When your kid doesn’t fit the mold


We always have the silent notion that we are our child’s advocate. Most days there aren’t overt opportunities to take part in that aspect of parenthood so the idea of advocating for our children becomes something we put in our back pockets for a rainy day. But you better believe when the situation arises we all instinctually know how to make things happen for our kids. That is the situation I found myself in recently and I am proud to say it was exhausting, but worked out well in the end.

We knew Garrett was a bit different than kids his age in preschool, when he would sit in the corner to help alphabetize his teacher’s student folders, instead of participate in math or reading, because he “already knew” what she was teaching. Not because he’d been taught the lesson before, he just understand the concepts in seconds. People often asked if I worked with him a lot at home and I wished I could have said yes, but the truth was that he was self motivated, often to the point of obsession.

Garrett has an eerily extensive knowledge of outer space. Not like, “Hey, I like outer space.” Like, researching daily and learning about atmosphere and temperatures on various planets. He wants to really understand specific things about our solar system and he will not rest until he learns what he feels is “expected” of him. Expected by who? I have no idea.

We tested Garrett for a gifted program in our school district after he entered kindergarten early and still felt bored in the accelerated program we placed him in, but he didn’t pass. I later found out he did not finish the test, leaving half blank because the test was 3 hours long. And he was 5. ‘Nuff said. We hoped First Grade would bring him challenge and more balance. It did not. His behavior was becoming intolerable to even his teacher who knew him since he was 2, and when I would visit the classroom as the Room Parent I could hardly stand how he was acting. He would rock in his chair, repeat phrases over and over, scream out answers instead of waiting for other kids to have a turn and his desk was a trashed mess. I was appalled to be honest and my husband and I were constantly stressed about how to remedy this problem. He wasn’t learning anything at all and he was disruptive.

So, we asked if we could have him tested privately AGAIN for the gifted program. We were told yes and we did so. On our dime. The results showed very high test scores in many areas, so we were confident he would be granted entrance then. Nope. The test was one in which the program was unfamiliar and due to that fact the scores were not weighted highly enough for entrance. I felt a bit like a person in a room with fifty doors and every one I turned to, closed in my face. His current school was at a loss as to what to do for him. Being a traditional school they are repetition based and only a year ahead, and that does not work for Garrett.

So, I got to work and did my research. Gifted is a term I do not like to use, I feel it translates to “learning differently” and that is the greatest tool I’ve had at my disposal. Garrett needs visual cues, craves research on NEW topics and he definitely needs fresh ideas both to soak in and ask questions about. He’s a walking thinking map and I’ve adjusted how I work with him at home and the activities I present him with. It just isn’t enough. He needed a school to do this for him.

After much “advocating” (bordering on obsessive phone meetings) with district officials, we got Garrett retested with a test that the school approves and he passed! He will be switching schools in a few weeks and it has been the first time in months, maybe years that I have slept soundly knowing he will have a passion for learning for once in his academic life.

This was not an easy process and I could have easily given up at any point and believed that maybe he didn’t need this different scholastic approach. But the lesson is that you know your kid better than anyone. And you can’t give up on something you know is right, in your gut. You can’t let a piece of paper determine your child’s future, or a person who has never met him. You have to push to get someone to take notice. And eventually someone listens. Because they have no choice. You’re too loud to ignore.

I hope to be a person that can help someone else struggling with this same situation. I was fortunate to have support in friends and family that not everyone has, and I also hit many brick walls, where people had the chance to help me and stayed silent. If you have questions about your child, please ask me. I am not an expert but I am a well informed parent now. And this is a subject I will always hold near and dear to my heart. We can’t let these kids be ignored.

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