Did You See This Fish?

After two weeks on the new medication, Dylan is showing signs that he isn’t capable of focusing on anything.  He claims that he is paying attention but, as his algebra teacher pointed out, he is staring into space.  When I ask him to do things, I ask and ask and ASK and ASK – and sometimes they still don’t get done.

It reminds me so much of Dylan in 4th grade.  He was in the GT (gifted/talented) class, and was certainly capable of the high-level thinking in the class.  His homework took four hours, though, and he was failing math by the third week of school.  His work was coming home unfinished, yet he enjoyed the GT approach tremendously.

So I went into class to see what Dylan was doing.  In a way, the entire class reminded me of Dylan.  They were practically jumping out of their seats with answers to virtually any question.  They all had their hands up, and wanted so badly to share what they knew.

The first day I observed, the class was in high gear – except for Dylan.  He vascillated between being eager to answer – about 1/5 of the time – and staring blankly – or possibly intently – at the class pet, a blue Betta fish.

He just stared and stared at that fish.  I couldn’t even imagine what he was thinking.  The fish mesmerized him, as if nothing else were happening in the room.  The other kids were jumping up and down in their seats, waving their hands, offering opinions.  And Dylan was staring at a fish.  The fish was barely moving, just its fins twitching.  Betta fish are not known for their flamboyant behavior.

I watched him watch that fish for half an hour.

Later, the teacher assured me that he did, occasionally, stop watching the fish long enough to answer a question or do some paperwork.  But mostly, he stared at that fish.  When he came home, he asked if he could have a fish.  He begged for a fish for four months.  Eventually, he got one.

Meanwhile, I went back into his classroom to help with a science experiment. The class was excitedly measuring and recording and measuring and recording.  They were pretty loud, so the teacher had installed a sound-activated stoplight in the room.  When the light changed from green to yellow, the class was supposed to get quiet.  If it got to red, that meant real trouble.

Mostly the light was on green.  The class worked hard on the experiment.  Everyone was talking, agreeing and disagreeing and trying to become a team.  Everyone was writing down everything.

Dylan’s paper was blank.  He was watching the stoplight.

He would stare at it until – FINALLY! – the light would change to yellow, and he would thrust up two fingers into the air – the school peace sign which meant be quiet.  His fingers were in the air before anyone else in the class – because he wasn’t doing anything except watching the stoplight.

He was quite proud of himself, knowing when he had to be quieter.  Kids would hush a bit, then the light would go back to being green.  And Dylan would watch it again – doing nothing else – until it changed back to yellow.  His eyes wide, he would thrust up that peace sign and start saying to his classmates, “be quiet! shhhh!”

This week, he’s acting like that again.  He’s not doing anything he says he’ll do.  The teachers have to remind him that he’s in class.  He thinks he’s paying attention but he’s simply not there.  So the new medication isn’t maybe doing all that well.

I called the doctor and she assured me that we couldn’t tell anything until a full month has passed.

Perhaps, while we wait, I could send him to school with a fish.

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