I was moved recently as I read the “My Story” account in a local magazine of a mother who, after years of watching her son become steadily more miserable at school, finally took his hand and walked out of the school gates for the last time. For the past three years, she has seen a transformation take place as she has home-schooled him. This could (almost) have been my story.
It started when my son was only four and in nursery school. I was called in and told that there were some “problems” with him and that I should take him to an occupational therapist for an assessment, as amongst other things, he was unable to catch a ball. Dutifully, I complied. After a three-hour session, the OT told me that there were absolutely no concerns with his development other than a very slight case of low muscle tone which did not require any therapy. In fact, she told me, he was way ahead of where he needed to be in some respects. When I presented the report to the teacher, she shook her head in disbelief.
Some months later, I was called in again, to be told that she had now identified the problem. “It’s his eyes – he has absolutely no depth perception!” It was recommended that I take him to an opthalmologist for testing. Once again, I complied. After extensive testing, the ophthalmologist informed me that, aside from a slight farsightedness which did not require glasses, his eyesight was perfect. When I told him that the teacher was convinced that the child had no depth perception, he reacted with astonishment and insisted that I myself take an 11-point test to test depth perception. I scored 8. He then told me that my son had scored a full 11! Armed with these results, I went back to the teacher, who once again shook her head in disbelief.
The following year, when I was once again called in and told that I needed to take him to another OT for a second opinion as there was “definitely something wrong”, I dug my heels in and refused.
Throughout Grade R, then Grade 1 and Grade 2, I listened to constant complaints from teachers: he didn’t do his work, he didn’t pay attention, he was daydreaming….
In the second half of Grade 2, I became desperate. Not only was the teacher pulling her hair (and mine) out, but my son was desperately unhappy. He was weepy, frustrated and angry. He was being bullied by other children and teased mercilessly. He would tell me how the children called him weird and made fun of him. My heart ached for him.
Finally, at the end of his Grade 2 year, the teacher insisted that, in order to promote him to Grade 3, he would have to be assessed by an educational psychologist. Reluctantly, I made an appointment, fully convinced that I already knew the outcome and that I would be told he needed to be put on Ritalin. I was exactly right. I had also suspected that the IQ test he was given would reveal that he had a high IQ. Again, I was correct, but was stunned at just how high his IQ tested. I was told that he scored in the top 5% of human intelligence. Ritalin would help him concentrate, I was told, so that he could reach his full potential.
Having studied natural health, I was fully conversant with the side-effects of Ritalin, and politely told the psychologist that it would be a cold day in hell before I gave my son Ritalin (or Concerta, or anything remotely like it!) Her report to the school suggested that I refused to accept her diagnosis or recommendations. I did, however, agree to allow him to have therapy to “deal with the anger and frustration he was experiencing.”
At the beginning of this year, he began therapy (and Grade 3), and things went rapidly from bad to worse. Not only was he miserable at school and constantly teased and picked on by the other children and his teacher, but he became impossible to deal with at home as well. He would shout at us and accuse us of all kinds of things.
By the end of the first term, I had had enough! I demanded to see the psychologist and informed her in no uncertain terms that her “therapy” was doing far more harm than good. She suggested that I was to blame for not agreeing to medication, and tried to insist on a consultation with a neurologist so that he could tell me that this was the only option! I told her that we were discontinuing therapy and were considering homeschooling. This would be the biggest mistake I could ever make, she told me.
On the first day of the second term, I also took my son’s hand and walked finally and firmly out of the school gates.
Admittedly, in the past few months, there have been times when I wondered whether I am indeed “of right mind”, or whether I have completely lost it, but the smile on my son’s face tells a different story. He is happy again, and walks around singing like he used to when he was smaller. His school work too has improved dramatically, as he is being constantly challenged.
Some weeks ago, he crawled into bed beside me one morning, snuggled up to me and said: “Mom, thank-you so much for home-schooling me. It’s changed my whole life!” If I had any doubts, they were completely dispelled in that moment.