Wednesday, October 24, 2012

School Struggles - Book Review


If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you will know that my oldest daughter has struggled significantly at school for the past couple of years. One of the biggest difficulties we’ve faced is figuring out how to help her.  That is once we got past the whole, “you just need to focus and try harder” mistake that most parents and even some teachers make.   

So when I was asked to read and review “School Struggles – A Guide to Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success” by Richard Selznick, PhD, I very quickly said yes.  After all this is a subject very close to my heart and any help is welcome. Dr. Selznick is a psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, graduate school professor and assistant professor of pediatrics.  As the director of the Cooper Learning Center, he oversees a program that assesses and treats a broad range of learning and school-based behavioral and learning problems in children. 

 I was struck right away by how easy the book was to read and it is evident from almost page one how much Dr. Selznick desires to help children that are struggling.  His insight is bang on.  When he describes the “smooth road and rough road kids”, I could see how my daughter fit into the profile of a rough road kid.  Every paragraph lit up bells in my head of how it fit our situation.  I probably have a dozen or so pages dog eared to either share with my husband or to go back to. 

It’s been a hard road for us all as a family this past year and I felt somewhat exonerated when I read that “Parenting isn’t the root of all childhood problems”.  Thank you, very much! Obviously parenting has a major affect on your children but given that if only one out of three of your children is challenging, not all blame can be laid at the parent’s door.  

Of course, that exonerated feeling quickly evaporated as I had to admit to the “Yelling is overdone and overrated as a parenting tool.” Guilty there.  Although we are trying to correct this in ourselves, especially as we have come to the realization it has nothing to do with not trying hard enough. 

So what do you do if your child is a rough road learner? Well, after each chapter Dr. Selznick gives a short summary called “Takeaway Point” wherein he sets out the main point and makes some suggestions.  There are also many “Try This” paragraphs that follow the Takeaway Point with extra tips for helping your child practice reading, getting organized etc.

There is just too much in this book to cover in one blog post. Just a few of the things that I am taking away from this book are some practical tips on helping my child keep on track organizationally, being supportive and helping navigate those tricky social waters and some important parenting tools on how to temper my own reactions and to be more clear. I will also be using some of the learning to read tips for my younger two children as they each approach stage one and two on the reading road. 

So if you have a child that is struggling in school, I would highly recommend reading this book.  You will find many helpful tools therein.  It’s not rocket science but sometimes all we need is someone to point us in the right direction and give our thoughts a new direction. 

Zeemaid

Available online and wherever books are sold. For more information visit www.drselz.com

*disclosure – I received a copy of this book in order to conduct the review.  I was in no other way compensated for this post and as always the opinions expressed herein are my own.*

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bullies Everywhere You Look


My husband and I went to a meeting about bullying the other night.  It was a meeting involving all the parents of the grade 4/5 split class.  My oldest daughter’s class.  She’s nine and this is the child who most likely has Aspergers but is not yet formally diagnosed.

What I got out of this meeting:

1.                  The school truly does care and is implementing strategies to keep the children safe and learning material to teach about empathy and kindness.  As one mom says “Doing nothing is the absence of kindness”  So even though another child may not be doing the teasing or bullying, if they do nothing it is the absence of kindness.

2.                  That parents who have “normal” children really have no idea what the reality is of a special needs child and tend to less understanding. 

3.                  That parents who have “normal” children can be totally blind as to the faults of their children.

If I never had my E, I probably would have been guilty of the same lack of sympathy and understanding.  Given that E has been pretty challenging from the get go, something that should have twigged us earlier, gave me to understand that it’s not all about parenting or lack of discipline.  Some of it definitely comes down to a child’s personality.   So when I met other parents of extremely active kids, I got it and I tried not to judge them or their children. 

However, it wasn’t until we came to realize that our own child was actually a special needs child that true empathy came.  When a boy in my son’s preschool class was wild and crazy, it took only one vague conversation with his mother to make me realize that her son has some sort of special needs.  You see, I had learned some of the lingo along the way and although the mother never came out and said this is what’s going on with her son, I could pick up a few clues and put two and two together.

So when another parent approached me and complained about the child and criticized the mother for not getting him under control, I was taken aback and quietly pointed out that he had special needs.  That rolled off the parent like they never even heard it.  Because they have no understanding what it’s like to parent a special needs child. 

My heart broke for that mom as she was alienated by the other parents because of her "bad" son and tried to make a point of going and talking to her on field trips. 

Just like my heart broke for that poor mom who had to sit in the meeting and listen to everyone’s concerns about her son.  I don’t know what her son has but he’s prone to violent outbursts.  Most of the time he’s a sweet, good natured little boy but when you get a couple of “cool” kids who decide to poke and tease him to get a reaction out of him, well, things go downhill pretty fast. 

She’s aware of what he is like and I can see how burned out she is carrying this burden.  No one wants to be the parent of the misbehaving child.  Yet, it was so obvious that the two parents whose boy’s were doing the bugging, were less concerned about their child’s actions and more concerned that this boy might harm their children.
There wasn’t even an acknowledgement of, okay my kid was being a jerk.  It was this boy gets too upset too easy and what is the school doing to protect my son from him. 

And that my friends is why bullying is prevalent in our society.  No matter how many programs the government comes up with, no matter how often the school says they have a no bully tolerance policy in place it all falls apart when one person denies it’s happening.

