Monday, November 22, 2010

Is he failing second grade? Or is second grade failing him?

Tonight was Noah's parent-teacher conference.

Not surprisingly Noah is struggling academically and behaviorally. Two years ago we thought his problems were only behavioral, that academically he was strong.

It's hard not to feel discouraged after meetings like this.

My discouragement is shifting though. Instead of all of it focusing on Noah and his struggles, some of it falls on the educational system and how it is failing him.

Very simply, Noah's brain was not given what it needed to grow properly in his first six months of life, possibly even before he was born. 

It's like the foundations of his brain was built on sand, instead of on rock. And the wiring was done by a plumber on crack instead of an electrician. 

If the foundation is not secure, and the wiring is fucked up, how can you expect to successfully build on it?

The educational system we are in is trying to build on a foundation that is failing. So they throw a few sandbags around it and try to add another floor. More cracks form, so they try to patch them, and then build another room.

I admire Noah's teacher. She has more patience in her little finger than I will ever have in my entire lifetime. I know she wants Noah to succeed. I know she works very hard!

Yet, as we sat there and listened to her describe how Noah isn't at grade level in reading, and listened to her explain the different tests they do to determine that, and then listened to her tell us that although we both know he knows his math fact, he struggles to show that in timed tests, well, I started to get frustrated. And when Rich asked her how you can test a child like Noah using the same tests you use for a "normal" child I could tell he was getting frustrated too.

Then she showed us a reading comprehension test that Noah had failed miserably, and said they repeat it in the spring, and hopefully he will show improvement. And I sat back and told her flat out that "No, I don't think he will show improvement." 

If he doesn't have the foundation to build on, how is he going to show improvement? And I don't mean that he wasn't taught the basic facts. I know he was taught all of that. But his brain is so disorganized that at a certain point I think he reached overload and now he struggles to access what he does know. 

I know he is a smart kid, but if we don't figure out how to untangle that mess of wires in his brain, and strengthen the foundation, he is going to continue to struggle. And as he matures and begins to understand more, he's going to think he is a failure. But it isn't Noah that is a failure, it is all of us that are failing him.

I don't think the school system knows what a child like Noah needs. Hell, I know Noah better than anyone and I still don't know what he needs.

I do know that what the school is doing for him is not working. How can they continue to offer him the same programs yet see him falling further behind and think that is OK?

Noah needs an educational program that not only teaches him the academics, but one that helps retrain his brain. And it needs to be a program that can let go of this idea that he is on the autism spectrum and recognize and understand what attachment disorder is and how it ties in to a brain like Noah's. 

Does a program like that exist? How do I find it if it does?

How do I create it if it doesn't exist? 

Where do I start?



  1. My friends little boy (super bright) has learning issues and they've sent him to the Woodlyne school. It has changed his life. The staff caters to the childs learning abilities and needs and helps them progress. From what she says, it costs an arm and a leg, but has been worth it. Good luck - it is so hard to see your children struggle and not know how to help.

  2. I wish I could answer your question .... all I know is if a program and specific teaching strategies exist to help him (and I am sure they do) you will certainly find them! You and Rich are amazingly dedicated parents. I will definitely let you know if I come across anything helpful.

  3. Hi Kris! Just caught your post and am sending much love and strength your way... I really suspect that your school DOESN'T get what Noah needs. I can talk learning profile eval.s w/ the best of 'em, to be sure, but can't help feeling that you need direction in the form of an RAD Center FIRST, that can secondarily also provide a full-scale learning work-up. Where are the model RAD centers? Did any of that stuff I dug up last summer reveal anything... May be time to cast a wider net for RAD research & practice, see what's available for an evaluation and then direction should come from there.
    My sister-in-law has continued her "Advocacy" education for spec ed, so she could talk about navigating the system, but you very likely need to go outside the system first.
    much love- Cousin W

  4. I know exactly how you feel. My son is in 3rd grade, gifted, but not doing as well as he should. It's worse than pulling teeth to get the help he needs. Keep pushing and advocating, you can make changes with enough persistence.