Thursday, February 26, 2009

My life with a 3-year old sociopath

Since I often discuss the problems I have with the 4-year old, people often assume that the younger brainiac is an angel. For the most part I, actually, feel like he is. He’s the sweetest most loving little boy…when daddy is around, apparently.

Perhaps my expectations of the behavior of a 3-year old child are a bit too low. In fact, perhaps my expectations of a 4-year old child are too low. My struggles with the local school system in regards to my older braniac have been well documented, so I won’t regurgitate that for the sake of expedience. But now I’m having issues with our local school system relating to the younger brainiac.

For those of you confused why I have my 3-year old enrolled in school already, I should give you a brief background. My son doesn’t talk. Ever. I realize some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what the problem with that is. I have no doubt most of you feel like that would be heavenly if your toddler didn’t speak. But for me, it’s a matter of concern. It causes a great deal of frustration because the boy knows what he wants but lacks the ability, or desire, to communicate his needs. Many well-intentioned people gave us lots of advice when he was a little younger. “Don’t worry, he’ll talk when he’s ready”. “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5”. “He doesn’t need to say anything, because his brother always answers for him”.

I didn’t want him to start life at a disadvantage of lagging behind in his language skills, so we decided to have him evaluated. We were told that he was significantly delayed in various areas of speech and that he was eligible for speech therapy through Central Texas Easter Seals. One of the benefit of being a foster/adoptive parent is that these services are free for him, so we saw no reason not to enroll him in the program. Admittedly, we’ve had a varying degree of success with the program. On his third birthday his Easter Seals benefits expired and he was elevated up the ladder to our local school system’s “Early Childhood Intervention” program. He went from having speech therapy twice a month to being enrolled in a local school program for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.

His speech has gotten, relatively, MUCH better over the last 4 months. In fact, on the way to Galveston last week, I heard him counting softly to himself all the way up to fifteen. Last night, at dinner, he was dancing around, acting like a buffoon, when I noticed he was singing along to the musak that was playing over the loud speaker…to a song I had never heard before, much less play for him. I’ve always thought that when the boy DID start talking it would be in complete sentences, and for this I’m thrilled.

So what’s the problem you ask? As with the older braniac, I’ve gotten some disturbing communication from the school system regarding the behavior of my child. I’ve always been a huge advocate of the public school system. I think, hands down, public schools are a better environment for children than private or home-schooling environments. You can disagree with me on that all you want, in fact, I would appreciate you challenging me on that. I feel like private schools teach towards a specific agenda. In other words, send your child to a parochial school, and they’re going to learn the churches agenda. And while, admittedly, not intimately familiar with the home-schooling environment, I understand that there’s a certain level of interaction with other children, but for the most part it’s a limited engagement with a very small group of children. I feel like the public school system throws a child into a greater mix of diverse student populations that are invaluable to a child’s learning experience. Not to mention that whole exposure to childhood illnesses thing!

All that said, I’m beginning to think there’s some inherent problems to the public school system. As I mentioned at the very start of this, either I’m disillusioned and my expectations of my child are way too low, or THEIR expectations of children are way too high.

Last week I got a phone call from one of the younger braniac’s teachers. She was calling to tell me they were having “behavioral” issues with him and that it had been going on for a while. I found it odd that they had been having behavioral issues “for a while” and asked why I hadn’t been notified earlier. I was told they were trying to work the issues out themselves, but it had reached a point where they felt they needed some parental intervention or assistance. She went through the laundry list of “behavioral problems” they were having with my child. It took all I had to keep from laughing out loud on the telephone. To reiterate their point, yesterday he came home with a note from his teachers and three triplicate forms of “incidents” that I had to sign and date.

”We have seen increasingly aggressive behaviors while at school. I would like to
have his behavior evaluated by our mental health division here to see if they
can help us find solutions that may help calm his aggression…”

What? HE’S THREE. HE’S NON-VERBAL. What is a “mental health professional” going to be able to get out of him? I CAN’T GET HIM TO TELL ME WHETHER HE WANTS JUICE OR MILK!

Curious to see what his aggressive behaviors were, I checked on the incident reports they sent:
• Oppositional or defiant behavior: Has to be told a limit more than twice. Running in the classroom. Running away.
• Aggressive Behavior: Kicking. Throwing objects. Hitting. Biting.
• Inappropriate use of classroom and playground equipment: Climbing on furniture.

