Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changing Expectations

I was an A student. I made honour roll, I attended a private school in Montreal that required an entrance exam. 75 was a fail and if you had 85+ in the course going into exams, you were exempted from writing the final. I wrote 1 final (in Math) in my 2 years there, and I had an 83...I completed my Masters in 8 months. I've taken a number of courses since, and I'd go back to school in a heart beat.

I'm not bragging. I'm framing my background. I had one C+ in my life, and that was in 2nd year Stats. Since I had a B in first term, my overall mark was a B-.

And then we adopted my daughter. She's been diagnosed with ARND-Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder,  due to her birth mom's alcohol and crack use during pregnancy. My daughter doesn't have the visual facial clues, but she certainly has the aftermath. And since she started school, her mother has had to shift academic expectations, which has been a tougher lesson than expected.

My parents had very high academic expectations. My father could find the typos in an A+ paper (and did). I would have to explain where the other 8 marks went if I brought home a 92. I missed an academic scholarship in university by .2% because the prof chose to round down rather than up and my GPA was .2 too low for the scholarship cut off. I had visions of my daughter following in my academic path.

My daughter is smart. She's visual-if she sees something, she can do it. If she can find the pattern in things, she can do it. She makes Rainbow Loom creations by the dozen by watching YouTube videos. She has trouble processing auditory information and misses most of the instructions given verbally because by the time she has processed the instruction, she's forgotten the beginning. She has anxiety that is exasperated by stress, and trying to learn new things in a "loud" classroom is stressful. She was always the last kid out of the school. There was an inverse relationship between how cold it was outside, how much of a human popsicle her mother had become and how long it took her to get ready. After speaking with a FASD expert, I now understand that she can't process what to do if too many people are doing it at the same time so she waits. She was getting overwhelmed trying to remember what to do to get ready-put her lunchbag in her backpack, bring her homework, change her shoes etc. So now I go later and neither one of us are as stressed or cranky.

Our school is doing its best to help her and we've been blessed with good teachers, for the most part. The very nature of the learning environment is not conducive to my daughter's challenges. We often have a massive meltdown right after she gets home. She's held it together all day, and now she's in a safe place and it all comes out. She tries hard, and once she grasps a concept, she's okay, but it can take a LONG TIME for that to happen and when she forgets to bring home her homework, or write it down then I'm flying blind trying to help her.That happens often and she's just finished Grade 3.

How that translates is that her academic marks do not reflect her actual abilities and talents. She freezes on tests or rushes through them, making silly errors. Her report cards do not reflect her actual abilities, but some of the marks have had me biting my tongue because I have to keep reminding myself that she is doing her best, and deals with unbelievable challenges every day because of the damage to her brain that her birth mom inflicted on her. Just as you wouldn't yell at a blind child for not reading from a printed text held up to their eyes, I have to remember that in my daughter's case, with rare exceptions, it's not a won't it's a can't.

It's been a tough lesson for me, and I have to keep reminding myself that she is doing her best. They may not have been the marks that I would have received, but as she said to me one day last year, "Mommy, I'm not like you or Hermione (because we were in a Harry Potter phase)...I don't like school." We work together to help her understand, and she's doing her best.

On Mother's Day, she wrote a list of things she loved about me. "Helps me with my homework" was mentioned twice. It's a painful period for both of us, but it's making a difference, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

So the expectation is my problem to deal with, not hers. She's trying her best, and that's all that matters. If the school can't teach how she learns, then maybe the school should change how they teach...and I'll fill in the gaps in the meantime.

1 comment:

40andover said...

We have a child who learns differently. I have learned that it not about parental bragging rights -- which both of us provided to our parents -- but about the success of our children as they define success. A total paradigm shift.