The Importance Of Knowing Your Child
Guest article: Jill Drum
At age one, my son would dump video cassettes out of their boxes for fun. In an attempt to get him to help clean up, I would ask him to hand me one or the other. If I picked up a Barney box, he would give me the Barney tape out of a mess of twenty! If I picked up a Pooh cassette, he would search until he found the corresponding Pooh box. Most of the cassettes had only words printed on them. I thought, my son is a genius! But by age three, when still not putting sentences together, he bit a child at preschool out of frustration because he had a hard time communicating. He was assigned a S.E.I.T. (Special Education Itinerant teacher) to act as a bodyguard, protecting the other students from my child.
Entering Kindergarten, after years of early intervention services, he was declassified. At Meet the Teacher night, his Kindergarten teacher wrote test results she had taken that week on the board.
There was a list of 100 sight words listed on the board. The data showed that most of the class could read about 60% or below.
One student read 99 out of the 100 words. When I opened the envelope, I saw it was my son. Inspired that this was a good omen, I mentioned it to the teacher at conferences later that year. Her response: “Don’t make too much of it; kids level off.” That spring, while planting in the school’s garden, a boy took my son’s flower. Not knowing how to react appropriately, he threw the potting soil at the student’s back who ran off with the flower.
That was my son’s first of many trips to the principal’s office for the next twelve years of school.
By second grade, things began to escalate. We needed help. We went the rounds of the psychologist, neurologist, social worker and more. We filled in all the forms. One doctor told us that our son’s diagnosis was the Colin Drum diagnosis because the way the columns tallied, he had checked in almost all–but not enough in any one column to determine how to treat his needs. We didn’t know what to do or where to turn. By now, my son had only one friend. I think the boy came over because we took them places. We were overjoyed for our son to have a playdate-we would have done anything.
From his earliest years, certain subjects became obsessions. The original was Thomas the Tank Engine. Then he moved on to the Solar System, and the Presidents filled his interest for a brief period. He spent most of his time with a significant interest in The Titanic. Eventually, film sparked his curiosity.
He began reading everything there was to know. He went back to pre-film days to discover how film started. We would search the library for dusty tapes of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy-tapes that hadn’t been taken out in decades. He would sit in his room for hours listening intently to understand how sound effects worked. He moved on to learn about each decade’s new inventions and advancements. He took us to the Edison museum viewing Kinetoscopes to further his education. He would scour each category of film to observe how they were created. When he entered the horror-film phase, many friends and family members raised an eyebrow and questioned our parenting allowing him to delve into this genre.
But we knew our son. We trusted what we saw and felt in our hearts. He was feeding his passion and without intentionally doing so, accruing those 10,000 hours of practice that make one proficient in an area.
School was still not going well, academically or socially. We tried every placement for him: general education class, inclusion class, and mainstream classrooms with a one-on-one aide. Nothing was successful.
And, there we were–back to the round of doctors again. When we mentioned the only one “friend” he had, the social worker advised us to not let him get on video games and isolate himself in his room alone. By eighth grade, his one friend disappeared.
Colin began sitting at lunch with some boys he had known from Cub Scouts years ago. Their passion was video games. To fit in, Colin started to play video games too. At the time, playing live with others while in the comfort of your own home went viral.
The advice of counselors was to limit the time your child spent on video games–probably a good idea. However, my child became more social and mainstream by entering this new realm.
In high school, he academically crashed and burned. He passed only two classes freshman year, and that one class was P.E.
The administration and guidance counselor said he would never graduate high school on time or receive a Regents diploma. They said we should forget about college. They sent us to a psychiatrist who labeled Colin with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of Autism. When I inquired how he knew this after 15 minutes, he said he knew this for almost 15 years–the entire time we had been searching for a diagnosis.
The psychiatrist replied he is an expert in this population. Fearful and upset, not knowing what this meant for my son, I asked will he be the 40-year- old man still living in his parents’ basement? He responded, most likely.
Fortunately, the Special Education department and the Psychologist at his high school saw what we saw. They knew Colin needed the correct placement to thrive. They discerned the creative talent and intelligence he had inside waiting to be tapped. They placed him in self-contained classes and nurtured his assets.
Colin went on to graduate high school on time with a Regents Diploma. Half the day, he even attended a BOCES technical school for two years in film-making which earned him six college credits.
He is now a junior in college with a major in film.
Yesterday, we had a group of college students here from one of his classes filming a commercial for a school assignment. Last week, at the age of 21, he went on Spring break. Cancun? Fort Lauderdale? No, Japan (video game capital of the world) with five friends he met at gaming conventions over the last ten years.
Were my husband and I nervous wrecks the whole time he was on the other side of the world? You bet, but we gave him our blessing to go with open arms because we know our son.
What will the future hold? No one knows, but one thing we know for sure, we have faith in our son.