Matthew Part One
Matthew Part Two
Matthew started school when he was four. At that time we had just moved to Barbados and within a month he started in the Beginner class (equivalent to our kindergarten) at a private school. He went half days and the Beginner class was quite structured. There wasn’t a lot of down time, or playtime, so he settled in quite well. His teacher was firm, but very kind - the perfect recipe for Matthew. With his advanced verbal skills and encyclopedia brain, he managed well. He made a couple of friends who he was able to spend time with outside of school on playdates. Even at that early age, he did much better socially when he was just with one other child, rather than a group – which proved to be quite overwhelming for him.
As he started to move up in the grades he began to struggle. Academically he did well in that system where they rely on a lot of rote knowledge. Socially he started to struggle and I found I was already starting to watch him like a hawk in social settings and trying to help him interpret (or more like just doing the interpreting for him) social interactions.
By the time he hit Junior 1 (equivalent to grade 3) we knew that something was wrong. He was showing signs of anxiety, he was being picked on by the other children (who were obviously not understanding his behaviour), he was becoming unable to focus in the classroom, and behaviourally it seemed as if he was being defiant. (this is classic for children with Nonverbal Learning Disorder due to the fact that they take things so literally, don’t read facial or body cues very well, or don’t pick up on the tone of voice.)
That Christmas, when we returned to Canada for Christmas, we took him to a doctor, who was recommended to us, for some testing. After spending two hours with us, the doctor was able to rule out Attention Deficit Disorder, but not able to determine anything further. He felt that he may have a language based learning disability as he said that Matthew was using words beyond his years, but he was using them inappropriately. We weren’t much further ahead. We knew that the language-based learning disability didn’t make sense to us since he was so strong in reading and comprehension, as well in writing.
We lived in Barbados for another two years where Matt continued to struggle. It was all a mystery to us. During our last year there we made the decision to pull him out of school and to send him to a friend who was homeschooling her own daughter. He was starting to get bullied at school (and the school had the view that boys will be boys), and he started to act our behaviourally (which now we know it was because he was suffering from so much anxiety.) Life for him at home was such a contrast. He was a happy, loving boy who tried so hard to do things right. He still talks fondly of those days when he used to go to school at Kelly’s.