Sunday, February 10, 2008

The day mamma cried yet again.

Was called in by the school on Thursday. By the class teacher to be specific. I had missed the PTM the previous Saturday with the brat being feverish and the entire house and my life being on high alert. Therefore, one went in meekly, one's heart in one's mouth and chest thudding the jungle drum beat, so loud one was certain everyone in the radius of two kilometers was wondering where the party was. And dont even ask me about the twisting of the stomach, and the cold sweat and the clammy hands. Never was this nervous about my own results after any exam. Including them big ones, which have children these days on the edge. But thats another post. It turned out I had reason to be anxious. The brat's assessment this term is beyond the pale. His skills are at the bottom of the heap. His alphabet recognition, upper case, lower case, are scraped through by the skin of my teeth. His writing is pathetic. He does not write. He does not copy. He cannot draw. Period. He refuses to write on his own. He has no control over where he will take his hand. This despite me sitting with him and making him write, through love and maternal intimidation involving the dire, "I will tell Papa" types of threats. Holding his hand. He writes when his hand is held. He moves his hand perfectly. But when the hand is removed he is at a loss. He will colour and scribble and do everything but write. They are doing three alphabet words in class, the current topic for the month is dinosaurs. They are working on addition and subtraction, when the brat is still struggling with figuring out his numbers. And because he cannot figure out what is going on in class, he runs around. Gets into trouble. Disturbs other kids. Is hyperactive. Has meltdowns. Wants to play in class. Is made to sit separate or sent to the special educator in school. Who sits with him for a while and works with him. And then he is sent back to class. Where he is back to his regular shennanigans. My heart broke into a million pieces. I have been struggling to keep him up with his class, and now that I know how far far far behind it really is, I feel guilty for having forced him into a situation where he doesnt fit in. And yet, I know he is highly intelligent. Just not in the regular way. A special school? No way. He will be even more of a misfit there. The school wants me to hire a special educator exclusively for him, someone who will sit with him for the entire duration of his class, for the entire week. I will have to sell myself to pay for that. But thats not the issue. My pain is that he will be marginalised all the more as the buddhu who needs a special teacher. He will be the object of ridicule amongst all his friends. I am so sick and tired of this issue rearing its head up every other month. Just as I think he's doing fine and and can cope, wham, this comes along and hits me on the head. And it is my headache. According to the father, his son is absolutely fine. What are my options? Should I hire a special educator? Should I keep a home tutor? I find that ridiculous for a kid in Junior KG. Should I shift him to an alternative school. I have been recommended Tridha at Vile Parle East by well meaning friends. I found the distance appalling for a four year old child to travel, from Malad to Vile Parle.But that seems to be the only option I have now, if he still cannot cope with the class. I so want him to be a regular child, to do the norm, if only to fit in. I dont care if he never tops any exams, God, just let him scrape through in order to survive in this world. Am tired of pushing my baby so hard, when he should be having fun and laughing and wanting to draw and colour rather than have him throw tantrums everytime I bring out the paper and the book. He is such a beautiful boy. Why should he be labelled different?

