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Is my son normal?


My son’s school wants him to be evaluated.

In school, when you touch your friend’s face, it’s inappropriate. When you bang a drawer open and closed, it is not called making music; it is called being disruptive. When you can’t sit still, and are more interested in telling your own stories than in listening to the teacher’s story, it is called a problem.

They think he is disturbed. They tell me he lives in a fantasy world.

Yet at home, when he brings his face close, and presses his nose into mine, I am charmed. When he snakes his hands up my sleeve, and strokes my arm, I lift him onto my lap and we trade stories. I marvel at his imagination, and easily enter into his world of strange people and far-off places, a world where mystery is embedded in every rock.

I call this creative.

At home, he opens and closes every drawer. He is constantly exploring. My husband calls this his grabby hands. He is fascinated by the way things work, and constantly questions us about how electricity works, how batteries make things run, and whether airplanes use gasoline.

At the dinner table, when he plays with his sister’s hair, and kicks her chair, we tell him that he has ants in his pants. Sometimes, he also knocks over his juice. We call this being five years old.

At the end of the kindergarten year, I receive a fat envelope with the school’s report. In their words, I see a different child. My heart calcifies, and each breath takes effort.

My son’s school wants him to be evaluated. Now every interaction is circumspect. I am besieged by doubts. I ask myself repeatedly “Is this normal?” “Is this normal?”

I remember the shirt that my great aunt once bought me, inscribed with the words “Normal is boring.” Have I corrupted my son with my own disregard for the ordinary? Perhaps I am also disturbed because I also delight in his stories. Perhaps we all are. Perhaps everyone in our family has fallen under a dangerous spell, bewitched by his charms.

I am not ready to see my son through outside eyes and to give him a label.

I want to believe in the truth of my own experiences with my son. Yet their request has broken the spell. My mouth is filled with a foreign, chemical taste. Their words overwhelm me. I am not ready to see my son through outside eyes.

Every part of me rebels against pursuing this evaluation. Crazy thoughts race through my head. I will protect my child from being labeled. I will home-school. I will give up my career, a career that is more calling than work.

Yet this boy belongs to the world. He leaves home easily, without a backward glance. He wants to take his place in school. He is much more than just his mother’s baby.

Except in school, he won’t sit still. He rocks his chair. He doesn’t keep his hands to himself. He has trouble making friends because not every child appreciates his unguarded affection. Most five year old boys don’t put their arm around their friend’s shoulders as they lead them off to play.

I wish that I could somehow create an alternative reality – a place where five-year-old boys could be free to be as playful and as wigglely as they choose. However, the one thing I have learned as a parent is that I can only create the world inside our home. Once my children leave our house, they must be prepared to encounter a different sort of world.

Without this evaluation, he will be an easy target for a teacher’s frustrations. He will always be considered obstinate, and unruly.

So I make these phone calls, searching for a professional who can distinguish between the antics of a gifted and fun-loving little boy, and a disturbed one. This research is my gift to him. I want to find someone whose own eyes have not dimmed from the magic of childhood. I want to find someone who will see him as much more than a behavior problem. Only then will I make an appointment.

Later this summer, he will sit before a stranger who will test him, and his every word will decide which box is checked. At the end of their meeting, he will be given another name, a name that will not be ours to choose.

I promise my son that in our home, this new name won’t apply. I won’t allow an evaluation to change the way I feel about my son. In our home, he will always respected for himself. I will continue to see his playfulness as joyfulness, and his gentle touch as love.

July 24, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 62

(62) Tiferet, December 25, 2012 9:49 PM

Who has the problem?

A woman from Beitar told us that her daughter was not doing well in school. She was at times late, didn't always have the things she needed out and ready to use and was considered a problem. (She was considered a problem). Her mother moved her to another school where they saw these things as challenges for the little girl and as things that she needs to work on.

(61) paula, September 13, 2010 3:49 PM

I feel the same

I just received a call from my 5 year old's teacher. He also can not sit still, disrupting the class, putting his hands on students, not listening. I begin to think that it's my fault. I allow him to be him and sometimes I shrug off the things that other parents might consider a no-no. He jumps off my couch like spider man, jumps on his bed, tickles and yells boo when I'm in the middle of something and I enjoy every minute of it because I do the same thing to him. Now, his constant energy and the very thing that I loved, his playfulness is backfiring on me.

(60) ana, August 9, 2010 10:14 PM

I didn't read anything because I dont have time now, but I remember a lot of these things being pretty normal compared to stuff kids did in my class. Everyone rocked in their chair and we had kids play soccer in the classroom and knock out tile walls...

(59) Anonymous, August 8, 2010 3:54 AM

Sounds like a great kid to me

Hello Mrs. Price, It sounds like you have a wonderful, sweet, affectionate little boy. Any professional that doesn't see this and doesn't make you feel GOOD about your child is probably wasting your time! If they tell you he has things to work on and needs such and such intervention, that's fine. But if they miss the fact that he is a great kid and don't always remind you and him of how wonderful you both are, you are in the wrong place. I definitely believe in getting kids different interventions (eg; maybe some sensory integration activities or some help working on his communication abilities so he asks kids if he wants to be hugged) but any therapist that loses sight of how fun, sweet and awesome your kid is, is not one you should be spending ANY time with. I LOVE the OTs that work with my child because they always tell me (and him) how awesome he is and they always mention and emphasize his strengths. This makes me feel empowered and makes me feel really good about the help I am giving my son. Good luck and keep us posted as to how he does; I strongly recommend Occupational therapy, a lot of the behaviors you are describing sound like sensory integration issues and not behavioral problems. i

(58) Lady Anne, August 6, 2010 1:27 PM

maybe a good thing

Boy! Does this all sound familiar. I was (ahem!) a very bright child, always getting into trouble of one sort of another out of pure boredom. I am slightly pre-baby boomer, but there were 50 children in my third grade class, so my teacher, understandably, simply didn't have the time or patience to deal with me. My parents took me to a private school where I tested well enough to be admitted on a full academic scholarship. There were about 10-15 children per class, and I thrived. Loved it! Absolutely loved it. Our middle daughter was cut from the same bolt of cloth, so to speak. By this time, the school system had changed, so that she was - even in elementary school - in one class for reading and another for math, and she also did well. By high school, she had out-paced what was available, and in a giant leap of faith, my husband and I allowed her to drop out of school and attend the the local Community College. She graduated with an AA degree when she would have been limping out of high school with a very spotty record. We have a friend whose son read at a third grade level when he was in kindergarten. Again, he was labeled a troublemaker and disruptive because he was bored silly. Allow your son to be tested - personality, IQ, etc,. - and then use this information for your OWN decisions. Who knows, the school may find the perfect slot for him, and if not, you can make more informed decisions for yourself - and for him. (And he sounds like a delightful kid! You should be proud of him!) Good luck!

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