When Abnormal *IS* Normal!

As you may be aware, we have really been struggling with Aiden. He is very behind in his school work and just not performing up to his potential. No where near his potential. It’s frustrating how unfocused he can be. It’s disconcerting in so many ways. And it’s a major reason that we’re pursuing the ADD/ADHD route.

Last night I kept Aiden up until 11:11 pm, working on research and a rough draft. The rough draft was due last Friday. His final draft is due tomorrow. We will be up late again tonight because he will turn this paper in on time. I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of work he has to do and doesn’t get done. I even had a panic attack about the paper yesterday! I do not feel that I should be there, holding his hand constantly just so he can get his regular homework or school work done. He is 9 and a half years old and in the 4th grade. He should be able to get it done, right? He is given plenty of time at school and plenty of time at home to get the various assignments done. Yet things still get lost and forgotten. More like everything still gets lost and forgotten. I am at my wit’s end.

Today I got to volunteer in Aiden’s classroom again. I walked in and his teacher said, “How are you at math?” Normally I feel shaky, but some boys needed help on a math packet (that I had insisted on Aiden bringing home earlier in the week so he could get our help if needed and get it done early, thereby giving him more class time to work on stuff he kept leaving in his desk…), so I said, “Oh, I can do that!”

Please remember that Aiden is in a self-contained Gifted classroom. This means that ALL of the children in this class are exceptionally bright kids. They kind of scare me with their collective intelligence sometimes! However, it also means that each of these kids has different personal, social, mental, or emotional issues they have to deal with because of the “Gifted-ness”. It can be so fun to work with their fast little brains, but it can be very frustrating at times. And the level of work they do is so far advanced of what I did at that age!! Wow. It’s hard to keep up with them, and I’m just so grateful for the teacher in this class because she is so wonderful for these kids. She really gets them. She likes each and every one of these kids! She works so well with and for them. I love to watch her interact with the kids and I love to watch her teach.

Anyway, so I took three boys out in the hall to a table so we could work without distraction. These boys really didn’t need my help (other than an initial “How many mL are there in a liter? I know you don’t like working with metrics. Neither do I. We’re American. But Aiden’s dad is Canadian and he totally helped us, so it’s easy. Let’s think this through…” Quite comical, actually.). They are smart and can problem solve and think and they really knew what they were doing for the entire packet. No, what I really had to do was sit next to them and say, “Do your work. Do your work. Got that question done? Good. Do the next one. No, don’t talk to Jaedin. Do your work. Darius, do not go get another drink of water. Do the next question. Yes, Jaedin, I know he’s distracting you. Aidan D., stop distracting Jaedin. No, Darius, you can not have a second one of Rachel’s birthday donuts. You can finish your question. Aiden D., get a pencil you can actually write with and then finish the page.”

It was exactly — I really mean exactly — like working with my own Aiden. It’s constant redirection and focusing. It’s a constant presence to make sure they get the work done. Like I said, they are all smart enough they can do the work with no help. They just need someone there making sure they get it done.

After my volunteer time was up I went to pick up Parker from preschool. I was talking to a mom at the park after preschool. This mom also has a daughter in Aiden’s class. I mentioned that Aiden had to stay up late to finish his rough draft and how we’ve been spending so much time trying to play catch up that I think he’s getting behind in a lot of his current work. Best thing I heard? She said, “SAME HERE!!” She had to keep her daughter up late to finish one assignment a couple of days ago and her daughter just turned in another major assignment (that was due weeks ago… and one that we want Aiden to redo since he only got 11 out of 52 points) just today. Her daughter kept asking, “Can’t I just go lie down for a minute? Can’t I have a short break?” It is exactly like Aiden!!

The moral to my story? I do not at all think it’s normal for kids to be this unfocused on a regular basis. However, Aiden isn’t the only one. All of these kids are abnormal, thus making them normal. It makes me breathe so much easier to know that we are all fighting the same fight.

Oh, guess what? I’m going to win, too. Aiden is being taught to be responsible and focused. It will work. I will win. There is no other option.

4 responses to “When Abnormal *IS* Normal!

  1. Oh — that is so much like my life not very long ago. It’s a relief to find out that some behaviour is common to many kids, isn’t it? Still, keep in mind that you will not have the energy to supervise Aiden to that degree indefinitely. For your sanity (and you know I am talking as someone who has been through this, so there is no criticism of either party here) he needs to work on skills like time management, self-advocacy (if the assignment is too overwhelming, or he encounters a stumbling block along the way, he should be going to the teacher himself as soon as he knows, instead of just letting things slide until you take over), and delayed gratification. (And when I say “he” I mean Aiden needs to be coached.)

    By “delayed gratification” I mean a system by which he is allowed to do something fun, like play a video game, only AFTER completing some kind of school work. If you set that up as a habit with him now, he will start asking to play video games like this: “I finished my math sheet. Can I play a game now?” (or whatever it happens to be like in your house). The thing is to set it up in his mind now while he’s young so he knows to use that tactic when he is older and trying to motivate himself.

    I guess I could go on and on, but I won’t. The thing is, abnormal versus normal is less important than saving your own future sanity.

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