The Quiet Kid: When Your Child's Not Speaking In Class
My son, Jacob is very quiet and shy in nature. Typical little boy, loved his toy soldiers, asked lots of questions, and enjoyed his favorite characters whether it be in a movie, book, t.v. show, etc. There's an interesting incident with Jacob when he first started school. An experience that taught me more about my sons personality, a teachers perspective, and my patience.
It started on the first day of Kindergarten. First day of school, new atmosphere, new sounds, and new faces. Jacob's shyness was predictably obvious, but he never had any hesitation about being there. Slowly within the first few days or so I began to learn of Jacob's classmates, his teacher, and their activities from him. He always had much to report about what happened at school by the end of the day. He'd recall incidents that were funny to him, what he saw on the playground, and what they were learning about. So I felt relieved that my little guy had made a pretty good transition into school.
Until my first meeting with his teacher. All was well, in fact Jacob would be the first to finish his work a lot of times, and there were no behavioral problems. I then learned that his teacher was concerned about the fact that he wasn't talking at all. So we talked of Jacobs shyness and she seemed to feel a bit better about the situation knowing that he's very shy in nature, and how I explained that outside of school he has no problem speaking at all. I walked out of the meeting finding some humor in the fact that the concern she had for my son was ironically complete opposite of the boy we had at home. So I shrugged it off as him being shy, and figured he's at least speaking to one or two kids in class. After all, with his enthusiasm of descriptions of his classmates and overview of his days, how bad could it be?
A few weeks later into the school year, his teacher brings up the same concern. Again? I'm thinking, that should've passed by now, I was sure the level of comfort with school would've improved at this point. His teacher explained to me that he wasn't talking at all, even out on the playground to anybody. Apparently the one and only person he had spoken to was a lady at the afterschool daycare on campus. My level of concern rised a bit and I decided I had to do something. So I began conversations with Jacob about why he wasn't talking, and they always resulted in him pretty much quieting down with no real answer at all. My frustration grew, and it got to the point where our morning routine would include "Now, don't forget- make sure you talk in class today." I look back, and realize, there was no real impact in saying that at all, but more of my impatience speaking to him.
This became even more frustrating when his teacher decided to refer him to a school psychologist. At this point, she was more concerned because the school year was coming to a close. When Jacob was called to her desk for individual assessments, instead of answering "What number comes after 5?" like the rest of the kids, Jacob would simply point to the answer instead of verbalizing it. So she actually mentioned considering holding him back due to the fact that part of the requirement to move on from Kindergarten is that they can verbalize what they're learning, especially since in first grade they'll have to start reading out loud. I didn't agree with that aspect, but being that I wasn't able to get through to him the psychologist idea was at least an option. Thankfully, our one and only session was a big success. Jacob was his typical self and the psychologist had nothing to report to his teacher other than his shyness.
His teacher explained a field trip to the zoo that was planned and mentioned maybe it was a good idea if I came along. So I went. I'm assigned another little boy to chaparone along with Jacob, and we're sitting on the bus. I sat behind my son and his classmate. A while into the ride, the teacher gets up and starts handing out snacks asking each child if they wanted an apple or a banana. I'm staring out the window, not much in mind when I hear her reach my son and she says in a very slow and loud tone, "DO- YOU- WANT- AN AAAPLE OR BANAAANA?" I think the look on my face said it all, and I'm glad she wasn't looking at me. Then I realized, he may not be speaking, but he's not an idiot! It reminded me of how people resort to talking louder when speaking to someone who doesn't speak english, really? As if the volume of your voice is going trigger their brain to understand your words. But I also realized, thinking back on our conversations, how genuine she seemed about helping Jacob. I knew she had every good intention to get through to him and that was just a way of her trying. Automatically, I knew that her speaking to him in that manner didn't help the situation at all. Knowing my son, and personally how I would feel in his shoes I wouldn't want any attention being brought to me at all, let alone being talked to like I'm deaf.
The final breakthrough moment happened while we were sitting on the bus on the way to the zoo. I started to notice Jacob and his classmate chatting a little bit, and laughing. I didn't think too much of it, because again, I figured he was at least talking to one kid or two occasionally. Then one child over hears Jacob's voice and literally stands up just like a scene in a movie and while pointing at my son with astonishment and joy in his face as if he's found gold, says "LOOK- Jacob's TALKING!" The bus roared with excitement and there was some commotion with a few kids trying to get in Jacob's conversation as if he was some kind of celebrity. My heart dropped. It wasn't till this point that I realized he hadn't spoken one word at all most of his Kindergarten school year. I think what pulled my heartstrings most were his classmates reactions of relief, concern, and happiness through their voices. My son was all smiles from the rest of the ride through the whole day at the zoo.
I could finally exhale from all the pressure and frustration brought about by this whole situation. I learned that Jacob's personality is more complex than I think. He is very smart, very observant. I've learned through the years that he is more mature than I think he is. He's still a kid, but has a lot more in him than he likes people to perceive of him. I'm proud of the personality Jacob holds and I'm excited to see him growing more comforable in his skin everyday. He's fourteen years old now and graduating eighth grade this year. No problems in school, good grades (well, math is kind of a struggle) good set of friends, loves reading, keeps up with his chores, loves music, guitar, boxing with friends, and helps often with his little sister and brother. There are many frustrating incidences in parenting. I admit I'm not the most patient person, but I am proud to say that my patience has definitely grown. I appreciate every moment with my kids. The times where things were rough and difficult with them, like this incidence of Jacob not speaking at all in class, makes me appreciate them at their best so much more!