I thought it much easier to write this all down here than DM everyone, or send any more lengthy voice notes! You may already know by now that Oli has been feeling a lot of anxiety at school – but we’ve uncovered why he’s been feeling this anxiety now.
At the end of last year when they placed all the prospective Grade 1’s into their classes, I wasn’t happy. Oli was the only one from a group of 15 plus children that didn’t have a friend from his Pre-Primary in his class. The one class had 6 of them together. I felt sorry for my little guy that he would be in a new and unfamiliar environment, all by himself, but, he did have the teacher I would have chosen in a heartbeat from what I’d heard from other parents who had had their kids in her class. Now, more than ever, I’m grateful he was placed with her, let me tell you why…
At the end of Term 2 Oli’s teacher mentioned to me she’d like to chat to us about Oli and some recommendations she has. She mentioned this at the Parent’s Evening and I sat with this swirling in my head the whole holiday. What did she mean? Fast forward to the beginning of Term 3 and a conversation I had with her, suggesting we take Oli for a Global Assessment with an Educational Psychologist. His anxiety was an issue, and it was time to get to the root cause. I was given some recommendations of Educational Psychologists which I looked up on LinkedIn and quickly struck them off my list. The one looked possibly close to death, the other, someone I didn’t think Oli would feel comfortable with. Thankfully, my sister-in-law had been through this rodeo and suggested the most phenomenal psychologist.
I had an initial session with the psychologist, and then Oli would go on to be tested over three split sessions. Then came the feedback session. Unfortunately, my husband would be delayed on business out of the country, so I had to go alone. Hearing criticism of your child, in any form, is not easy. As a mother it’s innate in me to protect them, and anything said about them may as well for all good intended purposes be a reflection on me. Mama Bear, you know? Cue the tears. So, so many tears. I think I cried all the way home from the practice in Bryanston that day. As a mother I also questioned myself – had I not done enough to prevent this, had I done something wrong that had caused it (the list goes on). The long and the short of it is that our sweet Oli pop has Auditory Processing Disorder – which accounts for so much. His speech delay (when there was no other medical reason for it), his anxiety in testing situations and excelling at anything that didn’t require an auditory element or cue. Basically, with this Processing Disorder, he also has a slow processing speed, so take for example, this scenario in the classroom: the teacher dictates spelling for testing – she’s on the third word and Oli is still processing the first word. His teacher had noted that he often raised his hand and pleaded to ‘wait for me’. It’s not that he’s not a bright, or capable student, he simply needs a little bit of extra time. Anything with a time pressure immediately sets off his anxiety because he knows he ‘can’t keep up’. The two psychologists I saw also suggested he go for an EEG because he seemed to show erratic working memory (which could have also meant he was bored by whatever part of the test he was on) – and for that we needed to take him to a Paediatric Neurologist. ‘Remedial’ was the next word thrown into the conversation. That one hit me like a sucker punch, I won’t lie. Oli is not a clear remedial case, which is why I never considered this outcome. The entire time I listened to their findings and recommendations all I could think was how I was going to tell Oli, and then how I was going to ensure my child knew he was made just the way God intended him to be, and that he is still a phenomenal child. I don’t need a test to tell me that, I know my child is. Oli has crept into so many hearts, and everyone who knows him, will attest to this.
Getting an appointment with the Paediatric Neurologist was not easy. They are few and far between with waiting lists of more than 6 months. I didn’t have 6 months. If we need to move Oli to a new remedial environment, I want to do it as soon as possible, ideally, January to give him all the help and support he needs. While on hold with the receptionist however, a cancellation for the very next day came through and we grabbed it. Watching Oli hooked up to so many small metal discs and electrodes for his EEG I prayed silently that they wouldn’t find anything. He sat, statue-still, for 20 minutes, while I watched on. And they didn’t. No epilepsy, no ADD, no ADHD. Everything appeared and presented as ‘normal’. The neurologist was so lovely, kind and patient, and suggested we trial Oli on some medication for a month to give him the best chance of being as attentive as possible during situations when he feels anxiety (i.e. Monday-Friday in the classroom). Oli’s teacher has been monitoring him since, and today we go back to the neurologists for a check up and a decision on how to move forward.
So, what’s the plan? My own anxiety has been through the roof since his diagnosis and all the while we’ve waited to see if the GDE will transfer him to our school of choice for next year. There was no straight application process, it had to be done between his current school and the GDE. Stacks of paperwork, reports from all the specialists involved, and examples of school work. Every day I check and recheck my emails to see if there’s any email or form of update. It turns out there was absolutely no need for me to be so anxious over chatting to Oli about the findings, and the plan going forward. Dyl and I calmly chatted to him and he was so mature about everything (I don’t know why that surprised me, Oli is probably more level-headed than I am). His reaction really hit home for me, and his sigh of pure relief was palpable – ‘Phew, now I don’t have to try keep up anymore!’. All the specialists we’ve spoken to have said remediation in Oli’s case will be possibly only for a year or two before he will be mainstreamed again, but that he needs a smaller class environment. They (the specialists collectively speaking) all remarked how lucky we were having Oli placed with his particular teacher, as in a class of 37, any other teacher who may have been slightly less experienced or not as in-tune with a child (my child in particular) might not have picked this up and come Grade 4 the poor child would have floundered. I’m a firm believer in that there’s a reason for everything, and this was why Oli was meant to be with his teacher this year.
I know his teacher will never see this, so I will send her this:
Mrs S., We’ll forever be grateful our Oli had you. For your kindness, patience and care. For making him feel as comfortable as you could once you had figured out what worked best for him. For accommodating his needs when you had 36 other children to worry about too. Thank you. Thank you for being the teacher he needed.
To everyone that’s messaged, checked-in and sent love – thank you, it means so much to us all. Just yesterday we got the news that Oli has been given a place in our school of choice from January 2020 and it feels like a weight has been lifted, and so many prayers have been answered.