Edited to add: Thanks guys. Am overwhelmed by the flood of mails and so much concern, that it makes me feel foolish about whining on and on about this on the blog. Anyway, since it would be impossible for me to reply to each mail individually, here goes the gist of my situation. For those who came in late, Krish already goes for 16 sessions of speech and occupational therapy a week. He started in July 06. He was then not speaking. Not responding to his name. If he ever spoke it was only to repeat what was being said to him. Classic symptoms. Spinning wheels. Banging doors. Constantly seeking stimulation. Terrible temper tantrums and meltdowns. Especially in public situations. Inability to communicate. Obviously he has been evaluated. By three of the best experts in the country. I have differing diagnosis from each. PDD/NOS. SID Vestibular. Semantic Pragmatic. ADD/ADHD was deferred since he was too young to be diagnosed as such. IQ tests done recently show him to have an above average IQ. Today, he is a different child. He has verbal hyperactivity, laughs his speech therapist. He just doesnt stop talking. Picks up random conversations with strangers. He plays with toys, make believe war zone conflicts. And his friends adore him. He is to the untrained eye, just another really naughty kid. As are so many others in his class. Ro, Sur, Parul and Y who have met him would agree I am sure. His fine motor skills are the only issue right now as is his hyperactivity and distractibility. I am working on that. He goes to drawing classes to improve his grip and his confidence. He does yoga to improve his concentration, and body control and flexibility. I would love to put him in music classes, but the poor child hardly gets any time left over to play from all the therapy and drawing classes. Add to this grief is the fact that he is at the bottom end, age wise in his class. The batch begins from Jan 2003, and he is October end born. I had requested the school last year itself to detain him for a year to allow him to be with kids nearer his age. In their wisdom they didnt. I am now going to request them again, to detain him for a year, to see whether he catches up. And keep a private special educator-tutor at home to help him with his classwork. If he still finds it tough to cope, he will go to an alternative school. Tridha, most likely, if they will have him. He will be older too, and more capable of coping with long distance travel. I travelled from Goregaon to Bandra to school everyday and know how I hated it, so have been resistant to inflict the same on my child. Plus there is the issue of his seizures. If, God forbid, anything were to happen, the school would be too far for me to get there in a snap. Given Mumbai traffic.
There are other children who are unable to cope in the school I know for a fact, but it seems I am the only honest parent who has given in a complete file of the brat;s case history and put the school in touch with his therapists, both speech and OT, because I believed they could work in tandem to help him. The rest of the parents in a similar situation are just, sweeping things under the carpet, with a "Oh, he's slow, he will catch up." attitude. The only issue right now is writing. And reading. And the maths. I feel the portion the kids are doing today is equivalent to what we did as children in Std I. Am going to give this route a try. If it still doesnt work out, then I look at alternatives.

28 comments:

  1. Either I'm not really updated but I think addition and subtraction and 3 letter words are a little too much for a child his age. My son is just about 4-5 months younger than your son and he is still learning to write the alphabets. So one can easily forget about making 3 letter words.

    I really hate this rush of education at such tender ages here in India.

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  2. Anonymous8:56 PM

    Would it be an option to have him repeat a year? My nieces repeated a year of kindergarten because they couldn't cope (twins, born very premature, had some problems, etc.) and they're doing much better in the lower class, since their skills are on par with their classmates. I know what their parents went through before and my heart goes out to you.

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  3. Anonymous9:52 PM

    Kiran,

    I thought of you yesterday when I was mulling what my 3 year old son's playschool teacher said about his inability to sit and concentrate.

    I agree that in India , children do seem to be expected to do things slightly early. But I think Krish may feel pressurized in such an environment. What do other kids with his issues do ? Do they go to special school? One of my aunts teaches carnatic music to kids with ADHD/ADD problems and she says it helps immensely when they focus on something they love to do . Just wondering if Krish has something like that he can focus on. And my MIL says some children like being taught slokas and praying can be helpful to concentrate.

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  4. How far is Tridha? ( I don't know Mumbai distances). My youngest used to travel eighteen kilometres each way to school at age five, and loved the school. (I used to get nervous on route if I ever went there).
    Its a tough call. Do check out Tridha and then see what other options you have. The special educator may work for a while- perhaps working with her/him for a month or so gets Krish into the routine.
    You know, when we came back to India fron Thailand my older son was just four years old. In sheer ignorance we got him admitted to Upper KG, as he had done LKG in our little colony school there, and he could hardly cope. We all went crazy that year. The following year he was admitted in upper KG in another school, and was perfectly happy and did well. Maybe repeating the year may help.
    But I can imagine what you're going through. BIG HUGS, sad Momma(:

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  5. Commenting on this blog for the first time..my uncle is handicapped, he is hard of hearing..i know the issues with Krish are different, but on some level are similar...he went to a special school till Grade 5 and then integrated after that into a regular school and went on to regular college...he turned out ok.. pretty good in fact. As for your worries about him being labelled "different", the unfortunate fact is that he is..and by putting him in a mainstream place isnt he being put in a spot for being so much behind the class. And in these special school, loads of the kids who come there are highly intelligent..so don't think he will be a misfit there...hope you are able to find some kind of a solution to this..hugs to you and your daling baby..

