacher.

sandwhichisthere said...

be careful about getting rid of stuff. You only make room for more stuff. Beware of the Law of Horizontal Surfaces. Anytime you add a new or clear an old horizontal surface, an alert goes out to all the Stuff in the world that is constantly circling human habitations. All of the stuff realizes that there is a new nesting area in your home. The doors of your local Christmas tree Shop burst open and it resembles a bat cave in the early evening.
Stuff is not the problem, horizontal surfaces are the problem. One piece of solemn advice, don't throw out or give away the baby crib. I remember the day we gave away the cribs. A dark cloud descended over my brow, I was way beyond morosity and sadness and that night I felt tears welling up behind my eyes. It was as if a statement had been made. "We give up. There will be no new purpose to our lives. We will just "keep on keepin on" and the denoument has begun.". Avoid that sad, sad, day as long as posible. The day that you give up the cribs is a good day to pick out cemetery plots. This is just my personal feeling, I have never heard that it was shared by any other human being but that is not unusual. My mind lives in a dark, murky, dusty, place,

Ericka said...

Just thought I'd update on the "reward" issue. I thought about it a little, and recalled my friend Marguerite going through the same thing with her son over homework. She was resistant to doing the rewards too, but once she did it, she was amazed at how well it works. The rat behavior world (which I know much better) provides alot of solid background as well, essentially that appetitive conditioning (rewarding desired behavior) is much more effective at establishing habits than aversive conditioning (punishing wrong choices).


So I guess maybe I've switched sides?