Six years is a long time. I stayed home with my son for six years. The Michael Keaton film, “Mr. Mom” has taken on a whole new level of meaning to me. I will even admit to having a favorite flannel shirt that got a bit too much wear one winter. I dusted it off last winter when Atlanta was briefly transformed into an icy winter wonderland.
How does all this relate to Cloverleaf? As I said, six years is a long time. And as is the case for so many of us, it was not apparent overnight that our son was different. You acquire your experts one at a time. First there was a psychologist. Then there was an OT. Then there was another OT. Then there was a speech therapist. Then, finally, a psychiatrist, and another and another. Then there was another OT. There was an Institute. Really, we went to a full-blown institute.
The one constant was that all of those experts were expensive. It did not occur to me that we would spend all that money on all those experts and not see what was going on. So I spent most of my time in the sessions with my son. In ways, I needed the OT and speech therapy almost as much as my boy. More importantly, if you go to all of the OT sessions, then you learn how to do it in your home, or at the playground, or wherever you find yourself, and you come to learn just how well it can work.
So I’m an amateur OT. And to this day I get the most out of my son when we play. We play a lot: big, physical, silly play. When he is excited and moving he is much more willing to engage – which makes sense to me. When I’m having fun I’m not anxious or worried about looking silly. I’m just having fun.
I learned there is no single way to reach my son. Every expert helped, some more than others. Some are still with us to this day, others came into our lives only for a little while. But we found, over the course of years, that no one person or idea can solve the puzzle. At his best, our son thrived when we adopted as much as we could at the same time. Relying too much on a single person or a single idea seemed to back us into a corner.
At The Cloverleaf School, we have books, and teachers with very specialized degrees in special education. My son is pushed academically, and it has been remarkable how far he has come in just three months. Fractions. It turns out, he is a whiz at fractions. With Cloverleaf’s individualized attention, and unwillingness to pre-decide a child cannot do something because of his issues, there is so much more hope. I would rather see my son fail at something than never even try. I would rather struggle with homework sometimes, and succeed wildly other times, than never even try. What has been so surprising these past three months is how little failure there has been. Well, I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to get him to stop picking his nose. Sigh.
All things in moderation. What does that mean? Because we don’t rely on any one thing too much, we don’t have to rule anything out. We have books, and worksheets and tests. But we also have swings, crash pads, and a zip line. I know OT works for my son. And now I know that books can work for him too. We push our children….Otherwise, how will you ever know how far they can go? And, because we are willing to listen to others and accept that there are many ways to reach these children, we know that sometimes it really does help to get up from the desk, leave the classroom and play in a bodysock swing for ten minutes. Or maybe you just need to get on the zip line, fly free through the air for a few seconds and then crash into a pool filled with plastic balls.