So here goes.
It's like having Robin Williams in your head.
Some people with Robin Williams in their head will sit back and enjoy the show. My daughter does that. She laughs a lot.
But the Robin Williams in your head can be a trickster. He can play games with you you're not aware of, reversing letters on a page, turning bed to deb, or dog to god. He may reverse the orders of words. It's fun for the Robin Williams in your head. But the rest of the world calls this dyslexia. Many people with passive ADD have dyslexia or dysplaxia, a similar problem with math.
Other people try to face down the Robin Williams in their heads. They argue with him. They try to become like him. Their heads become very busy places, and they may not have much time for what's outside them. If you're a boy and you have Robin Williams in your head, you will likely be diagnosed as having ADHD. You don't know there's anything wrong. You see the whole world from the inside out. You may have great trouble interacting with other people, or suffering other, slower people, like teachers.
I have this type of ADD. I was diagnosed, I later learned, in 1965. I wasn't told this at the time, and I wasn't medicated. To survive I developed a split personality, as my father had. Over time this let me "grow out" of ADHD, as they say, but I was always a house divided against myself until middle age, when an understanding psychiatrist helped me understand what was wrong, that it wasn't wrong, and helped give me ways to integrate myself again.
Not everyone with Robin Williams in their head is a compulsive comic. Some are compulsive inventors, or compulsive artists, or compulsive scientists. Me. I'm a compulsive writer. I can no longer stop writing than I can turn off the Robin Williams in my head.
John is far more integrated than I was at 16, far wiser, a far better person. He tutors other kids, he volunteers at soup kitchens. His pastor sees it, we see it, and most of his teachers, eventually, see it.
So when he got into high school we didn't notify the district that he had ADHD. We didn't substantiate it with past letters from doctors or psychiatrists. We just told his teachers, when he had trouble, we gave them hints on how to deal with them, and eventually they found him charming.
His school made it all official last year with a Student Support Team so that
teachers could share tips on dealing with the occasional slip-up. When he gets scared, or nervous, he may fail to read others' body language correctly. The Robin Williams in his head suddenly can't see outside himself anymore. I'm the exact same way.
This fall, a new principal was late getting the SST process going, he had made it his aim to restore firm discipline to the school, and before we knew it John had a physical confrontation with one of his teachers. (It didn't help that she had e-mailed me for help and I didn't respond, because I didn't get the e-mail.) She didn't know about the ADHD. She was having a bad day, I suspect. She goaded him, scared him. Most kids will retreat in the face of that. The Robin Williams in my son's head did not.
I consider the teacher wholly innocent in the matter. What would you do if Robin Williams suddenly appeared before you, in your classroom, and when you gave him the "back up" voice most kids understand instinctively he reached for you instead?
The district's plan for today was to expel him permanently from the Atlanta Public School system. The principal doesn't want to admit his fault. The teacher doesn't want to be a victim. The district doesn't want to acknowledge the Robin Williams in his head.
Something similar happened with my daughter, the one who laughs. They waited until her dyslexia got her pulled from the magnet program at her high school to do anything. We had to fight to keep her in the school -- the magnet dream died -- but she has succeeded wonderfully, and now takes honors English in college. But she still has ADD. My son still has ADD. I still have ADD. I wouldn't want to live any other way. Nor should I be made to.
Too many public schools want to see ADD as a "disability," and when they see that word they think extra money and special education. But many ADD kids, like my son, are brilliant. He has a 92 average in the International Baccalaureate program at his school, and he even added Chinese and Arabic, just for the challenge. Emory University's Web site includes a list of dozens of psychologists who aim to help ADD/ADHD students.
But now we're in for a fight. The district still plans a disciplinary tribunal. Their recommendation is still expulsion. Thank God we've spent the weekend getting resources and advice which might help him stay. If he's expelled my son will be branded a
criminal, and told the only place for him is a school for violent
offenders. Instead of being an honor student, he will be a pariah. College from there looks impossible.
So if my Robin Williams isn't its normal, cheery, creative self for a while, that's why. When my Robin Williams gets depressed, it makes bipolar feel like a Disney ride, the one with the teacups. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I alternate between deep chills and intense sweating. I can't cry. I'm thirsty, but I always need to go to the bathroom. When my Robin Williams is depressed I am completely disabled.
After this is over, I plan to get some help for that. When the son's in trouble and the dad's a basket case, it's not a good thing.
I don't mind telling you this. I am scared to death. More scared than at any time in my life. Your own death is nothing next to watching your kids murdered by an uncaring bureaucracy.
Yesterday, at our church, the pastor preached the parable of the widow and the judge. The widow kept bothering the judge for justice, and he finally gave in just to keep her from pestering him. The pastor was referring to the SCHIP veto, but his message was that such pestering is a form of prayer.
I plan to pray a lot in the next few weeks.