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Monday, December 1, 2008

Isaiah again

Every day that Isaiah comes home from daycare I ask him how his day was. He usually tells me he has one - or maybe two - popsicle sticks. They start the day with five and then can earn up to three more. Some days he has more and even though he's lost a few, what he has left shows that he's also earned some.

I raised a child with these same issues and I taught two children (when I taught kindergarten) who had the same issues. It's very easy - VERY easy - to focus on the negative things the child does because they get you to a position where your nerves are constantly on edge. You have to look for the positive things to focus on and to praise the child for doing or they develop an attitude of "I get into trouble for everything I do so why bother to try?" I saw it in Shaun and I saw it in the two kindergarten boys.

I inherited the class mid-year when their teacher quit. The class was very small, only two boys and three girls. One girl left so that made the class consist of only four students. They were all very competitive and three of the four were quite intelligent. The fourth child was really too young to be in the class and she struggled with even the simplest tasks. The two boys were constantly doing things that could - and frequently would - get them into trouble. I ended up devising a plan where they all started with several pennies at the beginning of the week. Each day they earned pennies for different things and lost pennies for other things. At the end of the week they were able to go shopping for little trinkets. I spent way more on the trinkets than I charged them (and they were playing with my money) but they had a great time doing it. I never had them lose every last penny because I wanted them to be able to take something home each week showing an accomplishment.

I didn't always handle them in the most effective manner but I know that I did try very hard to teach them to focus on positive behaviors. One child absolutely could not and would not sit still. He frequently fell out of his chair and usually said, "I'm ok." It was very hard to keep a straight face on some of those times.

LOL, when the year was over I knew that my calling in life was NOT teaching kindergarten students.

When I went to pick up Isaiah today I asked him how many sticks he had and he told me that he had one. I told him that was good – he still had a popsicle stick. His teacher gave me a strange look that I interpreted to mean “why” was I praising him for having only ONE stick out of FIVE. Obviously she didn’t get the message that dealing with Isaiah they need to focus more on his positive behavior and not the negative.

Granted, Isaiah has issues. And Isaiah can be difficult. But, Isaiah is a really sweet boy and doesn’t do things for meanness and then laugh about it. Sometimes he smiles when he’s getting into trouble but it’s usually because he doesn’t want you to be mad at him. Sometimes he does think what he’s just done is cute and is smiling at what he did. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the two instances apart. You just have to put out some extra effort to do so and that’s something that some people don’t seem to be able to do. Sometimes Isaiah says the kids were picking on him and his teachers don’t believe him. Sometimes it may have been hours earlier and he doesn’t realize that he can’t retaliate (then or at any other time) but that he should have told the teachers. Isaiah has no concept of time. Everything that happened in the past was “yesterday” and everything that will happen in the future is either “tomorrow” or “next week.” His teachers don’t get that connection which makes them not believe what Isaiah is saying and tell him he’s just telling stories – or nicely implying that he is lying to them. Isaiah doesn’t think he’s telling a lie.

He’s also not as subtle as other kids. This morning when Amy took him to school, all of the little boys in his class had to poke at him. He told Amy that they were picking on him but none of his teachers saw it. I told Amy that she needed to call the director and let her know that these kids were antagonizing Isaiah in her presence, so what was to stop them from doing it at other times when the teachers are not looking? Isaiah is an easy target (which is also another trait in children like him; Shaun had the same issues when he was growing up).

Thank God that Isaiah is still na├»ve enough to not know that he’s being singled out. I also see it in other areas that involve socialization. Isaiah invites most of the children (in his age group) from church to his birthday parties. I don’t think a return invitation has been extended to him by more than two of the other parents.

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