Thursday, October 04, 2007

Peseverating and Threatening

Not threatening violence, so deep breath.

Yesterday Frankie was denied a "level up" interview at school because he was rude and obstinate in the morning. He tells us that the only reason he was rude was that he gets tired of smiling and being polite while he is being told that he has to be there to work on behaviors, when that is not true, and they are giving him work far below his level and he isn't learning.

We tried to talk to him. We tried to explain that in fact the achievement tests say that he is at fifth grade level. We understand that the work that he is doing feels baby-ish to him, but his academic progress has been so uneven there are holes that have to be filled in.

This information did not penetrate.

We told him that he could talk to the educational specialist at the agency who could review his achievement scores and talk to him and help him come up with plan. That also did not penetrate. He just kept repeating, "I'm not learning 10th grade material. I'm not going to be able to do 11th grade. I'm not learning anything and I am not going to be able to get a job."

Hubby told him that no matter where he went to school, he needed to do work starting where he was and work to where he needed to be.

We tried to tell him that though it is true that his severe behaviors are far in the past, there are behaviors or needs that keep him out of regular high school, LIKE WHAT HE IS DOING RIGHT NOW. You know, go on and on with a subject, not responding or seeming even to hear what other people say.

He said he was only frustrated because he wasn't learning and he does not get frustrated about other things, he doesn't have any behavioral issues and all the school does is work on behaviors and he isn't learning anything and if he isn't doing 10th grade work now he won't be able to do 11th grade work later.

He said he would do whatever he had to do to get an education. I said great, he could work more on things at home. He did not just have to learn at school.

He said he needed to do whatever he needed to do to get an education and learn, because if he didn't do 10th grade work now he would not be able to do 11th grade work next year. If he had to he would leave the permanency program, leave this foster home, and go to a foster home where he could go to a school where they would teach him.

Allow me to interrupt my narrative for two comments:
I hereby declare that any period which might have been considered a "honeymoon," although it is really "observation and assessment," is officially over.

It occurred to me every time he said that he could/should move to a different foster home that he was trying to push my buttons, get me as upset as he is. In his script I suspect that we either get upset and promise to do whatever we have to to keep him, or else yell at him for suggesting such that he might leave us. Ah, but Frankie, m'dear, you don't know who you are up against. We have been trained by manipulators far more subtle and skilled than you. I have managed not to be excited by professional princesses and RAD ragers. I have stayed calm while dealing with teenage girls (and the people gasp in amazement). I can handle you.

Meanwhile, back in the living room....

"I can you know. I am voluntary-ily in this program and I can leave and go to another foster home where I can go to school."

"You are right. You can. We would miss you."

"Because I am not learning anything at that school. All they care about is behavior and I am not a behavioral. Do you think that I spit on people and throw desks and hurt people?"

"No. Your issues are dealing with frustration and anger."

"I only get frustrated about school! I wouldn't get frustrated if they gave me work at my level. If I don't do 10th grade work I won't be able to do 11th grade work next year!"

Hubby says that he can review Frankie's scores to make certain that he is being given work at his level. Frankie says, "It is not at my level. I am in 10th grade! And I am not doing 10th grade work! If I don't do 10th grade work now, I won't be able to do 11th grade work next year! Maybe I should just go to a different program. I will leave this foster home if I have to to get to a school where I can learn."

I said, "I understand. Why don't you wait until the morning to decide what to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it is past the time you normally go to bed, and I know I am tired."

"I am not learning anything at that school..."

"Frankie! Listen sweetie. It is time to sleep. You can figure this out in the morning."

"I could just go to a different foster home."

"You could. I would miss you, but if you wanted to call your state worker and demand to be moved you could."

"I just want to learn. That school only works on behaviors and I don't have 'BEHAVIORS.' I don't throw desks or spit or hit people. I don't need to be somewhere for behaviors. I need to learn. If I don't learn 10th grade work now I won't be able to do 11th grade work next year."

"I understand. It is time to go to bed."

Like the writers of Groundhog Day, I wanted to give you enough of the conversation so that you could really understand. Unlike the those writers, I will stop now that I think you are saying, "Okay, I get it already." Suffice it to say that the conversation actually was much longer than what I have typed, but I have not left out anything that we said. We just said it many more times.

I did leave out the part where I considered telling him that if he wanted to give up WoW he could use the time to study and get himself to a different academic level. I decided not to for the obvious reasons.

There is also the problem that the school IS giving him work at his current level. The problem is that he knows so much and manages to "read" material at a higher level on his own, but he misses a great deal of the content. His vocabulary is spotty, his ability to speak grammatically is poor. Sometimes of it may have to do with the way he processes language, that he cannot remember to say "rogue" or to keep the various forms of words sorted out (e.g. "attracting/attractive, " "voluntary/voluntarily"). Some of it may be the language patterns he grew up with like "more better". Whatever it is, he does not have the vocabulary and language skills that an average sixth grader does.

And his math skills are also about fifth grade. I know that at the Treatment Center they had him working out of an Pre-Algebra book, but the testing shows that none of it stuck. It is frustrating to go from pre-algebra fifth grade math, but those are the concepts he needs to master.

And of course there is the issue that he does have behavioral problems. They are not problems with violence. They are not issues with a basic lack of respect for adults. However, there is an issue with frustration, perseverating, not listening when he is worked up.


He got up just before I left for school. He was cheerful and talking about WoW when I said goodbye.


  1. Groundhog day is putting it mildly.

    I bow down to your ability to remain calm, Yondalla.

  2. Wow, good job in handling that.

  3. Mrs Butter B11:15 AM

    First thing: Can you bottle your patience and sell it on ebay? Please? Because it would make great Christmas presents for everyone I know, starting with me myself and I!

    Second thing: The place I was thinking of? THe independent living center for non-independent livers? The Baddour Center in Senatobia, MS. Tel#: 662-562-8708. Fantastic. Don't know if it meets Frankie's needs (he may be too functional) but they may know of another great place.

    Third thing: As a former homeschool parent, I have to make this suggestion- why not invest in a few used Switched on Schoolhouse or other homeschool curriculae and allow Frankie to spend some time working on that? It may help his frustration, and most of the homeschool work comes with answer keys. If he is truly bored, or frustrated, it may help him to take responsibility for his own progress. Let him know that the school helps fix some behavioral issues, and that if he's concerned about learning more, he can work on that at home during his free time.

    I know it really boosted my girls' self-esteem to learn new things, even when the things they were learning weren't "necessary". (Indep't studies vs math/science/reading).

    Just some thoughts.

  4. Not teenage girls!! AHHH! The horror!!!

    I have these conversations with Bug and they drive me up a wall. I don't always handle it as patiently as you though.

    No suggestions, just that you have my sympathy.

  5. Anonymous1:16 PM

    I'm just curious here--did you say anything like, "So I hear you saying you're worried about not learning enough this year?" I'm just wondering if Frankie would hear this kind of reflective listening.


  6. But will he be able to do 11th grade work if he doesn't do 10th grade work now?!?!?! AUGH!

    We (okay, I) have been using the feedback method that Process suggested and it's been working great over here, and it's so simple. You just tell the child what they are saying, don't have to fix a thing! :-)



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