Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Bullied by the curriculum"...how learning differences affect our kid's hearts...

Those were his exact words.  Ben has been having a tough time, emotionally, lately.  With all the pedophilia going on in the news, he wondered if it was something he wasn't remembering.  I've been down that road.  You remember something, even if you don't remember the actual event.
Daddy and I have apologized for everything we did before we knew better.  Raising a child with such severe language discrepancies is tough.  It's different from regular stuff.  Things that work for most people don't work for your child because there is a bit of a disconnect between  behavior and intentions.  We had a lot of anger when Ben was young.  We thought he was being willful or oppositional.  I think those attitudes came about secondarily after trying to please us, and not being able to figure it out. 

"I'm sorry Ben."  I remember those years.  I never wanted to face them.  I hated who I was, looking back, but we thought he needed punishment to hit the straight and narrow.  Turns out, he was trying, but we (I) just didn't have the patience he needed to grow.  Within a few years, I found it.  Our relationship became the most important thing.

"Are you crying?  Listen, it's not your fault.  I was an ornery kid."

"It's not your fault, Ben.  You were the child.  It was our job to figure out what you needed.  I'm so sorry...when we knew better, we did better."

Then, he brings up a strange thing.  I am asking him how he "feels", because he is trying to intellectualize the discussion, and it's going nowhere.

"I don't know how I feel.  I shut off my feelings to survive in Middle School."

"What do you mean?  Why?  Were you punished?  Were you bullied?"

"Not by the other kids..."  Ben had developed a persona of an Englishman.  He spoke with a cockney accent at school.  It amazed me, and hurt, too, a little bit, that he seemed to be so insecure of himself.  But I had never seen him mistreated at school.  He was so different, so "artsy" that he seemed to have an air of impermeability about him. A coolness.  Some kids gave him a lot of respect for his guts, others just avoided him.

"Not by the teachers...I guess you could say I was bullied by the curriculum."

It was his inability to achieve success...no matter how hard he tried, that led to walling off his feelings in order to survive.  At school, he was stupid, a "retard", even though his IQ is far above average.  He walled off his feelings because of a learning difference that made him feel stupid.  I had no idea how hard it is on our kids.

Imagine going to work every day, and never having success, no matter how hard you tried.  You'd quit...try another job that fit your abilities more.  But kids can't quit school.  Every day you have to tell yourself you aren't stupid, that it's the school.  He hated school, wanted to blow up the place.  It was the source of his failure.  It was a job he couldn't leave.  In adults, stress can lead to severe health problems.  In children, it can lead to shutting off feelings in order to survive.  I think it was how he avoided suicide.

It's taken me a few years to catch up to it.  I had no idea how much Ben suffered for his Dyslexia. As an adult, he has more control regarding what he learns.  He is inspired by his dreams, and takes those classes that help fulfill it.  He is in Tech school, and enjoying success for the first time in his life.  He can't be alone.  How many other kids are suffering?


Happy Elf Mom said...

I love this post, because I made so many of the same mistakes. And because it's turning out ok after all. I posted this on facebook, too, I just loved it so much.

trainspotter said...

This is a fantastic post! I think way too many of us buy into the 'one size fits all' education formula and inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) force those that don't fit to feel broken.

A great test of this is to analyze the general attitude towards tech/trade schools versus (the gold standard) university. We assume that those who are not university bound are less intelligent. Then we pay the trade professionals less money than the university professionals because... why? We say it's because university costs more or U.grads have more skills (more party skills maybe)! Or maybe 'they' think that trades people are too dumb to do the math.

Is an auditory learner smarter than a visual learner or kinetic learner etc.? It sounds ridiculous when put that way but what's the message that's being sent here? A farmer has more value in a third world country than a psychologist... just saying (of course saying that could earn a person a diagnosis of some kind these days :)

It sucks that we can't be born with your insight but your son will have a better future because of what you've learned (and attempt to teach others)!

usethebrainsgodgiveyou said...

Thank You, Happy and Trains, for understanding. It just amazes me what brilliant people can fail to learn the way school teaches. Somehow, they survive.

Thanks, Happy Elf Mom, for putting me on your facebook. I've been too busy to get back to you, but was tickled.

And Trains, you've got that exactly right about the farmer and the psychiatrist. Honest to God, I've heard people with mental illness in third world countries are more apt to go into remission or heal than people from America. So much for American Psychiatry...

your son ben said...

ma, just came by to thank you for having that conversation with me. i needed it.
i don't know what relevance this has to the conversation, but i have with me a couple of songs that i feel accuratly describe the feelings i had in middle school before i shut them down.

this first song is a song by dave brubeck called "koto song", and it it (at least for me) describes what i felt like when i wanted to kill myself. altough, it would not have been so much a suicide as it woud have been more of a letting go. i used to look out the window in class at the trees outside the school to see how windy it was. and a part of me knew (or mabey hoped) that if i went up to the roof of the school on a windy day, that my soul would detach from my body and never return. no knives, guns, or other potentally lethal things involved. no jumping off the roof of the school either. just my soul floating off in the wind, leaving my body behind. any way, here is the song.

this next song describes how i felt when i wanted to blow up the place. thankfully, this one does not need such a long description.
another brick in the wall by pink floyd.


usethebrainsgodgiveyou said...

Wow, baby, thanks for opening up to me. They used to say "still waters run deep", and you prove the point.

That's a beautiful description of your feelings about your soul flying to freedom. I know you aren't alone. Just letting it out is going to help someone, they won't feel so alone. Daddy said if you kept in school, we might lose you. I never dreamed....

In regards to another brick in the wall. I'd heard that song but never understood it.The visuals were fantastic. It takes a creative type, which schools are dead set against, to make such an intense statement. May your creative soul thrive!

Thank you for taking the time to write. Please come back any time. You mean the world to me.

I love you more than sunshine.