On Friday afternoon one of the occupational therapists came to talk to one of my colleagues. I overheard that she sends her kids to one of the schools we're considering for my son, so we got talking about that school, and then about gifted kids, since her two kids are.
I got on a roll about my son's school, and how they think he's a bad writer because of his bad penmanship, and how he should just use an AlphaSmart for typing, and see, this is what they're complaining about, this is his handwriting, as I showed her a photo of his writing my phone. She took it and flinched and said, "Oooh, that's bad."
Now, there's a difference between bad handwriting, and bad enough to make an occupational therapist flinch handwriting. Apparently my son has the latter. She offered me a couple templates of special handwriting paper and a list of community resources for occupational therapists. She also asked some questions...is he clumsy? Does he seem to have trouble with awareness of space? She said gifted kids live inside their heads a lot, and that doesn't lend itself to learning spatial and body awareness. It all makes sense, but it's still weird to hear, "Your child could use occupational therapy," from an actual OT. It makes it seem like something is really wrong.
Part of me is furious because it means that, to an extent, his school was right. Something is wrong. I know I come into school meetings and err on the side of, "He's extremely bright and misunderstood," because I feel like I have to in order to counteract their attitude of, "He's probably autistic and he should go to a different school." Considering occupational therapy is like conceding to their viewpoint. I'm also afraid that if they find out they'll say, "Well, look, he needs extra help. He's obviously special ed. We need to refer him again and make sure he's labeled this time."
Part of me is frightened. I know my son is outside of average, but this is a concrete sign of that. Most kids don't need OT to learn how to write, or put on a coat, or walk without banging into things. If he needs that help it means his brain is not doing something it should be doing. What else won't he be able to learn?
Part of me is embarrassed, because I have friends who have kids with real, diagnosed disabilities who get occupational therapy and physical therapy for an actual, physical reason. Because he has a motor disease. And I just keep thinking, What am I even complaining about? So he can't write clearly or tie his shoes, so what? Seeking out a prescription for OT seems to be akin to saying that I think my son's issues are just as tough as their kids', which isn't true of course. Now, as a speech pathologist I know that's not how therapy is...I see a spectrum of kids ranging from kids who can't speak at all to kids who have a mild stutter. But still, I feel like I'll be laughed out of the OT/PT clinic and my son's troubles will be traced back to my own inadequate parenting.
In the end, regardless of how I feel or what the school thinks I have to do what's best for my son. And that means talking to my husband and our son's pediatrician about whether this is something we need to pursue.