Hi. We live in Toronto and are desperately looking for an appropriate yeshiva for our son who is 14-years old. He is extremely bright, and wants to do well both in Yiddishkeit and learning. However, he is struggling with several issues including: ADHD, NVLD, social difficulties, anxiety, and low-self esteem due to years of hardhips. He is constantly being thrown out of his shiur for non-stop talking. The yeshiva’s way of handling him is to suspend him for days at a time. He also has trouble getting along with the boys. He is home more than he’s in school at this point. Is there a school somewhere that specializes in these types of boys. He is not at risk or off the derech. His is a very temimistic boy who wants to learn and shteig, but his issues necessitate a specialized program. Please help me!
Thank you very much for your time,
My heart goes out for your wonderful son, who seems to be trying so hard, only to be put down again and again.
And a disclaimer: I am not familiar with NVLD and what it involves; and am not familiar with how Canadian health insurance & special education services work.
This is what I’d try to do:
1. Get mental health professionals on board. A social worker to help him deal with social difficulties, anxiety, and low-self esteem; a psychiatrist to help with ADHD & social skills. A good team should be able to create an appropriate combination of therapy and medication to help your son handle various situations that are difficult for him. therapy should include social skills and coping strategies.
2. Get a tutor if necessary, to help your son keep up with academics. The tutor will (ideally) be a trained professional who can not only help your child do well in school, but will also teach him how to compensate for visual/spatial problems if he has them.
3. Have the social worker, psychiatrist and the tutor (together or separately) create an academic plan for your son. This plan will address both academic, social and emotional need and will include but will not be limited to:
– necessary accommodations / limitations (for example,
a student with spatial-visual challenges might not be able to read tables or diagrams, so those need to be either read to the student or eliminated altogether;
if a student has hard time sitting, giving him a permission to go out of the classroom every 30 min or so to air out or do jumping jacks in the hallway will help him sit the rest of the time; etc.)
– strengths (and how they can be utilized to help your son do well, feel good about himself, be more likable/liked / accepted by peers)
This plan should be shared and discussed with the principal and the teachers. As a teacher, I find that it is much easier to work with a difficult student when I know what challenges s/he is facing and what his/her needs are. Ability to consult with a professional is golden (you can suggest that the principal should keep track of issues/ complains & pass them on to you; in turn you will discuss them with the therapist (psychiatrist, tutor) and let the school know how to handle/respond).
If this feels like you’re “selling” your child, you can limit information that you give out or permit the professionals on your team share; but do not restrict to the point of making it useless.
Once you’ve got the team, look for a school that is known to work with parents and students, and approach them with a request and a plan. If a school sees that you’re prepared and are ready to work with them, they are more likely to consider accepting your son (or so it would be in an ideal world).
Even if your son’s school (or a specific teacher) will not be very cooperative, having a professional support team will help your child do better (maybe not in school, but definitely in life).
Off topic, but: did you ever consider homeschooling?