The Changes We See

Matt’s transformation continues at warp speed.  Maybe transformation isn’t the right word.  Perhaps it’s more of a metamorphosis, which is in fact a transformation of sorts but this sounds better.

Now that we’re into the month of November he has a full 6 weeks under his belt at WPM.  Has the novelty worn off?  Not at all.  If anything, as each day comes he looks more forward to going back to the school of his dreams.

He has settled in better than I could have imagined.  Hopefully with report cards coming out in a couple of weeks, academically, he’s just as settled.  The first mark came home this week and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  Matthew attends a regular classroom for social studies.  Sometimes there is a TA and sometimes not depending on the schedule.  Matt hasn’t voiced any issues so we’re just going with the flow to see what’s happening.  The test in-class assignment (as written on his paper) came home with a 40/53 mark.  For those who have to convert to a “real” mark like I did, that’s 75.5%.  I think what had me most excited about this was A) he did this independently, B) it was done in a mainstream class, and C) he was happy about his mark.  It showed us that he can get the information from his head onto the paper.

Looking over the test in-class assignment I noticed where he got most confused.  A section of the assignment had a list of vocabulary words on the left-hand side of the page and a list of definitions on the right.  He had to match the word to the definition.  I suspect it was a little overwhelming for his brain to try to decipher it all.  Next time we’ll work with him on crossing off the words he uses so he won’t get confused and use them again.  A little trick that he wasn’t shown (by us, anyway) that could have simplified it for him a bit.  A lot of information presented on one page can be a bit much for him to digest in one sitting.  Two or three wouldn’t be too bad but the ten or twelve that were listed was a bit more than he’d have ever been used to.  Regardless, we were so proud of him.  It was a mark that he was proud of, a mark that his teacher was proud of (“Excellent job Matthew” was written on the top of the paper) and a great start to his academic life at his new school.

Socially, he’s definitely gone from a caterpillar to a butterfly.  He has spread his wings in so many ways.  The boy who chose to remain within the 4 walls of the learning centre at his previous school is now out around the school doing what he should be doing:  hanging out with the kids.  More days than not he’ll venture out of the school at lunchtime down to the local pizza shop.  A couple of weeks ago he mentioned this to me and I recall a sudden ping of anxiety hit me.  He hasn’t been asking for money, he’s been taking his lunch with him, how is he going down to the pizza shop for lunch?  So I asked him.  He’s been taking his lunch down to the pizza shop and having it there.  Oh, I see.  ~Gulp~ Ok, how do I approach this one?  So I asked him if he was buying his drink at the pizza shop.  “No, I have my drink with me.  I just go in, sit down with everyone and eat me lunch.” ~Gulp~  A little balloon appears above my head.  All I can envision is Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory going into The Cheesecake Factory with his lunch bag, opening it up, setting his lunch before him and hoeing into it.  Time for a little social etiquette lesson and business life lesson all at the same time.

I told Matthew that we don’t mind him going down with the gang to  have lunch at the pizza shop.  We’re pleased that he feels comfortable enough to go.  However, I had to explain to him that the owners of the restaurant may not be as pleased if he continues going in to have a lunch that he brought from home.  I told him that he needs to understand that the pizza shop workers may some day tell him that he can’t be there without buying his lunch.  As I suspected he got a little bit bent out of shape.  “They can’t tell me where I can and can’t eat my lunch.  It’s a free country, I can eat lunch wherever I want and I’m only there to eat with my friends.”  Mental moment in that little balloon above my head again now shows Matthew reciting this statement to a restaurant employee in a very matter-of-fact way.  ~Gulp~  So I continued telling him that the pizza shop is a business and as a business they need/want to make money.  If everyone from school brought their lunch and just took it down to the pizza shop to eat it, they wouldn’t sell any pizza and then they wouldn’t make any money and then they’d have to close.  A restaurant can ask you to leave if you don’t make a purchase (puzzled look comes across his face) … buy something to eat (puzzled look disappears).  He seemed to get where I was coming from but stated that until such time he would continue on as he had been and see what happens.  Ok bud, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Just picturing it all was so, …well, …Sheldon.  I love my boy.  Since then he has gone in to eat lunch his way and also buy lunch.  So far so good.  Oh to be a fly on the wall.

Hearing him say toward the end of a long weekend that he can’t wait for Monday to come so he can get back to school, quickly followed by “When did you ever think you’d hear me say that Mom?” is music to my ears.  It’s all been so foreign to us, but in a good way.

Yesterday driving home I heard the first negative but it quickly ended up being a positive.  I t was a beautiful day and I said that I would rather have a whole in my head than go back to work.  Matt told me that he said the same thing about having to do work through the day.  I remarked that he must be talking about doing math.  I almost drove off the road with his response.  “Oh no, Mom, I love math this year, it was English.”  You what math?? Love math??  Who are you and what did you do with Matthew??  Holy jumpins’ I can’t believe he just said that.

Having him come home and talk about his day, talk about the kids and the teachers and have a smile on his face doing it is a welcomed treat.  He doesn’t get as frustrated talking about school and lights up when someone asks him how he’s getting along.  There are just no words to adequately explain what this all means.  He’s more settled and relaxed, we’re finding a big difference at home (well, other than the typical teenage attitude which is a post in itself for another day), and those closest to us see the happy-go-luck Matt reappearing.

I could take another hour rambling on about how wrong this all is – not the fact that he’s so happy, but the fact that two educational institutes within miles of each other on opposite sides of the same town can deliver such opposite experiences to our kids.  They are both governed by the same board.  They both have the same resources, they both follow the same curriculum.  So where is the difference?  The only difference is the educators and the way the programs and resources are delivered.  That’s it.  Matthew is teachable.  Matthew craves information.  Matthew wants to learn.  It was determined many years ago that Matthew learns differently than the majority.  Conventional teaching methods don’t tap into his potential.  We can’t change that.  We can’t alter the way his brain has been wired to accept and retain information.  So what has to change?  The way the information is being delivered.  And it was Matthew’s grade 4 teacher who first showed us that it can be done.  Mr. M. was the first to tap into Matt and teach him the way he learned.  It just takes a little time and patience and a lot of dedication.  Since Matt’s grade 4 year my favourite quote regarding education has been:

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn. ~Ignacio Estrada

Until next time…

About angeloftheisland

Welcome to An Angel’s Island. I’m Tracey (aka angeloftheisland). I’m also Mom to 19 year old Matthew who constantly keeps me on my toes. He’s our “special” boy who shows us daily how he deals with the world of ADHD, a Nonverbal Learning Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s my hero. Marcus is 8 and reminds me everyday that he’s in no way going to make the school years boring for his Dad and me!! I’m also wife to Mike for 25 years now. Mike is my best friend and soul-mate and he has showed me over the years, that yes – dreams do come true. Our life may not be the most exciting but there’s always something going on. Welcome to our Happy Place, newly renamed Hilliard's Happy Hideaway. I hope you enjoy what I’ve shared about our family.
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