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Thursday, February 10, 2005

The sins of the fathers...

... are too often visited upon the sons.

Those who remember this journal entry from the beginning of December will also remember that I promised to keep you informed of our collective progress.  To be painfully frank, there hasn't been much.

This morning at our request a concerned group (including the school principal, the school 'yo'etzet' [sort of a counselor/advocate], the school psychologist, Gilad's primary teacher, Zahava and I), met to discuss what we could do to get Gilad out of the academic hole he seems intent on digging for himself.

This wasn't some textbook case we were talking about... nor some theoretical problem.  This is my son... a little boy so very much like his father that throughout the description of his problems, I couldn't help feeling that I was a fly on the wall listening to a bunch of grownups speaking with my parents about me. 

However, the thing that pulled me off the wall and placed me back in the parent's seat was the unanimous optimism of everyone involved.

Opinions and observations were shared... notes were compared... and options were weighed.  I was extremely pleased with the enthusiasm and optimism that each of these professionals conveyed, and I didn't sense for a moment that anyone felt the problem couldn't be solved (or at least bypassed). 

As I drove to work after the meeting, I realized that there was an important difference between the meetings through which my parents surely suffered and the one I had just attended.  The difference was not in the love for the suffering child or the desire on the part of everyone for the child to succeed.  But rather the main difference lay in the current understanding of the underlying learning /attention problems that children like Gilad face.

I faced my academic demons almost entirely alone.  My teachers labeled me an 'underachiever' and my parents said (in frustration) that I was lazy.  They were both right, in a way.  But putting a label on the symptom did nothing to help identify a cure, or set me on the road to success.

The obstacles that blocked (and to some extent continue to block) my path may be entirely different from those that Gilad faces.  However, I came away from today's meeting with the feeling that everyone involved was committed to helping my frustrated little boy... and not just finding a suitable name for whatever is keeping him from succeeding.

As I said in December... I'll let you know how we do.


Posted by David Bogner on February 10, 2005 | Permalink


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hatzlacha rabbah.

Posted by: mochassid | Feb 10, 2005 4:52:52 PM

Your post is absolutely heartwarming! You already are a winner in this battle simply because you have a team that is intent on enabling your son to be a success...that, in my little opinion, is 9/10ths of the battle. When you have a team that focuses on the child...that uses creativity and inspiration to find what works best for a child who learns differently...then there is nothing but blue skies for you. That is not to say that the road will not be bumpy or that you may not even have to back up sometimes and turn around and go the other way. But you have a good roadmap and that can only mean you CAN and you WILL succeed! I am so very happy for all of you about this. It is so good to hear.

Posted by: Z | Feb 10, 2005 5:10:53 PM

If you can afford it, I think the best way forward is a good extra private tutor that is not part of the family. Get Gilad back up to speed; once you get behind you tend to switch off in class. Just going somewhere else to learn with someone else can be very helpful, as you are now going somewhere for the purpose of learning only. All the distractions of home and friends are gone. As you know my son has missed alot of school and he does not like doing homework, but if we send him to my Mom's place for an afternoon to get some catch-up work done he gets WAY more done than if we did the same thing at home. Giliad has also changed to a new school and a new country and this can be difficult. When I was in grade 1, we moved from the UK to Canada and it was a difficult adjusment and that was with the same language. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that you made aliya and you did it at the right age for you kids to adjust, but it is still an adjusment and it complicates things a bit more.

Posted by: Dave B. | Feb 10, 2005 5:27:45 PM

Reminds me of how my report cards always used to read...

"very bright, always has something to say, funny and entertaining... BUT.... she needs to learn to channel her energy and focus on her studies."

*snore* There was ALWAYS a "but". those teachers were such killjoys, I tells ya. But hey.. I turned out ok, YOU turned out ok... as will your son. Keep the faith and keep us in the loop.

Posted by: celestial blue | Feb 10, 2005 5:44:21 PM

Wow, we really should meet. Doctor Bean and I have similar problems with our eldest. Brilliant, but sometimes underacheiving. He does have ADHD, so we have a handle on the problem. The good doctor is a bit of a stickler about grades (how do you think an immigrant who arrived in fourth grade, speaking no English, got to be a Dr?), so he has taken our son under his wing. So far, so good. His latest report card was great. Perhaps, since you know exactly what your son is like, you can help him acheive. Maybe you can do for him some of the things that were done for you by the gifted program. A "homework helper" from outside the family (preferably a boy) can also help. We used to do that. We also give (monetary) rewards for good grades. Just some suggestions.........

Posted by: Ball-and-chain | Feb 10, 2005 5:57:45 PM

I don't have much to add to the thoughts of the lovely b&c. Make sure someone who is knowlegeable about these issues evaluates Gilad so that he gets the right diagnosis. The nice thing about ADHD (if that's what he has) is that if medicines are recommended, the effect is immediate -- usually in the first few days attention and ability to sit still are dramatically better.

Good luck.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 10, 2005 6:04:41 PM

I have a slightly different take on this. I think that it is great that you are being proactive here, but it seems to me that the goal is not to get Gilad into Harvard, but to give him the tools so that he can succeed after school as we all as during.

