Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Focus!

Pokemon Boy is struggling this year. His teachers, counselors and therapists use words like "genius" and "brilliant" when they talk about him. As such, he has coasted through school in years past. He could float into class, listen with half an ear and still get As and Bs.

This year, he is in the gifted program for math. He's in 4th grade. And even I (former math major) have trouble understanding his homework. Part of that is that I haven't touched geometry or algebra in over 30 years. But the concepts are hard. They require focus and his full attention.

Pokemon Boy has the ability to comprehend almost anything. But if you can't give something your full attention, you usually will not succeed 100% in that thing. That pretty much applies to life. It certainly applies to advanced math. Pokemon Boy struggles as much with staying focused as most of us struggled with calculus.

For the first time, he is in a class where he will have to listen, work to understand and struggle to get As. This is a painful adjustment for him so far. He has brought home grades that span from the 60s to 100s. Somehow, he made the A/B Honor Roll for the first semester. It has shaken his confidence to the core. He has told me he isn't smart enough to be in the gifted program. He thinks everyone else is coasting and smarter than him. He's embarrassed to tell his teacher that he's not getting everything the first time. It's heart breaking.

In 2006, when Pokemon Boy was first diagnosed with Tourette's, the psychiatrist told me that she had thought ADHD when he first bounced into the room. But after talking with him, she ruled that out and honed in on Tourette's.

His inability to stay focused is rather typical in that he can be obsessively focused on something he loves. If they could figure out how to present algebra in Pokemon terms, he'd be all over it. But if he doesn't totally love something, he is easily distracted. And by easily, I mean, he's usually mentally checked out within seconds.

It's not all defiance or poo-poo-ing subjects he doesn't like. He is more inside his head than anyone I know. He thinks. Way more than a 9 yr old needs to. As he told me recently, every thought leads to a new one. You stare at a wall and think, "I wonder if that's cinder block or cement...I wonder who figured out to make cinder blocks hollow....bricks are solid..." then you're off picturing the brick making scene in The Ten Commandments which leads to thinking about what it must be like to make costumes for Hollywood movies which jumps you over to picturing the big Hollywood sign which leads to you pondering which font those letters are which makes you think of a little alphabet train you had as a kid which makes you think how fun it would be to travel across the country in a train which makes you picture the train scene in White Christmas and how sleeper cars don't look like that any more.

That's just a real-time sample from my head (which tells you I watch too many movies). Pokemon Boy gets like that. I've watched it happen. He glazes over. I always say, "He's just not there." It's not so much that he's tuning out his surroundings. It's more that he's diving so deep into his thoughts, he can't hear the surroundings that are way up there in that fading light of the surface.

So the boy's confidence is shaken. Deeply. His teachers see it. I see it. I tell him he's smart enough. I tell him I know he can do it. We discuss techniques to help him focus. We limit screen time. And if this were his only stress, I think it would be easily overcome.

But add onto that his worry over mom not working. What it mom can't find a job? What if we lose the house? What if we have to move? How much of our stuff would we have to sell?

Then toss on to that pile all the worry about his dad. Poor dad. He's lonely. I miss him so he must miss me. I want to go live with dad for a while. But that will upset mom. And I'll miss Lil'Bro.

Et cetera ad nauseum.

Other than praying, I can't think of a thing to do to remove the pile of stress. To build up his confidence. To help him enjoy the advanced classes.

Other than praying. I say that like that's nothing. I know it's something. It's more powerful than any physical thing I could say or do. But this imperfect physical being wants to DO something. I want to take an action to solve my son's problems. I want to jump into my Wonder Woman suit and save his world.

Well, his teacher is going to confer with her colleagues to see if they have suggestions. I will probably make an appointment to get Pokemon Boy reevaluated. It's been a while since he's seen a psychiatrist. I'll work with his teachers, school counselor and play therapist.

And I'll pray.

I will never stop praying.

6 comments:

C. Beth said...

I will pray too.

Just the other day I was listening to this podcast. (You can listen at the top left of the page.) It's about ADHD and the brain's reward system, and explains why kids with ADHD can focus for hours and hours on something really stimulating but have trouble focusing at school. Good stuff.

telecastertom said...

And I will never stop praying too, (it's Denise by the way)

Jane said...

Well....I have a zillion thoughts on this one. I'd need to call you to go in to detail :))

I've been through similar things with Max over the years, both emotionally and scholastically. Stress can play a huge factor. Especially if you're a kid who thinks A LOT and worries about things. My experience with Max is that he's super connected to changes. Stay on top of things with his teachers. Pray. But also know that some of this is stuff that only Pokemon boy can process and grow from. Our job as mothers is to do the very best we can every day and to be there to help support them. Oh yeah...getting another evaluation sounds like you're on the right path. A lot of changing goes on when they approach 9 and new testing will probably give you a clearer picture.

Kendra said...

No one ever told us all the challenges we'd face as parents, yes? It's hard. I'm with you. Praying there, too. We're having a good but HARD year with Vaughn #1, too. Right there with you.

Stacy said...

He's learning algebra in ELEMENTARY?! That's an accomplishment in itself.

Hope he figures out a study method that works for him.

Tucker Hart said...

I'm so sorry that Pokemon Boy is going through all of that. As you know, I had Tourette's AND ADD as well (although neither were diagnosed until much MUCH later), and it was freaky to hear that "one thought leads to another" thing because I'm totally that way myself (Jeff's always fascinated by my thought process and how I get from point A to point F). I also obsessively focus (i.e. completely tune out the world around me) on certain things and am unable to focus on others.

So, I feel his pain. It kinda makes me feel good to know there's someone out there who's like me... so maybe it'll make him feel better too.