The meeting started with a thud after I passed out the brochure, Educating the Bipolar Child. I jokingly stated, “Don’t worry, I don’t plan to read through the entire brochure, instead I’ll just highlight a few items.” From which the principal responded in a very serious tone of authority, “If I have anything to do with it, you will NOT be reading the entire brochure.”
Hmmm... feeling the love already.
After discussing my son’s diagnosis and how it impacts him at school. The principal, asked his staff, “So do any of you see these behaviors in this child at school?” One teacher chimed in, “Well he does like to cover his head and lay his head on his desk.” The principal responds, “Yes, but it isn’t much, right?” The teacher responds, “Actually it happens a lot.” The principal moved on without comment.
When I stated that my son needed extra help in math and writing, not just accommodations, I was once again met with resistance because, “His last year’s Star testing showed him to be in the normal range.” I pointed out that he has received all Ds and Fs for the last month in math, with the exception of an A on a test that he did with the study skills teacher’s assistance. In response, the principal asked his teachers if their grades were a true refection of my son’s abilities—everyone nodded, “yes”. But when pushed further, the math teacher admitted that without the accommodations he was receiving, he would be getting an F in his class, instead of the current passing grade of a C.
The english teacher also admitted that he struggled a lot when it came to writing. I then expressed my concern by pointing out that his sentences were incoherent on his most recent draft essay. The study skills teacher responded by agreeing that he did require a lot of her help. Which really meant she was writing part of his paper. I know this after reading his incoherent paper, the following day, I read through it again and it read entirely different. When I asked my son, “Did you write this?” He respond, “No, my study skills teacher did that.”
The same thing happens in math, he gets a lot of hand holding. Yes it helps him get a passing grade, but is he learning? How will he ever pass the high school exit exam if he is not learning these concepts now. It feels like they are more concerned with finding ways for him to pass the class instead of actually learning. Is this the best the school can do or am I expecting too much?
I then explained a list of stressors he’s experiencing at school that leads to emotional break downs at home, such as bullying, an inconsistent teacher, and sensory issues. Their answer to the bullying was that my son should learn to walk away whenever he is harassed. When I explained that he didn’t feel comfortable leaving the safety of his friends, to sit alone, the school psychologist chimed in and said, “That is what he needs to learn”. I asked, “But what if he can’t do it, what if it triggers too much anxiety (as it has in the past) what is your answer then?” She said, “I don’t have another answer.”
None of the other stressors were addressed, instead the principal stood up and said, “I appreciate that you have so many struggles with your son, but it appears that he is doing fine at school, I see him on campus and he looks happy, so the problems are only at home.” Then he gathered his things and walked out of the room.
This follows a week where my son was so overwhelmed over a math assignment that he started talking about wanting to end his life because he’ll never learn how to do it.
How do I help my son?