Monday, July 21, 2014

When Answers Are Not Definitions

We met with Lily's doctor and listened carefully to her report. Most of the information was not at all surprising, a little sad because now we now how hard she will have to work and how hard we will have to fight beside her. I have had time to process it all, and I have come away with this: we are already well on our way to providing what she needs and she is defined by her abilities and disabilities. Each of those things is a small part of what makes her Lily. Like every person she is complex and not easily defined by one word or label.

Once I stopped fighting things and asked myself  "If she were your student, what would you do?" This summer hasn't been perfect, but it has been so much better. I have broken things into small chunks for her. She has read almost everyday. We haven't kept up with math as well. I am going to focus more on that next month. She does best when she has 30 minutes of work and then a few minutes of relaxing time. Of course, I can't quit my job to do this and the school can't do this, but at least I have given her some time to recover from the last school year.

The doctor suggested that we model how to handle frustration and anxiety by talking out loud about how we are handling a situation. I had started doing that even before we met with the doctor and it has been very successful. She has been in quiet a few frustration situations this summer. She gets angry, goes away, comes back to apologize, and tells me what she can do next time. She hasn't been hiding under tables or walking away.

In large groups she still gets overwhelmed. She will tell me there are too many people, and I will ask her "What are you going to do?" She will choose to move away, come talk with me, find something to fidget with, take breathes... We have made sure to tell her what the situation will be like before we get there. We trouble shoot any worries we have and have her come up with ideas to handle them. We have tried very hard to warn her ahead of time when things might change.

I am dreading going back to school. The bottom line is this: she is still behind academically. The increased pressure and more intense schedule, will blow this cozy little bubble wide open. We will see if she can apply the strategies she's learned. It is so tempting to just pull her close and keep the rest of the world out, but that's not fair to her and it isn't fair to those few people who are lucky enough to see Lily for the wonderful girl she is. When she lets you in, it is a thing or beauty.

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