Sixth grade was just around the corner and I was terrified! My kid couldn’t make it to the front door of school, much less SIX different classrooms!
I decided I would try home schooling, but who was I kidding? I don’t have the discipline to home school, so I was really lucky that my kid is bright enough that she was able to catch up in 7th grade without a hiccup – sort of.
7th grade, we decided to put her back in the twice exceptional school where she had friends (none that she actually played with or talked to outside of school), but she enjoyed the school. Same old story, though. Reports home that she isn’t paying attention in class, nor is she turning in homework.
Maybe this wasn’t the right learning environment for her? I, myself, don’t care about grades. I made straight A’s and can’t remember a damn thing I learned in school! My husband, who most likely is also Aspie, barely made it through school but can recite the constitution word for word! Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the idea. Grades are not a determining factor in judging how smart you are, they are a determining factor in judging how well you can follow directions and do as your told.
It’s strange to me that my husband, who admittedly struggled through school for many of the same reasons as our child, would get so frustrated when she doesn’t do something she’s never been able to do. He would do a lot of lecturing, which included talking down to her and then when she talked back (which was inevitable), he would get mad and resort to yelling and threaten to spank or come up with a ridiculous punishment. Nothing he tried ever worked. Restrictions, yelling, spanking, guilting…
Anyway… getting back to school. I was fine keeping her at the school she was attending in 7th grade, but my husband was adamant that she wouldn’t be able to get into a good college if she stayed at that school, so we began our search.
Or, I should say I began my search. My husband loved to pitch in with his thoughts, but take action?! God forbid!
I had heard of an art school that was very prestigious. It was quite a drive and extremely hard to get into, but my child was so creative that I thought perhaps a more creative component to learning would be key. My daughter loved to write and was naturally talented with her words and expression of words on paper.
We submitted her writing portfolio to the school and she was accepted to a second audition and then a third and was finally accepted into the creative writing program. We both knew that this was a serious school and grades were extremely important. Grades had never mattered to her before. This school changed that. Sadly, this school changed a lot of things.
Eighth grade was interesting. I saw my daughter struggle heavily. The two classes she didn’t struggle in was creative writing and history. Her history teacher was extremely encouraging. He was an angel! He recognized that my child learned in a unique way and instead of trying to change it, he actually encouraged it!
This is a big deal people! This is the first time in the history of my child’s schooling that a teacher encouraged her AND complimented her unique outlook. She would have done anything that teacher asked her to do! She still struggled to turn in homework, but the teacher allowed class time to get it done and turned in.
She enjoyed creative writing, but became disheartened when she realized what a small fish she had become in this very large pond. It didn’t take long for her to become discouraged and instead of showing off her work at home, she began hiding it.
Eighth grade was a challenge. There were countless nights that a meltdown would inevitably ensue because she “just remembered” a project was due the next day. Once I could get her to calm down, she would knock it out in no time – but the meltdown itself might take hours to come down from. When she finally felt good enough about the project to call it a night, it never failed that she would forget the project at home! I would get a phone call and have to drive the project all the way to her school.
By the end of eighth grade, she began having panic attacks at night. It was a constant struggle between “I can’t go to school because I’m struggling,” and “I can’t stay home from school because I will fall even further behind!” Those nights were tough for the whole family. It was hard on my daughter because these were real struggles she was going through. It was hard on my husband because it put a huge dent in our personal time. It was hard on me because it was important to me that I hold space for our daughter and be there with her and my husband calling for me every five minutes wasn’t helping ANYTHING!
My husband has struggled to understood our daughter. He’s at least finally trying to look at things from a different perspective, but he’s got a long way to go and a lot to make up for (if that’s even possible). But, that’s a story for another time.
By the end of eighth grade, my daughter was depressed, anxious and suicidal. Thank goodness she still talked to me and allowed me in. It broke my heart when she spoke the words that she felt hopeless. For the first time in school, she was actually trying and aside from the two classes mentioned above, she was failing and it scared her tremendously.
We immediately sought answers. We had her undergo a neuropsychological exam which diagnosed her with anxiety, depression and ADD, inattentive type. By this time, I was more than happy to put her on the ADD drugs if it meant that she would feel better about herself. The ADD drugs had a terrible affect on her and we stopped almost as quickly as we started. We began trying various anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications but they all seemed to have a negative effect that prevented her from continuing to take them.
In the meantime, I was calling every psychologist and psychiatrist to get an appointment for her and they were all scheduled for months out!!! I was devastated! And this was insurance paid AND private pay even!
While searching for a psychologist, she began Cognitive Behavioral therapy which looked helpful. At this point, her anxiety was so bad that she started having OCD tendencies that affected her ability to eat and she was losing way too much weight. They began working on a few behavior modifications that helped relieve the extent of the OCD as well as a phobia that was beginning to present itself.
We continued with this for about two years. School was getting worse! My daughter stopped even trying to participate in her classes because she was so annoyed that her teachers were often rude and ignorant of her needs. By 10th grade, I believe that there was a stigma that followed my daughter around. Teachers were extremely harsh and the school counselor wasn’t any help! The teachers made it crystal clear what their expectations were and that they would not accept anything less, so she became crystal clear on what her limitations were. She all but accepted she would be worthless, unable to go to college, unable to find a job, and homeless! This was the topic of conversation when the meltdowns occurred and they occurred often!
I finally got her in to see someone at Kaiser (our insurance) by the middle of 10th grade. This psychologist was a God-send! She recognized, almost immediately that my daughter may be on the spectrum and thus began our journey of learning about autism spectrum and Asperger’s.