In the end he'll be out of school much longer than he was ever a student so anything you can do now to help him during that time frame will be of tremendous value.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 10, 2005 6:20:02 PM

i think that we spoke about this.. but if not.. an excellent book to read is "Smart.. but feeling dumb" by Harold Levenson, M.D. At the age of thiry-five, after much of the same "UNDERACHIEVING" labels heaped upon me.. ( and sufferring with what comes attached to that)I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and just knowing that explained so much about the difficulties I had growing up...As we are all not meant to process the same way, it is great that you will find a way for Gilad to "make his own way into the forest of understanding..." more power to you.

Posted by: shabtai | Feb 10, 2005 8:31:14 PM

MO Chassid... Thanks, much appreciated.

Z... I was heartbroken to visit your blog and hear your description of how your child has NOT gotten the necessary attention and help. Believe me, I know that we are so luck and so far ahead of the game with this wonderful group of capable people willing to do whatever is necessary to get Gilad on track.

DaveB... Gilad has a private tutor that works with him a couple of times a week. It is an older boy who Gilad looks up to (actually worships would be more correct). However this teenager can't singlehandedly give Gilad the ability to focus in class and become organized in his personal study habits. This young man is a good BandAid, but we need to check to see why the patient is bleeding in the first place.

As to the whole immigrant/language issue, Gilad was having the same issues in the US. He had his sister are both quite comfortable in both languages (not perfect yet, but very close) but all his teachers agree that the language is not the root of his troubles.

Celestial Blue... Saying I turned out OK is somewhat misleading. I consider myself a good person (and Gilad is also a good person), but I am 100% sure that I haven't come close to realizing my full potential because of all my learning/school issues. Who knows what I might have created/invented/discovered/written, etc. if I had been able to figure out a way around some of my 'issues'.

Ball & Chain... No 'H' in there. In fact, when we had Gili evaluated in the US, the educational psychologist said that he was not even ADD. At the time I didn't agree with him, but the only letters after my name are OTP (obstacle to peace). This time around Gilad will be evaluated again for a broad range of attention and neurological disorders, but this time his entire 'team' will be involved, and the results will be evaluated by the team, our pediatrician and a specialist at Sha'are Tzedek Hospital (at least this is the way it was explained to me today).

Doctor Bean... Back in December someone mentioned medication here in the comments section and I had a kneeejerk reaction (negative). However, if after he is evaluated there is a consensus that he would benefit from some sort of medication I think I would be willing to ask Gilad to try it. I just feel like kids are getting things like Ritalin (sp?) prescribed almost as frequently as antibiotics. As a layman, this scares me a bit.

Jack... Actually the goal IS to get Gilad into Harvard... or wherever/whatever he wants to do with his life. If we can give him the ability to become whatever he wants (rather than settling for whatever he can get) then I will consider this process a success. These 12+ years of education are the keys to most any door he will ever want to open. I'm not quite ready for him consider even one door locked.

Shabtai...Knowing (as I do) what you do for a living, I am doubly impressed by what you've just told me. I guess you understand that I want my kids to have a life full of choices, not compromises. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Posted by: David | Feb 10, 2005 8:58:53 PM

Jack... Actually the goal IS to get Gilad into Harvard... or wherever/whatever he wants to do with his life. If we can give him the ability to become whatever he wants (rather than settling for whatever he can get) then I will consider this process a success. These 12+ years of education are the keys to most any door he will ever want to open. I'm not quite ready for him consider even one door locked.

Agreed on most accounts. I think that it is great if you can get him into Harvard or whatever university he wants to go to. And I agree that these 12 years are a critical time. And I agree that you don't want him to have to settle or consider any doors barred.

You and Zahava have the only votes that count, but from my perspective, it is not where you go to school but where you end up.

I went to a state school and do not have an advanced degree. Although I do have a BA in Journalism, a Minor in Poli Sci and am 6 units short of a second BA, not that you asked. ;)

I bought a house in Los Angeles with no assistance and recouped my down payment in six months. My wife has spent the past four years at home taking care of the children because I have been able to support us all, G-d willing it will continue.

I was not a good student and it took me a while to kind of figure out how to make things work, but I did. So maybe I am guilty of looking at your description of Gilad's experience through my eyes.

In any case, I think that you and Zahava are doing everything you can do to help, a child can ask no more of a parent. You should be proud of yourself.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 11, 2005 12:57:49 AM

As a layman, this scares me a bit.That's completely understandable. A respect (call it fear, if you like) of the potential harm of medicine is fine. A negative predjudice that closes the door on a potentially helpful therapy simply limits Gilad's options. In the right cases, with responsible supervision, medicines can be very helpful. You'll get advice from the evaluating team and Zahava and you will make a good decision.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 11, 2005 1:14:58 AM

I find medication also very helpful as I wait for Photo Friday. Seroquel 25 mg usually does the trick.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 11, 2005 9:06:21 AM

Teachers are a terrific early-warning system for such problems, but they aren't doctors. I'm very uncomfortable with the anecdotal stories I've heard from friends about teachers who *diagnose* ADD, and even suggest drugs.

However, without going into details, medication for ADHD ... however late in life it's diagnosed ... can be a wonderful thing. The key is a very thorough diagnosis by a *medical* professional.

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Feb 11, 2005 12:56:49 PM

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