ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
I have had like 25 parents ask me at this point what to do when they have had their kids’ schools refer them for evaluations. It feels scary to them, and the dread begins. ‘Twas not the case for me, dear friends.
I could go into how I think the world is so backwards when they attempt to treat everyone the same and how that is silly. I could get all wrapped up in how I can’t stand the idea that parents would rather live in denial than HELP their children. I could wax on about how frustrating it is to see “pity-ful” looks on people’s faces when they talk about having to evaluate your kid. Instead, I will try to just play out what happened to us, surely my feelings will seep through the subtext.
So Violet was at a swanky Brooklyn private school, which we were very excited about. Did all the playdates and interviews and parent schmoozing. We really loved the vibe. They preached how progressive they were, how they really wanted to adapt the individual education to the student and had tons of resources to do so. Great!
Vi went in K. She did well academically, was a total leader in the classroom, was a part of the deadly trio of popular little ladies. Slowly, we started to notice she was having a hard time sharing her friends. That led to a misinterpretation here and there “They hate me!” “She hates me!” When really, someone just wanted to play with her sometimes and someone else another – all normal kid BS.
We then started to see she was having a little “impulse control” problem. She would be irrationally bothered about someone choosing to play in the kitchen center instead of where she was and rather than saying, “Can I play with you over there?” - she would swing her arms around in upset and mayyyybe bump someone. She didn’t know she was freaking the kids out. She didn’t understand that people wouldn’t want to play with her if she overreacted to situations that just weren’t commensurate. So, you can understand how the cycle began to snowball.
She started to lose friends. Unbeknownst to me, she was mean to a little boy whose cool mother asked me for a play date. When she told me WHY she wanted to play, I was literally shocked. “I think maybe we should get the kids together so they can be friends because my son comes home a lot complaining that Violet is mean to him and hurts his feelings.” Now THAT was embarrassing. I was never a mean kid, ever. I just couldn’t even contemplate that MY CHILD was hurting another kid’s feelings. So, we had a playdate and one-on-one? Violet was great. So again, no major flags, slightly pink ones – no blaring red, yet.
First grade came and she began to lose the confidence that had always set her apart. Now I realize this was the initial occurrence of one of Violet’s “Little Traumas” - her development of her learning issues and how they were handled at this swank-school. She was slow to learn to read. She wouldn’t remember words she had JUST read the page before. She had no sense of context – days of the week, dates, what she ate for lunch the day before. She wasn’t good at playing alone and “pretend play.” She would rough house with the boys all day long, make games up with kids and lead, but she could not use her imagination. Now THESE? These are red flags.
The school could not handle it. In fact, I curse them for how they attempted it. They would be frustrated, she would get frustrated, they would shame her. She acted out in class and became more and more needy and high maintenance. She was just totally overwhelmed with not understanding. Her mind was raging with too much noise, total chaos, and then her teachers were yelling at her for not being mature enough to say – “MY BRAIN IS TOO LOUD AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!!!” Her 2nd grade teacher actually punished her in her OWN class by pulling her out, and making her sit in the corner of ANOTHER room of her peers. OUTRAGEOUS. Made me nuts.
However, back to the evaluation point. It was clear to all that she needed some help. She was miserable. My once confident, independent, strong girl was floundering and it was just multiplying before my eyes. She cried before school and after school every single day. Kids never wanted to play with her. Parents were rude to us.
The school called us in for yet another meeting – like the 4th or something – and it was basically a convention of the pansies. No one would just say to me – “GET YOUR KID TESTED!” I mean, these are the professionals. I was eagerly looking to them to “adapt their style to fit my child”; to advise me on which tutor, therapist, center to take her to. I did not care WHAT the answer was, I just wanted one. Please tell me what I can do, PLEASE!
We sat in a tiny room - the principal, the head of curriculum, school psychologist, the teachers, me and my husband. After enduring what felt like hours of them crawling through their folders – my husband said, “Can we just get rid of the elephant in the room? Clearly, you don’t want her here anymore. Tell us what we are supposed to do to help her.”
I mean, THANK YOU, dear husband. Thank you for abbreviating what would have been even more tedium. Finally, we learned about the Neuropsychological Evaluation and all I could feel was relief. There WAS something I could do to try and figure her out. There WERE answers to be had. What I couldn’t take was not knowing. I don’t need the sweet smelling sighs of people trying to make you feel good. I knew she was struggling. HELP ME HELP HER. Stop beating around the freaking bush and just tell me! That was probably one of the most annoying parts to me. It was like people had this pussy-footing vibe to delivering this news. And then that angered me – like - what am I supposed to feel embarrassed or something? EVERYONE has something that is unique to them, everyone has issues to deal with. I felt JOYOUS to be able to start identifying how to help my kid, not the opposite.
With the next steps underway, I am just left with WHY??? Why is there some notion that this should be uncomfortable? Everyone is different. It isn’t bad. Anyone who tells you they don’t have something about them that doesn’t feel “normal” is a big, fat phony. This is life. Stop delaying me dealing with it. Let the Elephants out of the Damn Room.
See "Resources" tab for more Neuropsych info and referrals!!!