After all the warnings we heard from parents of older adoptees about how the school system fails our children, our meeting with K’s school principal, school psychologist, and homeroom teacher almost had me in tears of gratitude.
Last night, another complaint from a parent. K pushed their son because he was staring at her and had apparently done something to hurt her feelings earlier. DH and I worried the issue to death last night, taking comfort in the knowledge that this morning we would finally have our long awaited school meeting to discuss K’s behavior, primarily violence to other children and their belongings.
Of course I’ve already met with the teacher and even the principal to discuss the behavioral issues, but this was the first time we had a team meeting, along with the school psychologist to plan how to use all our resources to help K overcome the behavior that she so hates in herself.
The principal has already proven herself extremely dedicated to helping K. She began the meeting by talking about how K is doing extremely well academically, and she even threw around the work “gifted” at one point, the magic word that every parent longs to hear.
The psychologist was perfect. A former Ukrainian-Russian, she exhibited a keen knowledge of the issues facing children adopted from Ukrainian baby homes. In the space of an hour, the principal helped our “team” define the problem, and then map a plan of action. I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism in creating the plan, while expressing a real warmth and understanding towards K.
K’s teacher also told us that she is rarely disruptive during class anymore and that the crisis times are when her activities are less tightly controlled. In fact, K clearly thrives in a structured environment and loses control given too much freedom.
The current power plan we developed is that during breaks one of the volunteers who apparently inhabit our school will be tasked specifically with keeping tabs on K to ensure that a minor irritation doesn’t flare into a full scale shoving match, or worse. In addition, because K often finishes her schoolwork early, and then has “free” time while the rest of the class toils on, they decided that every day, for a period of 10-15 minutes before a recess break, someone will pull K and 2-3 of the better students out of class to play early. They will engage in a structured game which will also help her with socialization and to move into the break already involved in play with some of the children. The goals are several, both to help with the socialization process that is such a challenge for her, and also to give positive reinforcement, in terms of a “prize” to the children who finish their schoolwork a few minutes early. K will not be pulled each and every time, just on many of the occasions so that it doesn’t look as if this is being done specifically for, or “to”, her. The principal kept reinforcing that almost every step had to focus on positive reinforcement rather than punishment.
In terms of dealing with any violence that does occur, we again reiterated the importance of an immediate response such that it isn’t something that is lost in the fog of the rest of the day.
The meeting left me with an incredible “high”. First, it was amazing to hear everyone praising K. First and foremost for her apparent academic abilities and also for the strong efforts that they can see she’s making to improve. We all seem to be on the same page. Clearly K’s behavior is unacceptable, but all extolled the visible effort she makes on a daily basis to control herself.
Lastly, it was reassuring to hear from the school psychologist that K’s therapist seemed to be on the right track, in her opinion as an educational psychologist, as opposed to clinical. When asked by the principal whether it seemed reasonable that K had been with her therapist for more than a year and still needed such a high level of behavior modulation, the school psychologist adamantly supported K’s therapist, explaining that children who are adopted as toddlers need to work through a very long period of time that they had zero emotional development. She agreed with my explanation that adopted children’s emotional development only begins at the time of adoption, therefore a child adopted at 2 yo who is now 6 yo often only has the emotional development of a 4 yo. This info and the psychologist’s affirmation seemed to deeply impress both K’s teacher and the principal.
In 12 hours we went from being closer to hopeless about ever improving K’s behavior, to feeling proud of what she has accomplished so far and very hopeful about her future with such a supportive school administration. What an emotional roller coaster, this parenting thing is turning out to be!