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  6. Hi..The alternative school is a very good option . The ones I know well - The Valley School in Bangalore and Rishi valley - have often been criticised for discouraging the competitive spirit in kids to the extent that they cannot cope later on. But that is such a blinkered and narrow minded approach. Check out Tridha and I'm sure you'll find a treasure trove of activities other than just reading and writing and spelling that will nurture his creativity and calm him down. I am sure they too will have special needs educators who may work with him on a weekly basis if not everyday. I know how upset you are at the moment but really you need to re-think the way you look at this issue. What's really important ? That krish grows up to be a confident, happy child who may learn reading/writing skills a little later than the bunch of kids he is currently being forced to sit with day after day? Because he WILL learn them, you know that, right? So what if he is not cut out to be the kid who fulfils some notional perception of 'normal' just so that you feel reassured and the world at large doesn't consider him 'different'? If the pressures to conform to the timetable being enforced by the school are removed, he will learn, at his own pace. And you are anyway by his side to monitor things so that he doesn't get too 'relaxed' an attitude to work even if you move him to the alternative school, which at best will foster his unique qualities and talents and at worst rescue him from the daily nightmare of not measuring up to his conventional school's standards.Sorry for the long comment but your concerns so remind me of other kids/moms from times past and I just couldn't stop myself.. Cheer up!

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  7. they are teaching hime to write 3 letter words and do math???? Atleast in the US that is taught at age 5... boys fine motor skills are not as good as girls... most boys cannot write at 4... How about evaluating him by child education specialist..who is objective... And if he is indeed falling behind in class what's the hram in holding him back a year and have him repeat Junior KG?

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  8. they're teaching 3 letter words to 4 year olds?? WOW! Have you asked the school if any other kids have any issues with writing and math?

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  9. Kiran,

    So sorry to hear of Krish's troubles in school. The Indian schooling system does seem much faster than the US system here - addition/subtraction are Kindergarten (age 5) or first grade activities.

    Anyway, wanted to suggest a good montessori - *if* you can find one for that age group. Again, here in the US, montessoris that go until Kindergarten (i.e. ages 3-5) are fairly common, but I understand that in India they are typically 1-year programs, and end at jr.KG age.

    You mentioned difficulties with learning his letters and numbers - he seems to do fine with visual medium such as film - can you try out educational DVDs?

    Lastly, are you satisfided with the work the special educator is doing with Krish? Would he benefit from working with someone else?

    Good luck - it is very hard to advocate endlessly for your child, and you're doing a fantastic job of it.

    M

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  10. Dear Kiran,

    To begin with, how about a really good tutor( who has worked with problems such as these) to work with him at home so its done in privacy and does not compromise brat's self esteem in anyway. If thats too much after a whole day at school how about reduced school hours and the home tutoring?

    Right now it all seems so awful but someday the brat will shock you with his brilliance at something he has utter passion for. Yes, he will.

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  11. someonecalledastar7:02 PM

    one of the first rules of parenting is to accept that yr child has a problem, dont go by landmarks as kids of this age do so and so..yr kid too can do something better than kids of his age, just keep yr eyes and ears open for it.
    there r certain things u may consider doing- i feel a special educator for a week is a waste of time, any child with a problem wud need more than that(ie. IF he has a problem].why dont u do a special educators course? no special educator can teach what a mother can! Tridha is a good option, go ahead and see it, dont close yr eyes to options and dont think soo negatively..sometimes notions overrule judgement.
    i hv a cousin who pulled her kid out of avm school(this school does not allow children to write till sr kg,and grant sp tuition to kids who they feel require it)and put him in tridha and she seems very happy.Do what u believe as a mother is right.

