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The Impossible Child - Page 10

 

One of the children I wished he could get away from was a boy in his class named Jack. I didn't like Jack. He was loud and disruptive and annoying--and Evan was drawn to him like a pig to mud. Each morning, just as Evan was settling into some methodical Montessori-style activity, Jack would cavort by, chanting some nonsensical rap, tapping him on the head, knocking over his carefully arranged work. And Evan would be off in a flash. The two of them would bound around the classroom together, working each other into a frenzy that would usually get them both sent to time-out.

I was fighting my unfriendly feelings one afternoon as Jack stood in front of me in a new hooded sweatshirt. I dug deep to find something nice to say. "That's a great red jacket," I offered lamely. His mom, Terre, overheard me.

"Jack has just started treatment for sensory integration problems and we've discovered that he's very sensitive to noise," she explained. "He likes to wear jackets that he can pull up over his ears, even when he's inside."

I was stunned. I had dismissed Jack as a troublemaker, but now I could see that I had been wrong. He and Evan had the same fundamental problem. No wonder they couldn't resist each other.

Terre told me that Jack had been a difficult child from early on. As an infant, he didn't sleep, he couldn't breast-feed, he was restless, hyperactive, difficult to settle. From the first moment that he could crawl, he sought out small, enclosed spaces where he could hide. Even though she had raised two older children, Terre didn't know what to make of Jack's unusual behavior. Before she knew about sensory integrative dysfunction, she had gone to see a family therapist, who had recommended a behavior modification program to decrease Jack's "aggressive behavior." It hadn't worked (just like a sticker chart I'd designed for Evan hadn't worked). "I felt desperate," she said. "I didn't know what to do. I had this underlying fear that if we didn't do something, we were headed for medication."

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