An E-Mail Correspondence Following a Consultation
by Arno Zucknick
Dear Mr Zucknick,
you might remember me, I attended one of your seminars and had addressed you about my son, who at the time was all into number plates. He soon knew all of them by heart and the topic was then played out for him. It did stay with him, but the thrill was somewhat gone, so he moved on to a new project, which was the flags and banners of the world. Next came football and that is where it is at now. He is now 5;0 years old and reads the sports section in the paper every morning.
We tried to have him tested at the Children’s Centre but it was a complete fiasco, not because of us but because the staff there were totally incompetent, which I do not want to go into here. I then consulted with a school psychologist and today we had our appointment there. Our son usually needs quite a while to open up to another person, but it went OK.
The test he completed only partially, we have two more appointments. However, the psychologist immediately proposed that my son would be seriously bored in 1st and even 2nd form. The only thing he is not yet proficient in is cursive script. He has come up with his own writing style using print style letters and numbers.
She strongly advised against him attending a “regular” school, a Montessori School would be advisable, but the local Montessori School will not be able to accept him before next year. In case we were to decide in favour of enrolment at the regular primary school, she recommended that he be given private tutoring and that we speak with the teachers. Our son seemed to be an extreme case, she said. My own impression was too: if he does not like what is happening in school, he will simply pack his things and leave.
Now I am all confused and do not know what to do: keep him out of school, possibly organising private tutoring to teach him cursive script and then have him enrol straight into a higher form, but then seeing him not being taken seriously there, or have him enrol at a school in a different town with a 2 hour commute every day or even moving there. I think, none of us would really want that.
I would greatly appreciate if you could give me some advice once more.
Dear Ms …,
how are you? I do remember you and what you have told me about your son very well. From what you have written about the latest developments now, I would agree with the psychologist. Your son would most probably feel quite underchallenged in a regular primary school. Yet, there presently does not seem to be a viable alternative, since – as you are saying – the Montessori School has no vacancies this year and the city is too far away.
Therefore the question seems to be to what extend your son can be nurtured adequately with regard to his talents at a regular school, and how possibly arising frustrations can be dealt with. It is now important that you be present on two levels.
For one thing, you should keep close contact to the school and to the prospective school teachers to make sure he receives the best possible individual attention and that he perhaps gets to skip from 1st form to 2nd form at the end of the first semester. Meanwhile the possibility of a transition to the Montessori School after the first school year should be investigated.
At the same time it is most important for your son that he steadily experiences you on his side and that you let him know that – if it comes to it – he is not left to himself with his frustration. On the long run there will be no way around the sobering and sometimes depressing insight that he lives in a world where not everybody is as intelligent as is he. It is vital that he have a person standing by who helps him cope with and understand his unusual situation.
I take it from your lines and it was also my impression during the seminar that you are wide awake with regard to all this and that you are accompanying your son with just the right attitude. I therefore think that you need not worry too much.
Thus I am advising a double strategy consisting in an on-going pursuit of an adequate placement in the school system for your son while standing by him, providing emotional support to help him bridge certain “periods of frustration” whenever – for want of alternatives – these seem inevitable. It will certainly be helpful for him if you involve him in the decision processes as much as possible along the way.
In that vein I wish you success and I hope that things develop to your and your son’s satisfaction. I would be be quite interested to hear how things come along. Maybe you would care to drop me another few lines in some time to let me know about your son’s development.
I hope that these thoughts of mine will have been helpful in taking the next steps. If any further questions arise, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
(See also: Permanent Frustration because of Being Underchallenged and Facing Incomprehension)
And this is how the correspondence continued …
Dear Mr Zucknick,
I really appreciate that you are still dealing with our “case”.
We agree to its publication.
Our son has been quite happy with primary school so far. He has been very fortunate to have a teacher who is rather understanding and sees him for extra tutoring twice a week, which was facilitated by the school psychologist, who had filed an application for these extracurricular sessions. In the regular lessons he gets special math problems or extra reading assignments to work on.
According to his teacher everybody else, including the other pupils in class, have no problem with this. Until now he has not once shown a tendency to “pack and leave”, quite on the contrary: as far as he is concerned there wouldn’t even have to be a weekends nor holidays.
Every day I ask him about school – what was good and what was not. He says it was all good, except for maths sometimes, when it was boring, but that does not happen often.
Together with the school psychologist and the teachers we have sat down and decided that my son should change to the 2nd form in February, into the class that his sister attends. It turned out he did not like that idea at all. He wanted to stay with “his” teacher. Upon second thought we agreed that this would actually be better, as the teacher of that other class is already quite overstrained with the 24 pupils in that group. We’ll just wait and see how it all comes along.
Our son’s main interests are still football and handball. He still reads the sports section of the paper in the morning (just like we, his parents, do while we are having breakfast). And I think he has a good understanding of who is playing against who and who is being promoted or relegated and the like.
As far as his reading is concerned, I was quite surprised when we visited the Vogelpark (bird park) Walsrode: he was able to read all the names of the birds even though many of them were rather hard to pronounce – after all, at that time he was not even going to school yet. He is also still interested in the world map. Here too, he knows where to find everything, just like on the map of Germany where he knows all the larger cities and the federal states.
Occasionally we give him a multiplication problem and he calculates it off the top of his head, it is almost scary sometimes.
Last summer he got interested in butterflies. We caught them, determined the types, read everything about them and here again he quickly knew the score. This seemed to have an effect on his younger sister. We were visiting a nature theme park one afternoon and I said to her: “Look, there’s a butterfly”, it was carved in wood and without any colouring, still she replied “Peacock”, which was correct and I was shocked – at this time she was not even 2 years old. Now she is 2 years and 4 months old, she plays “categories” with us and does not show the slightest interest in age-based games, and so forth …, well, we know by now where this might be going.
We still haven’t had our son tested and we presently see no reason to, maybe sometime later.
In retrospect I find it quite exciting how our son has developed (since his was the strongest case among our children). For us parents it was also a rather thrilling time with many things happening: from a vague notion “he is somewhat different” (of course coming with a sense of pride too, and with concerns on the other hand) on to a certain degree of social exclusion by the residents of our village (“why don’t you let him go to kindergarten, you could have it so much easier that way”) and finally to the first experiences at school, even a sense of admiration …, I could go on writing page upon page, but it is getting late.
I am so happy to have heard from you.
Yours sincerely …
Good morning Mr Zucknick,
I wrote so much last night, but as it is, more thoughts arise during the night …
… I just wanted to add that all this peculiarity in our family hardly ever reaches our conscious minds, it is all everyday routine for us and only surfaces when somebody else brings it up to us, when we compare him to peers in age. We are a rather quite family living a fairly quite life. But we have also come to know that we, the parents, we are not exactly dumb either, especially my husband must be similarly talented as is our son, which I understood after having attended your seminar. On so many occasions he made me think “what kind of reasoning is that?”. Now that I know, everything is much easier to understand.
Would it be OK if I gave your e-mail address to Jan’s teacher, just in case she should have a question some time?
Once more best wishes …
The boy was enrolled at school, soon joined the maths class in 2nd form and will soon be entering the 3rd form.
Published in German: April 14th, 2010
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint.