Fingers Crossed: A Post From the Anonymous Blog That Led to TILT

When Asher was 7 years old, I kept an anonymous blog that I shared only with my immediate family. The year was 2011 and as a parent, let’s just say I was not in a good place. I kept the blog anonymous because I wanted to share and needed to write about what was going on, but wasn’t ready yet to be open about our journey. Exploring my journey through that blog was part of what led me to ultimately create TiLT and write my book, Differently Wired. It’s what helped me get to the point where I wanted to do everything I could to ensure no other parent felt alone in what they were going through ever again.

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My fingers are crossed.

The first day back at school after a 5-day weekend can be a bit dodgy, so as I gave my son a hug goodbye and walked out of his first grade classroom this morning, it was with a bit of trepidation. He wasn’t too psyched to be there in the first place…I could tell the moment I woke him up this morning that he was sad the long weekend, the one he’d looked forward to because of getting so much hanging-with-daddy time, was over. He gets these post-holiday blues after any long weekend or highly anticipated event, but the timing for this bout of school malaise couldn’t be worse.

To say things at my son’s school have not been going well would be a bit of an understatement. About a month ago we were told, in a not-so-compassionate way, that we should be exploring other school options for our son for next year. Though our son attends a private school that caters to highly gifted kids, it seems that they’re not so equipped, or at the very least, interested, in dealing with the other “exceptional” sides of my son. And whereas last year we felt supported by the school and his teacher and we finished the year feeling positive and confident and grateful we’d found such a great spot for our son, this year the story is different. This year, communication has broken down, positive discipline has been thrown out the window, and my son is floundering in a classroom where he’s struggling socially and the teacher frankly doesn’t have his back.

While my husband and I are starting the process of exploring other options for next year, I have it in my head that pulling my son out mid-year would be highly disruptive and possibly even traumatic for him. So although it’s become clear that the very pricey private school we’re sending our son to so he can have more support isn’t actually willing to put in any extra effort to make school be successful for him, my husband and I are trying to do it from home.

It’s not ideal. Ideally, school and home would be like church and state. Or Vegas. What happens at school is dealt with (in a positive, supportive way) at school and what happens at home is a whole other ball of wax. Instead, we’ve asked the teacher to let us know what the specific behaviors are that are creating the most disruption in the class, and we’ve put together a behavioral contract, complete with mini-daily rewards and a larger weekly reward, that my son has agreed to and signed. We’re hoping that these daily goals and reminders will improve the day-to-day for our son, the teacher, and the class enough so that we can finish out the year in a way that feels good for everyone.

I hate managing his school life though. I hate it because my son is already starting to identify as a “bad kid” because he gets in trouble at school so much for doing things like blurting something out while the teacher is talking, expressing his frustration about a game or other unpredictable activity that he doesn’t buy into, having trouble respecting other people’s personal space bubbles. He is asked to sit by himself, or even go outside in the hallway, a lot. And now home isn’t even a place to escape. It’s become another place where he is reminded that the way he behaves, the way he is, is different and needs work.

I hate that his school isn’t using the proactive problem solving tools we gave them, that they’re treating his disruptions like behavioral issues instead of remembering that he would do better if he could. And then here I am, reviewing his behavior contract at the breakfast table this morning, reminding him that he’s not to complain out loud if he thinks a task his teacher assigns is unappealing or boring, and practicing the strategies he can use in such a situation, like taking five slow, deep breaths or saying in his head, “I’m not really interested in this activity but that’s okay,” and then doing it anyway.

As I reminded my son of his goal for the day – to cooperatively participate in class work – I could see the wave of frustration wash over his face. He’s tired of hearing it. Tired of working so hard on these things. Tired of getting in trouble. I don’t blame him.

But still, my fingers are crossed.

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