Friday, January 27, 2012

Behind the Behavior

Have you ever been at a playground, a classroom or a familial event where there's that "one kid" who seems to be a little over-aggressive, pushing other kids, knocking down another child's projects or hitting them directly out of context? And like me, have you immediately judged this behavior saying to yourself, "What a spoiled brat. That kid needs more discipline," or "What horrible parents. I'd knock some sense into that kid if he was mine."Yes, I'm guilty, guilty, guilty of such thoughts.

Well, we have this child. I've seen the judgement and condemnation in the eyes of other parents, my relatives (by blood and in-laws) as my son engages in these said behavior. As a father, I feel humiliated, embarrassed and horrified.

Don't get me wrong, I love my son unconditionally as does his mother. And by the age of two, we started to understand that our parental skills and techniques that seemed to work so well with our daughter were not working whatsoever with our son. He was not talking, he chose to run everywhere instead of walking and had more energy emanating from his body than a cadre of sugar-fed fifth graders. Our house had become the Land of Broken & Destroyed Toys. Even our then babysitter, a late fifty-something mother of four was so exhausted by the end of the day that she could only sit as he bounced around the house like a pinball.

We thought by placing him into the Near North Montessori toddler program would benefit and assist in getting him focused. That didn't turn out well. Within three months the 2 teachers spent more time with our son than with his 11 classmates. And that wasn't fair to him or the other children. So, they asked us to leave. Heartbroken, humiliated and anger. Why anger? Well, we were spending five figures in tuition and you'd think they'd invest some of that money on additional support for students like our son instead of asking us to leave (as a side note, I've now met four other parents who've been asked to leave also for similar reasons. For shame).

This was fourteen long months ago. It was a very dark time for me - I was coming to terms with my sons condition, wrestling with blaming our bloodlines, a possible prenatal or infant injury and still living in a strong state of denial. But something happened on the way to the forum - something that I didn't expect. And let's be clear folks, us fathers can be an exceptionally stubborn, non-emphatic and clueless bunch of fools. We can be told or witness an action or statement over and over again and it still won't stick. And in this context I'm guilty. So what happened? I woke up one day and had lost my job - laid off by an agency straight out of the island of misfit toys (okay, that was a broad and strong statement, there were some amazing people there. You know who you are - this blog entry will be coming soon). 

Again, I was laid off and was now taking my son every day to his Therapeutic Clinic Leep Forward and OT sessions at Kids In Sync. And that's when it happened. I realized my three year-old son had been living  in his own darkness, living in the only reality he knew where extreme physical activity was the only way he knew how to communicate and process his thoughts and reactions. As these amazing teachers and therapist watched, listened and engaged my son, I learned there was a sensitive, shy and beautiful young boy wanting to come out. And I was there, every day for three months learning how to be his father, a mentor (making many mistakes mind you, I am by no means in the running for Father of the Year) and a better person all around.

Okay so what's my point? That being laid off gave me that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in my son's development? No. Is it that private elementary schools such as Near North Montessori, that charges almost community college tuition rates and don't have support for kids with special needs available is unforgivable? Hmmm....maybe. Was it that I've come to grips with my son's challenges and will be spending my life as his father growing and learning with him? No, but that's a good one. My point is that I love my children more today and will love them more tomorrow and the next day after that. I am no different than any father or parent that I've met (or have yet to meet). My son just happens to have Sensory Processing Disorder.


  1. Thanks, Read and posted on Facebook Jan. 27, 2012. Joe Lake, Chicago

  2. Many lessons to be learned here! Can't wait to read your next post ;)

  3. My son has SPD and ur description sounds just like him. It is a daily challenge and I too get all the stares whilst out in public people just assume that he is wild and naughty. They do not see the funny quirky boy that he is. Every day is a challenge but we are learning to work with him. Very good book is out of sync child. It helped us start to understand how complex this disorder is.

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