Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life is Weird

This evening I was skimming an article on recombinant DNA before handing it off to my son to read. I wanted to make sure it didn't have anything about sexual reproduction because, after all, he's barely seven years old.

Then I realized that not many parents of seven-year-olds are worried about the sexual content of articles about DNA. TV shows or comic books, maybe. But not so much this.

Our life is weird.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Through another lens

Last summer I got together on a regular basis with a friend of mine whose son is five months younger than mine. Both boys were different and quirky and needed social skills, so play dates seemed like a good idea. The boys liked each other, but both kids seemed more fixated on their preferred activity than on playing with one another. Still, the play dates were successful enough that we decided to try it again this summer.

Yesterday was the first of our play dates for the season. We took the kids to the park and the boys ran around for about half an hour before going their separate ways. I did feel bad because my friend's son kept trying to engage my son, but my kid would inevitably wander off. I used to feel terrible about this...why won't my kid play? Why can't he interact with another kid? Why did he have to be rude? Can't he just go along with this for a while? And, the most unsettling thought...what's wrong with him?

Now, I see it through a different lens. My friend's son is a typical kid. He wants to run as fast as he can, to climb the monkey bars, to push sand into a pile. My son wants to sift through rocks until he finds a fossil, to pretend to be augustasaurus babies swimming in the ocean, to make a replica of the Great Pyramids with sand. It's not that he's bad, it's that his interests are so different than his friend's that they have difficulty interacting.

I have difficulty finding things to talk about with some adults I know. Why would it be any different for a kid?

It's a big shift to start seeing my son's behavior as a difference rather than a deficit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why a rhombus peg?

A while back I was talking with one of my friends about my son's difficulties in school, and I said that he was just a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

"No," she said, "he's a unique, spiky, star-shaped peg trying to fit into a round hole."

That's not a bad comparison. He's not a square kid, where if you sand off the corners he could be jammed into a regular education program reasonably well. We've been trying that approach. He's a kid that would require significant alterations to fit into that space we designate as "normal."

For the name of this blog, though, I chose "rhombus" for two reasons. One, I liked the alliteration* of "rhombus" and "round." But the other, bigger reason is that when my son was in K4 he came home with a worksheet he had done about shapes. I was talking to him about the shapes, and I pointed out the diamond.

"That's not a diamond," he said impatiently, "that's a rhombus."

Well, pin a rose on your nose, boy. Back in my day we called it a diamond.

For a long time after that I had a sort of a mental block about the rhombus. For the life of me, I couldn't remember what shape it was. My son was so exasperated with me. It wasn't the first time he knew something that I didn't - his tool phase and dinosaur phase took care of that - but for some reason, it really bothered me. I suppose that's because I pride myself on maintaining at least an early-elementary level of mathematical ability, and this was proving me wrong.

Anyway, it suits him. Although I hope that eventually we get to the point where he's able to settle into a space that's better shaped to fit his needs.

* alliteration is one of my older daughter's favorite terms right now. She thought they called it "alliteration" because "that one sound is littered through the whole sentence." So cute.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Don't brag about it

Things have been a little slow at work lately, and recently one of my co-workers caught me perusing a book.

"What's it about?" she asked. I had it flat on my desk, so the cover was face-down.

"Parenting," I hedged.

"Is it about how to parent a genius?" another co-worker teased.

"It's not," I said. Technically it was about gifted kids, who aren't really geniuses. Loophole.

"I just believe that no matter how old your children are, it's never too late to learn how much your parenting has screwed them up," I said with a grin, flipping the book closed and shoving it into my bag. "Maybe it's not too late to undo some of the damage."

In reality, my son has been diagnosed as "gifted" for less than a month and I feel like it's already changing things with my friends. They've started saying things like, "My kid is smart...but not, like, YOUR KID smart, just regular smart." When he was labeled I wanted to shout it to everyone...he had been the problem child at school all year long, but here it was in black and white, a measure of just how awesome he was, how strong he was! But I quickly saw that instead of letting people into my joy, it drew a boundary. My friends were happy for me, to be sure, but now things are a little...different. A little weird.

So now I soft-pedal it a bit. Whenever I bring up how bright he is, I also bring up an anecdote where he was absent-minded, like the time he put his coat on upside-down and didn't notice. My friends talk about how many baseball hits or soccer goals their kids get, or how much they're progressing in their classes, and they all have that moment of mama-glow pride.

My kid has this one strength, and I feel like I have to hide it.

Don't think that I'm complaining or losing sight of the fact that my kid's intelligence is an amazing blessing. I just wish sometimes that I didn't have to hide it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

And so it began

First grade was not kind to my son.

My son had always been a quirky kid. He was different. By the age of two he had developed a full-fledged obsession with tools. By three he was watching DIY Network the way other kids watched cartoons. He slept with an electric drill (bit removed, of course, because that's just responsible parenting). At four, when his classmates in four-year-old kindergarten were drawing pictures of their families he was drawing houses, with wires connecting a power source, such as a wind turbine, with an electric device, like a lamp. At five he wanted to do nothing except read about robots.

He also had sensory quirks. He would cover his ears and scream at loud noises. He walked on his tiptoes. He hated sweaters. I'm a speech-language pathologist who has worked with many, many kids with autism over the years, and though he seemed pretty quirky, he didn't seem quite autistic to me.

So, I vigorously defended him against anyone who suggested autism. He was shy, quirky, bright, but not autistic. When his school started to put pressure on me to have him evaluated for special education his pediatrician was furious. "What do they think they'll find out? That he's quirky? There's no DSM-V diagnosis for quirky!"

And yet, by March, his teacher and principal had had enough of his meltdowns and noncompliance in the classroom. I'd had enough of him crying at night because he hated school, or having stomachaches every morning at the thought of having to go there. Maybe I was in denial...maybe he did have a disability.

I signed off on the consent forms angrily. We were looking at autism, OHI for ADHD, and IQ. In my district we don't normally test for IQ, but I had seen too many high school students with normal IQs and low achievement after years of watered-down curriculum and lowered expectations. If the district did put him in special education I wanted proof that my son was bright enough to handle normal work, so I insisted that we look at his IQ.

Imagine my shock when I found out that he was not just bright...he was gifted. His IQ met the threshold for gifted and blew right past it. He wasn't autistic, he didn't have ADHD, his quirks and intensity and obsessions and behaviors were all the result of being gifted.

His teacher didn't know anything about gifted students. But, she was furious. She dug into her position and insisted that he had a disability.

I didn't know anything about gifted students. But, I jumped into the world of giftedness and started learning as fast as I could. And the more I learned, the more grateful I became that I had finally found a world where my son was normal.

I'm still learning. And I want to share what I learn here so other people can learn from it too.