Again, I would like to say, HE’S THREE! Have these people never met a 3-year old before? The ONLY thing on the list that concerned me was the biting, as we had crossed that bridge YEARS ago. He hasn’t bitten anyone, that I know of, since way before his 2nd birthday. This leads me to believe that if he’s biting now, it’s a learned behavior from his new environment.

A group learning environment is nothing new to my son. He’s been in daycare since he was 6-weeks old. I feel like what the school administrators fail to recognize with their Pre-K and even Pre-Pre-K is that the children aren’t familiar with all the new rules of the school when they first arrive. THIS is a learned behavior. Of course my 3-year old runs around a classroom, that’s what he’s been doing at his daycare ever since he learned to walk! Of course my child needs limits told more than twice. HE’S THREE! Of course my child is kicking, throwing, and hitting, and climbing on furniture, HE’S THREE.

Please. Tell me, am I the one that has the problem? Am I disillusioned about how I expect a 3-year old to act? If so, please give me some suggestions at how to address these behavior issues.

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Daddy Files said...

Oh God, this is one of my biggest fears.

I can't stand the need to diagnose every kid with some problem or another these days. "He doesn't pay attention. He's got ADD! Put him on meds stat!" How about he's just goofing off and not paying attention?? They're kids, that's what they do!

I would fight this. If your 3-year-old was displaying some erratic or bizarre behavior that could be a danger then fine, have him evaluated. But running around? Having to be told what to do more than once? Those are common, everyday occurrences for a 3-year-old (I'm guessing).

Tell them to blow it out their rear ends.

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(F)redddy said...

Not a bit!

johnmichael said...

Those all sound like normal three year old behavior. My brother's three year old climbs on everything that seems stable enough to climb on. He doesn't walk up to someone and kicks them purposely, but if you are pulling him away from an activity he wants to do, he will start to kick in an effort to shoo you away.

Angela said...

It sounds to me like they have pigeon holed your child already. The fact that he doesn't speak could lead them to believe in some way that he is autistic...add to that the opposition and defiance which is associated with autism spectrum disorders and to me it clues me in on their assessment already.
The problem that I have with their "issues" with your child is that it is very possible that they are being lazy and also NOT meeting his needs personally. Every child learns differently, and if they are too lazy to be proactive in finding out what his needs are or pick up on non-verbal cues in his communication...then they are the ones with the problem! If he is working on a project or doesn't understand something that the teacher is saying, how can he tell them? If he has a question or finds something interesting or amusing in what is being taught, and they aren't paying attention, how will that foster a love for school and for being involved with the class?
Sorry, it just makes me angry when teachers start throwing the words "opposition and defiance" around.

Having a child that can not speak or tell you what they want is very frustrating...and think about what it must feel like for them. To not be able to express their feelings in a verbal way or share things that are important to them. Children love to share what they are thinking, and when they are locked up inside, it is important for teachers and daycare providers to help find ways for them to express themselves.
My grand daughter has a speech disorder, and at this point she is not autistic. She may have speech ataxia though. She has to be evaluated for that. Right now they have just given a diagnosis of "speech disorder." To make matters worse, she doesn't provide all the proper clues as to what she wants or needs. She does have behavioral issues and gets very upset, but when I can figure out exactly what she needs or wants, she is the sweetest thing in the world. I don't excuse the behavior, but I do have an understanding of why she does it.

He is three years old, and even if he wasn't non-verbal I would still question the teachers ability to handle her students in a meaningful way.
Have you ever considered going into the class to sit in for the day?
As parents we are the advocates for our children, and when our children can not speak, we need to also be their mouthpiece.

Anonymous said...

From one father to another: My son did not speak until he was almost 4years old. He is 15 years old now and mostly well-adjusted. Do your son and yourself a favor and research "Asperberger's Syndrome." It is a well-documented condition. I strongly encourage you to take action now and not dismiss this as some kind of psychbabble bull#$^%. You will thank yourself later, and so will your son.

Anonymous said...

My son is 17 years old and deaf he doesnt speak. I remamber him at 3 years old . I thought I was going crazy he knew what he wanted but i didnt.We starting learning sign lang. maybe that can help you too

Anonymous said...

I think he needs a speech and language referral.