Sunday, June 29, 2008

The New and Improved Douglass

These pictures don't show adequately the transformation in Douglass, but its there. In the first picture that is how he looked all the time 6 months ago, either angry or depressed or totally shut down. Then at the Challenge Academy he got some of his spirit back and he started to engage the world again. He is a transformed guy. He would always do chores if I nagged him enough, now he does what he is asked and follows through completely, but even more gratifying is that he sees what needs to be done without being asked and does it. A huge change.

Douglass because of his prenatal drug exposure and the history of severe seizures has some real cognitive challenges. He particularly struggles when it comes to more abstract stuff like higher math. But he is bound and determined to get his GED and he knows he needs to conquer the math, so yesterday, on a Saturday, he pestered me into finding the home school math books and he began to study. He has committed to at least 4 sessions a week, he is also working so doesn't have a lot of free time, and i think he will follow through on this. He was very receptive to my teaching him yesterday, something he had gotten extremely resistant to in the last two years of home school before he just dropped out.

One of the things that cheers me and lets me know that this is not all some sort of show on his part is that he and his sister immediately settled back into their intense sibling rivalry. He has also been genuine with his expressions of frustration and anger since he has been home. What is different is that the edge is gone. I am not afraid that he will explode or blow up into aggression. He has used words and gone off by himself when overwhelmed. He really seems to have finally internalized some of the self- regulation that we have all been trying to teach him for years.

On a humorous note, one of the nice things that has changed is that he does not have a comeback for everything and need to argue about everything and/or have the last word. This makes interacting with him so much more pleasant. So I asked him about this and he said that at the Academy if you answered back or argued with the sergeants you had to do military style push ups, 10 for every time you argued. He allowed as how he had to do 80 one time because he wouldn't shut up and just do what he was told. This apparently made an impression and he has learned to curb his tongue. :-)

So next week we explore adult education/literacy so he can get working on his GED and we will enroll him at the community college in some non-degree classes. He is working right now for a friend of ours but I want him to get out and get a "real" job with a boss who is not a friend of the family. I think he needs that accountability in the long term. And I am going to insist that he work towards at least testing for his driver's license. Just from a self-esteem point of view he needs to conquer that fear.

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