Case in my point, my nephew was bullied for years by a particular kid in their neighbourhood.  This kid had once been his friend and invited to birthdays etc.  Eventually, the kid decided that it was more fun to pick on my nephew than play with him.  He managed to turn an entire playground against him.  When the school met with the parents to discuss the issue, the bully’s mother said and I quote “If ___ wasn’t so sensitive my son wouldn’t pick on him”.  And even went on to suggest that my nephew had an unhealthy fascination for her son and was being a shit disturber.  To the point that this woman went out of her way to approach the coaches on sports teams to make sure they were away of the issue.  Her son could do no wrong in her eyes.  We lived in a small town.  Eventually my brother and his family moved out of that neighbourhood despite a severe economic downturn just to get away from that family.  

So it was disheartening to sit across from these two mothers and listen to them.  Especially, when I know that one of their sons taunts my daughter and calls her names on a daily basis.   Apparently, two of them even joined together and drew a picture of her getting killed. I know, right. 

To top all of that off, my daughter has no friends in this class this year.  The ongoing name calling certainly doesn't help.  While she does get involved in her own play and ends up on her own quite a bit, she does crave friendships and wants to play with the other girls.  So when the principal says to me that E draws herself away and plays with the younger ones because she likes to mother them, part of me has to agree because I know my child and her quirks and yet the other part of me says.. but she asked to play with the other kids and they said no… so what is she supposed to do?  Of course she will go and play with those that will play with her even if they are younger. 

What do you say to your girl when she tells you she wishes she had the personality of the girl she thinks is popular in her class?  She doesn't want to change her looks, just wishes she has the popular girl's personality.  

Some days this is all just too much for me to handle. 

Zeemaid

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Two Mushrooms


2012-10-14 12.39.57

It’s just two mushrooms but I thought it was a cool photo nonetheless.  We don’t see mushrooms like this very often. Isn’t it nice that technology ensures a camera is never far away even if it is just on a phone. 
Have you taken any odd photos lately on your phone?

Zeemaid

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kicking Lunches up a Notch

I have to admit for the first few years of school, I had it easy.  My oldest would eat anything and everything.  She was happiest with a cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, a treat and some sort of granola bar for recess.  Easy kid to feed. Okay so it was boring but in my defense, I had two small toddlers wiping snot on my pant legs every time I stepped into the kitchen so easy and boring was my fastest option. 

Enter child number 2, who is slightly more difficult to feed.  At first she’d tolerate most things in her lunch but with loose teeth combined with same food everyday itis, she started to knock items she was willing to eat off the list one by one.

But lets get to child #3.  While a healthy eater, he will consume any amount of noodles, potatoes, and sausage, he hates all things sandwiches. This kid’s favourite meal type of food is supper. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Over My Head

I know that change can be hard.  Even if it’s a change that you really had been looking forward to. Like my youngest starting kindergarten.  I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time for that.  And it’s good.  It really is.  He’s making friends and learning all sorts of new things.  He’s getting a little wild in the process playing with all the big boys but I’m hoping it will straighten all out in the end. 

What came along with this change is the fact that I am now working semi-fulltime with my husband.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy working with my husband and if we have a little snipe at each other once in a while it doesn’t take long for us to clear the air and get over it.  After all, we’re both trying to make this work.  The upside to working with hubs is:
    • I get to work with my best friend.
    • He takes the kids to school and heads to work.  I eat my breakfast and then do a short work out on the treadmill and he gives me the liberty to be a little late getting in to work.
    • I get to leave every day at 2:30 so I can pick my children up from school where I get to talk to other moms and have a chance to socialize for a bit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Nothing like A Phone Call From School

As a working mom, that has to be the one dreaded call. You know, the one that informs you that your son or daughter is sick and you must immediately come and pick them up.  Enter heavy sigh here

I feel for my kids when they are sick but let’s face it, it never happens at a convenient time.  Like today, I had postponed my morning projects to work on the Halloween display at our video store.  Just as I was about to get started on the office projects, the phone rings and it’s the school informing me that my eldest (E) had a sore throat and wants to come home and oh yeah, your second daughter had a fall and has a scrape that’s been iced but she’s back to class now… just so you know. Oh okay, good.

Imagine my surprise when I get to the school and pick up my oldest,  I’m greeted by the news that J is hysterical in the sick room crying for me.  Instant pang to my heart.  Of course when mommy gets in the room the waterworks become even louder.  Imagine my reaction when i peel back the ice pack and find this just above her hip bone…
2012-10-01 15.20.55
Um, so she fell on what? A pipe?  Add to that she can only hobble along because her hip is aching and then they send her back to class.  Even bending over is difficult.  No wonder she’s in tears and near hysterical.  The poor child is in pain.  By the time I get her in the van, she’s resumed crying hysterically, gasping for breath and now I’m crying too.  So it’s off to the doctor’s office we go just to make sure there isn’t something seriously wrong.

Aside from some Advil, a rest on the couch and some cartoons to watch there isn’t much I can do but you can bet I will be investigating where she fell tomorrow.  As it is, I am now sitting her typing this one handed while I hold her hand.

So while I feel sorry for my kids, I can't help but flash through all the things I didn't get finished today and lament that every time it looks like I'm going to get some time to get organized something like this happens.  If it's not emergencies, then it's dentists appointments, tutoring, or fundraising meetings or hubs has to step out for something that ends up taking two hours.  Sigh.

Still, I'd rather be here holding her hand, making sure she has her snack, drink and blankie than be anywhere else.

Zeemaid