“Don’t rush me mom! Genius takes time!” My son said this to me, out of the blue, one day when I was trying to get him ready in the morning.
At the time, I laughed thinking, “Gosh, that boy is funny.”
Now, I appreciate it for the foreshadowing and beyond-his-years profoundness!
Below is a blog I wrote almost 4 months ago. I never published and I didn’t know if I ever would. It was in the midst of a very difficult time for our family. We had just started to feel like we had finally found a small light at the end of a long tunnel with our oldest son and his behavior.
Fast forward to now and it would get worse. Just a few short weeks ago, he was expelled from his preschool.
Let’s pause right there….he was kicked out of school! I never fathomed this could actually occur. But it is a real problem, happening every day in the United States.
Just days after it happened (the same day he gave me his “Genius takes time” quote), Cory Turner from nprED published a blog called “Preschool Suspensions really happen and that’s not okay with Connecticut” about exactly this topic (read it here). It was dead on, and exactly how I was feeling.
I won’t go into the details of everything involved (to protect those involved), but I will share that, for my husband and me, it was the hardest thing we have ever encountered as parents. We felt like our son had just been discarded and labeled as a “problem child.” But in reality he needed school more than ever.
We had to frantically find a new place for our son, but what really overcame us was the emotional aftermath. How do you explain to a 4 year old that they are no longer welcome at the place they called home since they were 12 weeks old? Or how do you teach them to dust themselves off and get back up when you aren’t even sure of how to do that yourself?
I share this now because I believe God gives us opportunities in trying times. He pushed us onto a path we would have never chosen, but this path is leading to incredible discoveries not only about our son, but about how children’s delays or what may be considered as “faults” may just be small hurdles on the way to genius.
Here is our story….
Being a parent can be summed up in a simple cliché, “expect the unexpected.” You hope for a healthy child, you pray for an obedient one, and most parents do everything in their power to ensure they are smart and educated. You read to them as an infant, study ABC flash cards, introduce them to concepts and social cues, and enroll them in special classes. It doesn’t just seem like a large task, it is! NOT starting a child off on the right foot academically in today’s world mirrors how little Kevin felt in Home Alone; left behind!
John and I, from the beginning, talked to Sawyer in “real” words to encourage his language skills. No baby talk, but real English and correct grammar. Boy, did he respond. His communication skills quickly developed and he was speaking in clear sentences by 18 months. Don’t get me wrong; we can’t take all, or even most of the credit. His language skills were due in large part to his time spent at a childcare center. Having him on a schedule that had a set curriculum was key. We would get texts and reports of his daily triumphs.
We beamed with pride and joy…. we did it, he was smart!
His school took notice of how advanced he was, and advised to move him early to pre-school to help keep him “challenged.” He flourished and, every week, he was shocking us with his knowledge beyond his years.
John and I continued to brag on his accomplishments; but there was more. More that lay deeper beyond the beautiful façade of his intelligence. It was the story behind the scenes that I left out because it seemed to discredit all the things we had bragged about. Simply put, my son has a behavior issue. He is brilliant but brash, smart but stubborn, and, worst of all, he is violent and sometimes down right mean.
My “mom-defense” is in full force typing this about him, because I don’t want people to define him as a “problem child.” He is so much more than these struggles! He is still extremely thoughtful, loving, emotional, and remorseful. Of course, I want to protect him, but this is his journey and while I can’t write his future, I am helping to guide him to help manage his reactions and hopefully cope with his anxieties.
So, why am I sharing this now, or better yet “outing” this about my son?
Over the better part of a year, John and I have had lots of meetings, lots of tears, and lots of tense “what do we do?” conversations. And the reason I write this blog now is because I feel like we are making progress toward an action plan for him and maybe our experience can help other parents.
I need to give a little more background about him to help explain why an action plan was needed. It all started with “incident reports” all the way back to when he was in the infant room at school. Biting, hitting, pulling, rampages where he would completely tear up classrooms were just some of the notes we got over the past three years. At first, we chalked them up to age-appropriate behaviors; they bite when they are teething, hit when they haven’t learned to say “mine,” etc. But then the incidents got weirder and more intense, even to the point where we had to pick him up from school because he was a danger to the other kids and/or teachers. (Note: first and foremost, we are truly sorry if our son caused any pain to any child…period!)
John and I cried as well. Many nights we laid in bed trying to figure out what was “wrong” with him because we didn’t see these things at home. His school continuously met with us about ways to help him (rewards systems, rearrange classroom, more one-on-one time, etc.) and they would work for a while, but then incidents would come back. It was time to look into other solutions.
We talked to his pediatrician when he was 3 and she thought it might pass. But 6 months later when it was worse, she decided to do a behavioral visit. Afterwards, she recommended he start meeting with a child psychologist because he appeared to have anxiety. Guess what? I do too…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. BUT there was still more going on at school beyond anxiety.
The school brought in an inclusion specialist to monitor him and she gave us very useful information and helpful tips to try. Those worked too, but there was still more going on.
Finally, we were put in touch with our local school system’s Early Childhood Special Education services. We met with the director and child psychologist and she started the in-depth process of seeing if Sawyer qualified for their assistance based on his behavioral disruptions at school. After multiple evaluations, screenings, meetings, teacher interviews and paperwork, John and I were thrilled when their results came back that our son’s IQ was very high BUT he had social emotional delays…which meant he qualified for help and an IEP (Individualized Education Program).
So starting this fall, Sawyer will have a special teacher who will come to his school four days a week to help him learn coping skills and strategies in his environment. She will be able to see what triggers him and give him direction specifically for those areas that cause outbursts. She came to meet with him a couple of times before the end of the school year and he just loved her! Her goal is to make sure he is ready for kindergarten. We have an app that she updates to after each visit so that we can review his day.
We also started meeting with a Child Psychologist. His doctor’s office is kid heaven, filled with games, books and toys aimed at working through his emotions and fears. We have been twice so far and she wants to meet with him every other week. Sawyer is a fan because he gets to pick out of the treasure box at the end of class.
My blog had stopped here, waiting for me to finish it, but then our world got flipped upside down. Reading back on this now I was oblivious that my son’s mental health journey was in actuality just beginning.
He never got to start his IEP with his special educator; instead he was approved through our local school system to attend half days to help him develop coping skills and techniques for his social emotional delays. He even gets to ride a school bus! In the mornings, we have hired an amazing nanny to care for him who understands and works with his needs.
My husband and I are seeking out tools to educate ourselves on our son’s mental health journey. It’s as much of our journey as it is his and we want to be prepared to help him. We start a weekly program with his psychologist next week called PCIT “Parent-Child Interactive Therapy.” It coaches us, as parents, while we work with Sawyer to decrease external behavior problems (e.g., defiance, aggression), and increase social skills and cooperation.
We had another Pediatrician behavioral visit to rule out anything else (seizure, brain tumor, neurotransmitter issues, etc.). But she simply stated, “There would be other symptoms.” She said, because his intelligence is so high, his emotional delays cause an internal struggle that he hasn’t learned to cope with yet. Plus he still suffers from anxiety. As he gets older and develops techniques, she believes he will improve. She suggested teaching him chess as a way to exercise his brain. We also enrolled him in martial arts starting this weekend. Time will tell.
I would love to hear from other parents who have or have had similar struggles. Let’s lean on each other as parents, we can’t do this alone! Please message me or comment below.
I will continue to blog on our son’s progress through our long and amazing journey to what I think will one day be his success story!