Worried About Navigating This Strange and Unprecedented School Year with Your Student?

By Ginger McGee, Author of He’s Not Broken: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance.

Many of you are looking at long days with your student at home and wondering how you’re going to manage. With a regular school year things are difficult enough. Throw in a pandemic and you’ve got yourself a situation that has the potential to be rife with emotions, on top of the typical day to day ones you already deal with.

In order to survive you are going to have to make some adjustments to your expectations. Hear me out. I’m not suggesting that you allow for lax behavior, and subpar learning standards. What I am suggesting, however, is that you release yourself from criticism as you deal with a new experience for you and your student. In other words, there’s going to be some figuring-it-out-as-you-go happening on both ends.

Will you experience a new level of frustration? Most likely. Will the task ahead of you be insurmountable? Not if you learn to be easy with yourself and with your student.  What I mean by that is you might make mistakes. You might have new territories to navigate, but if you take these in stride, you’ll be fine.

The decisions you make, that you might regret later, remind yourself of this -at any given moment, in any given situation know that you are making the best decision that you can right then and there. It may be one that turns out to be “wrong”, but I want you to consider these lines from the musical Sunday in the Park with George –“the choice might have been mistaken; the choosing was not. You have to move on.” Moving on might just become your new mantra.

On the positive side, who knows your student better than you. With your student at home you can catch the problems before they escalate. When my son was younger, he had trouble with his handwriting. It’s called dysgraphia and it’s one of the many tag-a-long friends of Tourette Syndrome. I had to figure out a way to get the task at hand accomplished and still have him do his work. For us that meant spelling tests given while he rode his scooter and yelled the letters to me as he zipped by. Learn to be creative and think out of the box. As your student’s primary teacher now, you are in a great position to do this.

Which brings me to another issue TS kids tend to have – problems sitting still. Aside from the obvious physicality of the tics, there’s often the issue of ADD or ADHD. Diagnosed or not, many TS kids just need to be active. It tends to alleviate some of the tics, or at least it did for my son. What that meant for us was doing his math on the driveway so he could run from one problem to another. Other solutions we found were using an exercise ball for his chair so he could bounce, allowing fidget toys, and Play-Doh or stress putty to keep hands busy. I also found that low-playing music during classes helped. Jazz, classical or chill-hop are great options.

The bottom line is this: This year will be challenging, but you are in a better position to learn what adjustments your child might need for an IEP once schools reopen.

In the meantime, just keep moving on.

Ginger McGee

In 1998, Ginger McGee traded her high school teaching position for the “best teaching job in the world”. But she had no idea how challenging homeschooling a special needs child would be. One thing she learned right away was that she was the best advocate for her son. As a former freelance writer for several local, regional, and national publications such as The Savannah News Press, Charleston Magazine, and Skirt!, Ginger already had the skills to become a distinct voice in the special needs community. And to prove she’s always had a way with words, she was the first place winner in her fifth-grade spelling bee taking home the much-coveted prize of a decoupaged picture of Jesus and the children. At the time, it was a big deal.

Ginger’s son Jake was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was six, and severe OCD when he was eight. She spent years trying to fix him before realizing that he wasn’t broken and was exactly the child she needed in her life. After finding that there were no books written about TS and OCD from the perspective of the mother of a child with both, Ginger decided to write He’s Not Broken: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance.

When she’s not writing she’s creating art at her in-home studio, Paper Soup Studio. Ginger is currently at work on an historical fiction YA novel set in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia where she lives with her husband, two sons, and six rescue animals.

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