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  12. it was good to see the edited part today.. you are back to sounding positive!

    my own daughter is in LKG and for all appearances her school is going slow. they are still doing small alphabets (writing). but it was a bit alarming because they just sort of cold-start on writing letters without preamble and the kid was really upset because she just did not have the finger control at that point. The small letters are an especial struggle because of the curves.. I think drawing (even nonsensical things) with our neighbour (an older girl) was really helpful in a stress-free way... I am sort of against drawing class, please be watchful, it is likely that they stress him out there (unless of course, the teacher is very good).

    with wishes,

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  13. Hi Kiran
    Just read this post...Just want to give you a hug. I can imagine how you feel...He is really so charming and lovable - and to have to explain to teachers and to also tire him out with so many classes - it must be so hard as a mother to keep it all balanced. He WILL learn and he will be fine - you keep your faith in him like you do now - it is bound to happen. I think Indian schools anyway teach way too much at age 3 and 4...Just to make yourself feel better - why don't you talk to some child educator here (am sure you can get in touch with someone like that on email) and see if really this situation is as bad as the teacher's there make it out to be...kids here go slow in the early years but that doesn't mean they don't learn...there are plenty of creative and bright kids here too - who did not know to write at all at age four! Take care Kiran. You are an INCREDIBLE mother!

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  14. That was heart-breaking. I can imagine how you feel between the worry and the empathy for your son and the guilt mommies carry around. But I must say the Kiddiegarten sounds way too advanced. My son is in KG in Gurgaon, and they have just started making them try to read 3 letter words - and he's almost 5. The rest of the year they basically did phonetic alphabets and number recognition and haven't even started on addition and multiplication yet. Don't mean to give aimless advice when I don't know the details, but do you think he will enjoy Montessori more?

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  15. kiran,
    I agree with M. maybe find a differnt therapist/specialist. Kids blossom at different ages. My brother had many of the similar symptoms as a kid. Nobody thought of getting a diagnosis. And had my parents gone to see a specialist, they no doubt would have come up with something similar to Krish. He, like Krish had(has) above average intelligence. He graduated in the top 5 in CA and top of his class in MBA and is making a princely sum and well settled. He was sually in the middle.bottom of his class in school. My brother also had mild dyslexia and had trouble writing.

    That being said, the way my mom read his tantrums/meltdowns etc. was that his mind worked faster and his physical body had a hard time keeping up with it. He got overwhelmed with his own abundant energy. He improved once he started karate lessons and by the time he hit his teens, the change in him was unbelievable. He found a way to chalize that abundant energy. It just dawned on him. He now would read or study for hours, I mean 6-7 hours at a stretch w/o fatigue.

    Why not try putting him for karate lessons.. once his energy levels have an outlet, he will quieten down. I am sorry this is such a long comment.. but I really really know what you are going through. And, if to the untrained eye he seems normal. he IS normal.

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  16. Kbpm: No, the drawing teacher is very good, she just sets the kids free. And he enjoys it... I just give him paper and pencil and crayon and felt pen and tell him to draw his heart out. He comes to me with his monsters, cars, trucks, bikes, and I oooh and aaah over them. His grip is deadly perfect now.

    Noon: The thing is that I know how far he has come. And his therapists who work with him independent of school do so too. And they're really good, they're attached to Hinduja, Lilavati and Wockhardt, and do individual sessions with the brat, not the group ones. But it seems to me that the class teacher doesnt want to put in that extra ounce of effort to work with him. I didnt have any issues last year with his nursery class teacher, and he was 90 per cent worse last year. And he was not even talking then.

    Birdseyeview: In fact, I did enrol him for Montessori at the only decent school in the vicinity and even paid the fees. When I went to collect some receipts and submit his birthcertificate, I saw a child from Mont I being made to stand outside the class as punishment. I withdrew. There are no other decent Montessoris nearby. The good one is in Juhu, which is really far for brat.

    Dotmom: I did try to enrol him for karate but was told he had to be over five. So he will go for Bollywood dance, since he enjoys that, basically to tire him out. I would love to enrol him for swimming too, but that too is over five here.

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  17. Gee, the Montessori punishment sounds really harsh...and the bby school standards too tough. I remember my BFF telling me that when her daughter went for 'interaction' to one of the reputed schools, they told the kids a story and then handed out some 25 pictorial cards asking them to put the cards in order in line with the story they had just heard - and this was for kids under 4. Unreal. Good luck and I'm sure things will work out. Yr son seems like he's extra bright, maybe he just can't be fussed doing whatever they're doing in class right now!

