Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Man Hits Middle School (Yes, another parent smack down)

I am afraid for Movie Man.
I am heartbroken for him.
I just don't know what to do.  I have most often advocated for him and intuitively believe much of what he is displaying behaviorally is systematic of other issues.  Hubs and I don't always agree on Movie Man's motivation or reasons for certain behaviors.  That causes some tension.
Well, Movie Man started middle school a few weeks ago and I wish I could report that all is calm in our house, that he is adjusted, happy, and learning.

But I can't.

He was sent to the principal for not stopping whatever he was doing after several warnings and cues from the teacher.  A very seasoned and tolerant teacher who gets it.

When Movie Man came through the front door after school, the very disjointed story of being sent to the principal spewed out of him before he made it to the living room.  

However it was unbearably frustrating because Movie Man is not very articulate when retelling a story.  It is hard for him.  Really, really hard.  So, his anxiety mounts as his father and I ask questions for clarity and our anxiety mounts as the questions go unanswered.  It's pretty ugly.

Thank goodness his LD teacher called within 30 minutes of the school day being over.  Hubs takes the call and LD teacher shares the story, shares some observations, shares he might be overmedicated, shares she did not know what else to do when Movie Man could not get unstuck and shut up.  Really.  What else could she do?  Changing the environment, the pace, any variable is best for getting someone unstuck.  She did the right thing by getting him out of the room.

So Hubs decides the best consequence is to write a letter of apology and try to get Movie Man to really figure out why he gets so stuck.  Great in theory and I supported this, but I knew Movie Man could not possibly articulate the why of it all. He truly was sorry.  But I don't think he really understands how disruptive his perseverations are.  He is not making the connection, the cause and effect of it all.

Anyway, Hubs sat with Movie Man and as patiently as possible tried to help Movie Man probe into the why of it, how to organize the letter of apology.  They got through it with Hubs scribing.  Movie Man was frustrated. He truly was clueless about the why.  He was even having trouble remembering the teacher warning him. Then Hubs gives the directive for Movie Man to rewrite the letter in his own handwriting and tweak it to make it even more Movie Man's voice.  

And that is when yet another battle of defiance broke out.  No TV until the letter is done.  Stalemate.  Hubs ups the ante by harping and nagging.  Movie Man digs in even more.  Hubs won't leave the room.  Movie Man won't move off the couch, pick up a pencil... nada.

I suggest Hubs just leave it. Walk away.  I say, "I trust Movie Man will do the honorable thing and get the letter rewritten."  I then say I am going upstairs to fold laundry and remind Movie Man not to turn on the TV.

As soon as Hubs and I both get our of Movie Man's space, the letter gets done.  Beautifully done.  
And even though that was a proud feel good moment that provided some parenting emotional relief, I still feel sick about what is ahead for my sweet Movie Man.

Is he only OCD and not AHD?  Is he also on the spectrum? Does he have a borderline personality?  

How the hell are we going to get him to adulthood?


  1. Have faith, he'll get through this, you'll get through this. Change is hard, it is really hard, so Movie Man had a bad day, got sent to the principal- which seemed to be more traumatic for you, than him. And what did he do when you tried to give him a consequence?- He was defiant.

    What parent of a teenager hasn't experienced a resistant, obstinate, defiant response, when disciplining a kid?

    And then he did what he was supposed to- beautifully.

    Give him a bit of time- very few things in the world is as hard as adjusting to middle school (perhaps parenting teenagers?)

    Good luck! You'll make it through!

  2. Thanks Teacherfish! I expected the defiance and that is why I suggested to hubs he leave the room and give the kiddo some space. I was very proud of him. My biggest worry is that he has more and more perseveration of thought and when he is in that mode, he truly is deaf and blind to warnings and social cues. That's what got him in trouble. I can deal with a trip to the principal. I can deal with defiance. I can even secretly celebrate both in certain situations.
    Your words are very comforting and I thank you!

  3. I definitely see some OCD in this episode, and combined with anxiety this can be really tough. Your calm response (love and logic style, perhaps?) let down the anxiety level and got the letter done.
    Middle school was hard on our family in many ways. I wish you luck and lots of virtual hugs.

  4. Here's an idea from one of my students- headphones. (Actually IPod thingies) My student claims when he gets weird thoughts, he can break the loop by listening to his IPod

    Me:"Yeah sure, little student, I am going to allow you to listen to your misogynist, foul-mouth rap music and subsequently break the school rules about personal electronic devices-and deal with all the other students who think they deserve the same privileges, because it helps you calm down?"

    Student: Yup

    Me: Ok- we can try it for a little while

    It worked. Student had his best year in four years last year. I have my fingers crossed for this year. Think Movie Man's teacher is as big of a sucker as me?

  5. Teacherfish! You are genius, not a sucker. This might work and his LD teacher is pretty open to all things that might work. Tell me more about how you structured this?
    I am so excited! Cannot wait to share this with my student teachers!


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.