Acronyms R Us

So way back when we pulled PK from school and did all the testing and assessments, we found out that he’s not just “gifted.” He’s “2e.” Welcome to the world of kids-with-acronyms. “2e” (“twice exceptional”) is a euphemistic way of saying “your kid is super smart but he has, um, “issues.” For some folks the “issue” is another acronym: ADHD, OCD, ODD. In our case it’s good old-fashioned anxiety and depression, which don’t have acronyms (though ADHD still needs to be “ruled out”, so we don’t *totally* know), and apparently some kind of “sensory hypostimulability” or something like that.

Which means, in plain English, that PK likes banging on stuff and making noise and sticking his head out car windows on the freeway and other exciting! things. Educationally speaking, he’s smart. But he’s not so great in the classroom, what with the fidgeting and loud voice and constant interruptions and so forth. Not to mention when the anxiety kicks in and he gets shouty and aggressive. It would be so much easier if he were the weepy, cowering kind of anxious kid, because people feel sympathetic to weepy cowering. But alas, shouty aggression is actually pretty common in anxious kids, though people tend to misconstrue it as a Discipline Issue and get even more demanding and rigid. Which isn’t terribly helpful, let’s just say.

So my job has become figuring out how to academically challenge him while at the same time not totally freaking him out (but you can’t just cater to his freakouts because if you let someone with anxiety avoid the things that make them anxious that just reinforces the anxiety) and also learning how to tolerate the jiggling and interruptions and him climbing on the back of the couch while I try to explain math to him, or whatever. And teaching him about the distinction between how he feels (feelings are okay!) and how he acts (shouting at people is not okay!), while being empathetic to the shouting and trying to avoid situations that will push him to that point (but again, not avoiding them too much).

Because of all this, I have to admit drives me batshit when people say things like “you know your kid best!” and “you’re totally qualified to homeschool your own kid!” and “of course you can do it!” and other shit that makes it sound like it should be easy. THOSE PEOPLE CAN STFU. If PK were an easy kid, he’d still be in school. If teaching him were easy, the credentialed teachers (who by and large were super at their jobs) would have taken care of it and we wouldn’t be homeschooling.

Luckily, though PK is not easy school-wise, and despite the anxiety and occasional meltdowns, he is easy in other respects. He’s hyperverbal, he’s got a great sense of humor, he is shockingly self-aware by any standard, let alone for a kid his age. We have learned (are learning) to talk stuff through. I’ve learned to keep myself calm when he loses his shit, the husband is learning not to become enraged when PK is difficult, PK is learning to manage his anxiety (square breathing).

I do often wonder when and why parenting became such a high-stakes activity. Though otoh, I’ve known plenty of smart, sensitive kids who ended up dead, or with serious drug habits, or never really finishing college. So it’s not as if smart kids with Issues is a new invention, even if the alphabet soup and medications and educational accommodations and all the bureaucratic language that boils down to “if you can put a diagnosis on it, your insurance will cover treatment and/or you can generate the paperwork to get a school to take it into account” is.

Things I’ve found extremely helpful:

The Brainology course developed by Carol Dweck (she’s the psychologist whose work showed us that telling a kid “you’re smart!” undermines their confidence; instead, you should praise them for having “worked hard”, which sends the message that their intelligence and achievement is actually something they have control over). Honestly, I cannot too highly recommend that course: I did have to do a little prep with PK by warning him that “the animations are kinda cheesy, but the point is the content, which is excellent and research-based”, and he does indeed make fun of the online cartoon lessons–but he thinks *really hard* about what they’re teaching him and it’s already making an enormous difference (we’re in part three of the program). I’ve recommended it to those of his former teachers I’m still in touch with and everyone else I talk to about school stuff these days.

My overdeveloped research skills. I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles about anxiety, depression, ADHD, gifted kids, etc etc etc. It never ends.

SENG and GHF. God bless SENG for providing solid, research-based information about giftedness, parenting, and all the 2e stuff, and GHF for providing a support group of other parents who’ve been there, as well as more resources and links than you could possibly explore in a lifetime.

Family therapy. PK hates talk therapy and won’t go (the last time I took him he freaked out), but me and the husband go anyway, and talking about parenting stuff and getting advice has helped enormously.

Health insurance and the husband’s well-paying job, without which all this therapy and the coursework would be out of our financial reach. Thank god for Obamacare: I hope it means that more families with kids who need support can get the help we’ve been lucky enough to have access to.