Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Now we fight

Ugh! I have just spent the last 15 or so hours researching and planning. Why you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

We live in Alabama, the educational armpit of America. It is not for nothing that we have earned the distinction of having one of the worst educational systems in the nation.

I won't get into why the schools are so bad in this post, God knows I want to rant about it, but right now I thought I'd explain what has led me to such extensive research.

My son, also known as The Brain is an exceptionally bright child that also happens to have ADD. I had him evaluated when he was five years old through a psychiatrist’s office. They gave him several intelligence tests, behavioral evaluations; you know... the normal stuff they do. The doc came out after the intelligence test was only about 3/4 of the way finished and asked me to come into his office.

He took off his glasses and just sat there smiling. He said "You have a very engaging and intelligent child. Unfortunately, I can't finish his IQ test today". When I asked why he explained that when they test children they give them short breaks in between questions every so often. This is done to give the kid time to regroup and relax. It seems that my little monster got tired of the breaks, asked the doctor to focus, and said "could you cut the chit-chat and hurry up? I'm hungry"! The doc thought it was hilarious and stopped stopping in between questions. This worked for about 10 more minutes, during which time my son gave every appearance of being bored. All of a sudden he looked interested again. Unfortunately, he also started answering questions incorrectly. The doc told me that he finally realized that my son was playing a game with him. He was determining the correct answer (it was multiple choice) and then deliberately giving the doc the wrong answer just to see if the doc knew the difference.

The doc told me that he also couldn't give me a complete assessment for ADD because of similar reasons. It seems that gifted kids also tend to share characteristics with those with ADD. He told me that he would evaluate what had been gleaned from my son that day and get back to me.

About a week later he called me back into his office and told me that his opinions were based on 35 years of experience as well as extensive personal studies that he has conducted. He recommended that I have my son tested again when he was around 8 to get a more formal result.

According to the doc The Brain has an IQ similar to that of only 1-2% of the population (again he couldn't specify because of incomplete testing) and that he appeared to be borderline ADD.

Since that time I have determined that he is in fact ADD and has been on a very low dose of medication to help with that. Educationally, well... that's a different story. I taught him basic Algebra (x+10=12) when he was 6. He was reading on a 9th grade level in 2nd grade. He can explain the electrical processes of things like radios (and fixes them when they break), and why bats can "see" in the dark. He has never forgotten anything that he has read. Ever. It is scary. It is also really, really hard to keep him interested in school.

I have begged his teachers to allow him to work ahead of the class. I have begged them to allow me to provide additional work for him to do. I have begged them to develop some sort of enrichment program geared for someone like him. My pleas, while met with smiles, are always denied. All children have to stay on the same learning tract in order for the standardized tests to work.

He has begun to really struggle with school lately. He made all A's a before. Last year and this year have seen a steady decline. On his last report card he got 1 B, 2 C's, and 1 D. He's so bored out of his mind that he can't see straight. He listens to the teacher, gets the concept immediately and then tunes her out. He feels bad about himself because he knows he's different, and so he will often answer in class questions incorrectly just to prove that he's just like everyone else.

It seems that when you combine giftedness with ADD you have a recipe for disaster and failure unless there is attention given to both.

Yesterday The Brain came home with a letter informing me that a meeting has been set up to evaluate him for the Special Education program (a horrid, horrid program designed to baby-sit the delinquents long enough for them to drop out or move). It seems that he was referred for this program by a school counselor that has been meeting with him. Even though I specifically declined to give my permission for him to be evaluated through the school, it seems that they have been pulling him out once a week for the last month and doing just that. I now have to appear before a committee to receive their recommendations regarding her "findings". All of this becomes a matter of his permanent file. Did I mention that this counselor isn't even a doctor? She has a counseling certificate in education.

The Brain was accepted into a Magnet program called the Academy for Science and Mathematics a couple of years ago. He can't actually attend this wonderful school (for children like him) unless we live within a certain area. Because of dad's health I have had to stay where we are. That will change after the first of the year.

If the recommendation for Special Ed stays in his file, it will make it impossible for him to go to the one school in our area that is geared toward what he needs.

I have already contacted my lawyer and doctor. I plan on having him formally evaluated and retested for the ADD and IQ thing prior to the meeting. I also plan on boning up on Alabama law between now and then as it pertains to testing without parental consent. I also thought that I would go ahead and do background checks on everyone that will be present in the meeting... only stuff that I'm legally allowed to do of course, in order to know who I am dealing with prior to the meeting.

The principal is very nice and has been very helpful with everything up to this point. As far as I can tell, she is not aware of what is happening so I thought I'd also invite her. It helps that she is a little afraid of me because of my job. Not my doing I assure you, but it works in my favor nonetheless.

What else can I do? I feel like I have to be on top of everything, but as a single parent I also feel like I'm fighting a losing battle. I have so little time with The Brain left before he hits his teens. I have to fix this before it's too late.

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