School has been out for a week. The last day of school was last Thursday. I now have a sophomore and a fifth grader.
Fourth grade started out rough for Olivia and her teachers and for me. While I was home in September recovering from surgery, I was 'invited' to attend two meetings to discuss Olivia and her lack of participation/cooperation in the mainstream classroom.
During one of these meetings, her teacher suggested, gently, of course, that perhaps Olivia is playing me.
I get it.
Olivia is very smart. She comes across as very competent and so when she flat out refuses to do something that a teacher or aide requests/requires her to do, it comes across as blatant defiance.
The thing is...Olivia has connection issues in her brain. She can desperately want to do something but if it isn't connecting, she simply can't do it. I've seen this myself at home when trying to help her with homework. She'll look at me when I tell her to do something and I can see that she's drawing a complete blank. She hears my words but they don't mean anything to her.
This is not a moment of playing me. It's just that the connections aren't being made.
We made some modifications to her schedule, put her in a class with a teacher who has a PhD in special education curriculum and about seven students in total and she made some major progress. There are a variety of ages in this class, from first grade to fifth. Olivia connected on a social level with the first grader. She grew so much that she actually played at recess with this child.
This reminds me of the fact that socially and emotionally, Olivia is about seven years old. She wants to connect with people but she doesn't know how.
Just this evening I lost my shit with her. And I shouldn't have. I apologized after but I had a moment where I looked at my eleven year old and I just wanted her to act like an eleven year old.
But she can't. Because the social and emotional part of her brain isn't eleven. It's seven and that's why she'd rather play with a first grader than the other fourth graders or even the fifth grader in her class. It's why she relates better to the fourth grade boys than she does to the fourth grade girls. The girls have all matured beyond Olivia and the boys. The boys are still silly little delinquents and enjoy bathroom humor that tickles Liv's funny bone.
She won a writing contest a few weeks ago. It was during Right to Read week at school. It was the second to last week of school. Because she's Olivia, no one expected her to read her short story to the rest of the students that school. But because she won the contest, the teacher who taught Olivia in second grade read the story to the student body while Olivia stood beside her. When she got home, Liv told me, "I was a totem pole while Mrs. P read my story." She was quite proud of her totem pole status. She was also very proud of her story. She stood beside me while I read it and then took it from me and handed it to her dad for him to read it. It was very creative and well written.
I am, obviously, very proud of her. She's come so far and while I know she has a long way to go, she's doing her best (most of the time)and that's all we can ask of her.