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  18. Oops, also meant to add my son is highly distracteable too - in his class the teachers actually make him sit next to them to do his colouring as that's the only way he'll finish it - if he sits with the other kids, he's too busy chatting and giving them his advice/ opinions to do his own work. I'm trying to work on his concentration skills at home - funny how undistracteable they are when the TV is on!(PS didn;t mean to take up yr whole comment space for my 2 bits)

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  19. BEV: Which is why I am terrified, he will a)not get through any interaction in any decent school and b) not care enough to try to reply correctly even if he does know what they are trying to ask him. He got in here through fluke. He's doing that right now, being teacher's little helper. Sitting next to the teacher. Thats the only way they can keep a lid on him.

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  20. I just discovered this blog!!!!

    K, I am so glad to meet a mom like you...who's doing the best to make things easier for the child as opposed to pretend he/she doesn't need help.

    A distant relative of mine has a kid with some learning disability definitely, but they refuse to even take her for a diagnosis.

    She's failed the 2nd standard thrice already, and I feel really bad for her.

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  21. Hi Kiran

    Am sorry you're going through a tough time with this and hope things work out soon,

    After meeting Krish, I can't recall a brighter, naughtier, and above all, more charming boy - I just know he is going to be fine.

    You are a really amazing mom, too.

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  22. Chandni: Oh I am a paranoid mother. The brat has just to fall behind in the height weight percentiles and I start agonising. I think paranoia is what drives me...LOL.

    Y: *Hugs* Thanks dear. That was so sweet.

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  23. Anonymous3:46 AM

    Hi Kiran,

    I live in Yashodham, Goregaon and i have a four year old going to Playmate Preschool here. Its run by the Goenka Education Trust. I thought he was too young to start the first standard right away, esp. because of his fine motor skills, so he will be repeating senior KG.

    This is a wonderful school. They have a very relaxed and child-centric attitude. Senior KG starts with writing the lower case and ends with writing three letter words, maths is very basic addtion and getting a hang of number value and order.

    What i really love is that they are very, very child friendly. Lots and lots of activiites for the kids, a strict-no hitting policy for the teachers, no rankings even in their sports days and themes for every month, right from nutrition to music.

    Maybe you'd want to talk to them...

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  24. manisha3:47 AM

    Hey, this is the annonymous above - not annonymous, this is Manisha...

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  25. Hey Kiran, reading this post only now. I am amazed at the energy you have - taking Krish to all those activities. Well hang on and have faith, because instinct tells me its just a matter of time before he blossoms into a really smart and intelligent young man. Not that he is any less now, but you know what I mean.
    I too wish the kids had more opportunity to enjoy their childhood before being caught in the rut.
    Loads of luck coming ur way.

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  26. Manisha: Sorry, meant to reply to your comment some time ago and clean forgot. Playmate Preschool sounds interesting, my only fear being once I take this chap out of a proper school, I have tough chance of getting him back in again. You know the scene with admissions here. And here, though the portion is rather tough, all this that you mentioned, "child friendly. Lots and lots of activiites for the kids, a strict-no hitting policy for the teachers, no rankings even in their sports days and themes for every month, right from nutrition to music" applies here as well. Lets see how things go. If they dont go too well, will pay this school a visit. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Neera: Thanks. No, am quite a slacker actually. Its only the fact that I do absolutely nothing around the house or work that lets me spend as much time with the brat. Touchwood. I hope he blossoms soon. Am just so tired fighting so many battles for him.

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  27. manisha4:27 AM

    Manisha here again - playmate preschool is attached to two icse and one ssc school, also in the yashodham/gokuldham area - and children and absorbed directly - there is absolutely no admission tension, so don't worry on that count...

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  28. Hey, mom!

    Yea, both my boys were in Playmate Pre School Goregaon esat and I am so happy with the way they have NO pressure on the kids and al of them have fun! They get snacks in school, healthy food made in the school kitchens. The ancillary staff is very caring and alert. Also, the children come out of Sr Kg with a VERY good foundation of writing, reading (Got to borrow books on friday and return monday!) and spoken english. Tho there is no pressure if teh child is at frst only comfy in hindi... Ladies can anyone help me on AVM juhu? Want to send my elder one there.. Any experiences, any feedback... jyothikapurdas@gmail.com Thanks.

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