Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted January 9, 2015


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
making sense of the senseless

Paris...Afterthoughts

by Spiritual Echo


Over the last few days, I have been drawn into watching the reports from Paris. Once again, as happens too often these days, talk radio is abuzz with chatter from equally concerned citizens. This is healthy grief. We may not know the victims by name, but these tragedies remind us just how vulnerable we have become. What happens on your door step today may happen on mine tomorrow.

France's President, Francois Hollande, made an impressive speech today, attributing the cause of the deaths in the kosher supermarket as an Anti-Semitic act, while the assassins who targeted Charlie Hebdos screamed out Allah's name before they committed murder. I kept asking myself, does it matter in whose name or what cause is cited?

We all feel impotent, unable to fight enemies we can't identify. Across the globe, tens of thousands of people joined to show solidarity in their protest against fanaticism. It may comfort us, but it changes nothing.

I remember, on a December morning in 2012, I was on the way to my granddaughter's kindergarten Christmas concert when the news came on the radio about the massacre of the children in an elementary school in Newtown. I sat in the car in front of her school for ten minutes, letting the shock and horror ripple through me. Like every parent across North America, the event was personal. It could have happened to me--to anyone. I was not the only adult who had tears streaming down her face as I walked into our children's school.

Up on the stage, more than one hundred five-year-old children were fidgeting, nervously waving to parents in the gymnasium. Most of the girls wore fancy dresses and many of the boys sported bow ties or holiday sweaters. All the children wore Christmas hats or construction paper antlers.

As the concert began and their practiced songs echoed off the walls of the gymnasium, I watched the children, tearing my eyes away from my own granddaughter to look at her school-mates. It was the largest enrolment the school had experienced in years. It made percentage calculations easy to assign.

What are the odds? The gunman in Connecticut was just eighteen years old. I couldn't help asking myself, which of these innocent children might commit murder in another thirteen years? How many of these kids would have run-ins with the law or become enchanted with some religious cult? Has the Internet become so seductive that its power will override good teachers, parents and a healthy community? Conversely, should we label disadvantaged children as potential, home-grown terrorists?

Two years earlier, my grandson was supposed to be on stage for his kindergarten concert. He refused to walk into the gymnasium, having a melt-down in the hall. For two years, the school and his father tried to deal with his self-control and anxiety issues. We were all working on the same page, in a cooperative effort, but it was a massive struggle. The child, a truly loving boy when not in a group situation, was failing miserably in keeping up with grade expectations. His behaviour problems quickly caught up with his scholastic endeavours. The pressure was compounded. He stopped trying, and the frequency of the melt-downs increased. He walked around saying, 'I'm stupid.'

His family doctor was dismissive, insisting all children mature at different stages. We were adamant, having to push to get a third opinion after the referral to a paediatrician echoed the same mollifying verdict. After the third doctor diagnosed him with ADHD (Attention Disorder/Hyperactive Disorder,) the child was prescribed Adderall, a medication that pumps more blood into the brain lobe that controls attentiveness. He was not turned into a zombie, nor did he lose his spirit, but suddenly he could sit still and concentrate, accepting change far easier than he could before he started taking the pills.

It didn't end there. He was now two years behind all the other students and we did not know if he had learning disabilities that were compounded by his ADHD. I was aware of the testing available to identify children's problems. When I enquired, the school confirmed they were allocated two 'scholarships' per year, but they had many other students who needed the testing far more than my grandson. They suggested we check with our employment insurance carrier to see if my son had coverage. Failing that, we would need to pay for the testing out of our own pocket.

The cost was $2,200. It included a classroom visit by the counsellor, extensive feedback forms from parents and teachers, ten sessions with child psychologists and educational assessors. All cognitive skills were evaluated and a final conference with teachers, psychologists and family included a thick document that spelled out recommendations for special needs accommodation married to the child's unique needs.

Yes, my son paid the money and it was well-spent. What I learned was that, at least in Ontario, if a child is professionally evaluated this way, the provincial school board is obliged to make the accommodations necessary. One of the recommendations was that a laptop be supplied (by the school board at no charge.) Until such time as one is provided, he is entitled to have a 'helper' sit with him and document his answers as he responds orally. He is NOT punished for his weaknesses, and an individual curriculum was developed with one-on-one in-school tutoring. Amazing, when one thinks about it. We all knew the issues, but the boy didn't and would never have received the individual help until we paid for the assessment.

How many parents can come up with a couple of thousand? How many children turn their self-hatred, the 'I'm stupid' song that rings in their ears, into frustration that turns into rage?

In the last few years, we are hearing about mental illness more than ever before. The rate of depression came as a shock to me, and brought symptoms and treatments out in the open. Many major corporations are sponsoring awareness programs and attempting to remove the stigma from seeking medical help. Bell Canada is sponsoring a national advertising called 'Let's Talk,' that not only addresses the illness, but is attempting to educate the public to be kind and understanding, to treat mental disorders as any other illness.

In our case, we may have detoured potential problems with my grandson, but not everyone recognizes the seeds of danger, nor do they have the resources to pay for the help needed.

As I think back to those one hundred kindergarten children, I still wonder how many will fall through the cracks. I think about the mothers of the three gunned-downed French shooters and wonder whether they knew, but could get no help for their sons. And now, they are dead, but not before leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake.

Not for one minute do I believe that these maniacs--the three today and the ones hiding down the street--suddenly became radicalized sociopaths overnight. I have no answers either, but I wish that our school systems would pay as much attention to mental disorders in children as they do to inoculation records. Perhaps it is time to forgo IQ testing and create a new test to examine a child's emotional health.





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