Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Solution

I want to start by reporting that Spawn's second marking period report card was every bit as impressive as the first! All A's again with a marked improvement in Language Arts! He improved from a 95% to an astounding 100%!!! Language Arts has been his most difficult subject all year and requires 4 times as much instruction time as all of his other lessons combined. The Language Arts lessons are extensive to begin with, but Spawn's inattention and inability to sit for (age-appropriate) reasonable periods of time forced us to take long and frequent breaks to get through each day's lesson without falling behind. It has been exhausting.

I'm happy to report that I was both right and wrong in my most recent post - musing over whether or not Spawn might have a learning or behavioral disorder. I was close. He has a disorder known as ADHD. It saddens me deeply that it's gone untreated and undiagnosed for so long due to my own ignorance. I thought he was just a difficult and stubborn little boy with way more energy than his peers and no suitable outlet for it. I thought there was something in me that was lacking as a parent - that I wasn't strict enough or that I was being too strict with unreasonably high expectations. Not so.

I'm happy to discover that I was wrong. It's a relief to know that his condition is treatable. I'm sad because I now know he has a much more difficult road ahead of him to adulthood than his peers. Children with ADHD never "outgrow" this condition. As they reach adolescence, most children develop coping skills that makes it appear that they outgrow their condition. My goal is to help him learn to cope with his condition and to hopefully overcome the difficulties of his ADHD.

At first, I was very resistant to the idea of treating his condition with medication. He has what is known as Combined ADHD. He has difficulty with both attention AND hyperactivity/impulsivity. Friends and family came down on me for capitulating to his pediatrician's wish to treat him both medically and with behavior modification. We've been coping with Spawn's difficulty through behavior modification all along through trial and error. We did our best to cope with his problems without knowing what we were up against. While it helps, it simply isn't and hasn't been enough. Spawn has medical needs that can't be met through behavior modification alone.

When it comes right down to it, if he were diabetic, I wouldn't withhold the necessary insulin in favor of changing his diet and hoping for the best. ADHD is a real medical problem that requires real medical treatment in addition to patience, understanding, and a lifestyle change. My husband was horrified at the idea of treating Spawn medically and especially at the thought of him being "labeled" at such an early age with ADHD - a condition that he believed is over-diagnosed. Presented with evidence of Spawn's classic and easily recognizable ADHD symptoms and backed-up by Spawn's pediatrician, I was able to convince him that protecting Spawn from the stigma of an ADHD diagnosis was not our primary job as his parents. A friend reminded me that our job is to raise him to be the best person and citizen he can be despite these obstacles. Sometimes, you just gotta pull up your big girl panties and get over your own prejudices and long-held beliefs.

Cyberschooling may be the reason that Spawn is doing so well with his studies. He gets one-on-one attention from his home facilitator (me) that he wouldn't get in a traditional classroom environment. Had we enrolled him in school at our local district's brick-and-mortar elementary school, he would either be in constant trouble and sitting in the principal's office (not so great for a developing child's self-esteem) or he would have been recommended for special ed due to his teacher's inability to cope with his needs in a classroom environment. We dodged a bullet. We are forever indebted to Spawn's cyberschool for meeting needs we weren't even aware existed at the start of this school year.

PALCS has supported us and Spawn in every respect. Whenever a need or concern presented itself, they have been there to help us do what is in Spawn's best interests. Equally invaluable to us have been the instructors and staff at our local YMCA (located in Stroudsburg, PA). They have been remarkably patient and hands-on with Spawn - trying desperately to keep his attention and keep him involved in his classes. (We did have a problem with one instructor/class. That instructor was a college student who was not following the YMCA's practices in coaching young, beginner swimmers. The issue was handled quickly and to our satisfaction and that of the other parents whose children took that class.)

As soon as Spawn's instructors were made aware of his diagnosis and condition, they began adapting class instruction to fit his needs. We have not had to pull him from any of his activites or enroll him in classes for children with special needs. We did switch him to a swimming class that consisted of only children his own age. He works much better with a group of peers than with children in a wider age group. I am so grateful that Spawn is being treated like a unique and beloved little boy - that he can just be a normal kid in a class with his peers where each child is treated as unique, but equal. My deepest gratitude to Sensei Sue, Miss Donna, Miss Joanne, and the Aquatics and Fitness Directors: Amy and Billy. You guys rock!

Spawn also has awesome cyberschool teachers who gladly take time out of their busy schedules to discuss his needs with me and support me in my efforts to adapt the regular curriculum to his needs. Thank you, thank you, thank you Miss Samuels, Miss DiPaolo, Mr. Mitchell, Miss Bonk, and Miss D'Angelo for your patience and understanding and for helping me learn to cope with Spawn's needs.

It's starting to sound like I'm accepting an Academy Award with all my thank yous :D, but I'm just a mom trying to do my best by my son and all these incredible people make my responsibilities as Spawn's home facilitator so much easier! All I'm saying is - recognize. ;)

More to come in another post shortly about what we're covering in Spawn's lessons. Check back soon for updates on: Language Arts: Spawn's favorite StoryTown books, Math: Counting Using a 100 Chart, Social Studies: What Do We Need?, Science: Technology Lessons and Unit C Test, All About Me: Love, Art and Music: Pinatas, Phys Ed: Journals, Activities, and Disease Prevention/Health Helpers and Classroom Cyber Pets for cyberschoolers.

Thanks for reading. It's been cathartic - getting it all out and said and being able to move on.

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

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