It was all going so well. Or pretty well. I mean, it was going.
Wednesday of Week Four came the harbinger that the adjustment to Martin’s new school may not be as smooth as appearances. I was working in my City office when, right about school-dismissal time, I received this email from Martin’s teacher:
Hi Mrs. [M—],
Martin had some trouble today during both “Read Aloud” time and Silent Reading. As I was reading aloud to the children on the carpet, he made noises and distracted the other children. I needed to stop several times to remind him how we show good listening. The other children really enjoy “Read Aloud” time and become frustrated when we need to stop many times. He also had trouble reading silently this afternoon during reading time and could not control his laughter and calling out. We moved his color clip to yellow today but he shouted how he doesn’t care and he’s not going to try tomorrow. It seems that these two times are particularly troubling for him during the day. When I do see the behaviorist this week I will ask her to help us with a plan for these two times.
I just wanted to touch base and let you know our concerns here today.
Thanks so much,
Oh no! Oh no! I have two greatest fears, this first month at Martin’s new school: (1) bullying/rejection, and (2) that he will be removed from general education. This email, while mostly directed at fear (2), also touched upon fear (1), namely, that Martin’s behavior was frustrating the other children. The situation came with the compounding factor that uncontrolled laughing and outbursts are often related to Martin’s biomedical treatment, as when we are “kicking up” too many bugs/toxins/parasites/whatever. “Sorry about that. Must’ve kicked up too many parasites again” is not the most practicable response to give a mainstream public-school teacher.
Immediately I responded, copying Adrian and Martin’s behaviorist:
Thanks so much for the update, and I can imagine that it must be frustrating if Martin was distracting the other children. Could you tell me—is this behavior new, or has it been ongoing? We have had (short-lived, I’m glad) times in the past when Martin had trouble controlling his laughter, so it would be helpful to know how long it’s been continuing this time. We will absolutely address this with Martin and also check in with Darlene [the behaviorist] about her opinion on how to handle.
I will let you know what Darlene and I discuss, and I’m sure you will have a chance to speak with her this week also. Please keep us posted.
Next, I texted Darlene:
Just got an email from Mrs. [N—] that Martin is disrupting reading time with laughter and outbursts. She wants help with behavior modification suggestions.
She responded within seconds, seemingly aware of the situation already:
Yes. Sorry, I was supposed to go there today. Still sitting at desk at home doing emails and plans. Aide reached out yesterday, said he was silly. Thought maybe tired.
I’m contacting his doctor now about whether we can cut back on anything that might be causing the silliness, but I’m worried. I think we should get a plan in place ASAP. Can you get to [his school] tomorrow?
At this point, Darlene telephoned me. She said that she thought Martin’s behavior—especially the part when he said he “doesn’t care” and won’t even try to achieve “green light” rating tomorrow—might be a reaction to some of his first rejection experiences. She relayed an event the previous week when the teacher had asked the class to pair up for an exercise. The pupils began turning to whoever was closest and forming groups of two. Martin missed the social cue and instead yelled, “Who wants to be my partner? Who’s going to be partner with me?” He ended up the only kid without a partner. Darlene also said Martin has been withdrawing more at recess, and that his aide has had increasing trouble getting him to engage. She did say that sometimes Martin sits with a couple kids who play with stuffed superhero toys, and that maybe he’d like to bring a similar toy to play along.
We hung up, but my mind was still on Martin, and definitely not on work. I wrote a message to Martin’s doctor, asking what we might antimicrobials we could consider relaxing, and what else I could do to support him and control the laughing fits.
Darlene and I started texting again:
Glad I wasn’t there when no one partnered up with him last week—that kind of stuff just kills me.
I know. It was a day when substitute was there.
Substitute teacher, or substitute aide?
Teacher. There was a sub teacher for a couple days last week. All these could be contributing.
Miss I [Martin’s aide] was his partner for a bit, then she switched and was a partner with someone else and Martin partnered with a student.
Eek. Need to find a better way to address these skills.
Writing to teacher and aide now.
Please let them know that Adrian and I take this seriously and will work with everyone to resolve ASAP.
I just heard from Samara. She said Martin told her immediately that he was laughing too much at school, and agreed that he lost his iPad privileges for today. She also said he said, “Maybe I can use it tomorrow,” which would suggest he was just frustrated when he said he’s not even going to try.
Exactly. I think it was just because he didn’t know what else to say. I sent email just asking if certain times of day or activities [are problematic]. How are peer relations. I did not copy you as I want them to give straightforward responses.
Yes, that’s good. I have already contacted the doctor. Since I am not at home tonight, I asked Samara not to be angry at him, but more to try to build his confidence about earning iPad tomorrow. I pass through Penn Station on my way home. I will check the shops for a superhero of the type you mentioned. I can also check Stop & Shop when I arrive home late.
This was certainly a diversion from arguing about Conjoint Analysis plus to determine consumer valuation of product attributes.
My attempts at humor are so lame. Darlene didn’t respond to that last text. Instead, she sent a picture of the stuffed superhero she’d mentioned, the kind two boys had on the playground:
I kept going:
Thanks. I will take a look ASAP. And if you have words of reassurance, please feel free! Of course I am currently doubting whether we made the right choice for this year, but that may be just premature freaking out.
Absolutely just freaking out.
Okay. That’s me, I guess.
As horrible as it sounds it’s better for the kids to treat him as any other kid then to treat him as the class pet with special needs. Does that make sense? If they’re treating him like they see him as an equal.
Maybe. If he’s ready.
Meaning he’s going to be going through some Growing Pains like just any other kid. My daughter comes home sometimes to say the same thing nobody playing with her. I just have to create something to help them through lunch and recess so he can get some friends.
Would you consider throwing like a fall party or something maybe even at your house as a get-to-know-everybody party. Unfortunately his birthday isn’t until June. Could you do a Halloween party? This way you could get to know some of the other moms and maybe start to have some play dates to foster some relationships just one-on-one.
Egads! Was she kidding? With my introverted nature and minimal confidence in my own social skills, I live in perpetual anxiety. What if I threw a party for Martin, and no one came?
Hmmm. Not a bad idea. But I do have a fear of no-shows! We have a play date this Friday with Lucas from his class. Fingers crossed. Also, I love the way your autocorrect capitalized “Growing Pains.”
That seemed like my cue to stop texting Darlene. So I did, for a few hours. At 8:30 pm, on my way home (Wednesdays I work late), I texted her a photo:
Found this at Penn Station Kmart. Not exact but I hope close enough.
Hooray! I will send it to school with him tomorrow, with the instruction that he can take it out for recess. I detest the Penn Station Kmart. Only dedication to my child could make this happen.
You’re the best.
Martin is the best. Just want to help him understand that.