Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top of the Class: How I am Raising Kyle

Kyle's latest artwork had earned him a silver medal.
 You've seen smart kids at parties or school functions: the ones who climb a table or makeshift stage without hesitation, and display their singing, math, or dancing prowess. These are the precocious youngsters who can name all the Philippine presidents in order, identify the flags of other countries, and recite the multiplication table by heart. Most of us wonder, what did the parents of these kids do to make them this smart?

One thing's for sure: It doesn't happen overnight. According to the experts, stimulation starts as soon as the child is conceived. The importance of stimulating baby's brain is often overlooked since as parents, we're too busy taking care of his needs; feeding, changing diapers, burping, putting him to sleep. But it is during the earliest years of life that the brain is best able to record sensory experiences.

First of all, I think it's important to acknowledge that every child's first and best teachers are his parents. Some people may not agree with me, but I don't believe in tutors. I firmly believe we're in a better position than anyone else to study our child as an individual. We'd know how he learns best, what encourages him, and how to challenge him.

When Kyle was still a toddler, I used to read to him everyday and  I made sure to surround him with books to help expand his vocabulary and to like reading early on. Research has shown that children who are exposed to quality books throughout their early years developed advanced literacy skills. I used to read aloud to him, asking him to point different objects on the page. When he learned to read, we shifted roles and asked him to "read" to me as we go through the pages together. Reading to your child fosters a wonderfulbond between a parent and child.

I've also noticed Kyle's creativity at the age of three. A regular child may scribble a letter for you, but a talented child would surprise you with a masterpiece, It's like he put a lot of thought to it, but amazingly, he prepared it as swiftly as a regular child would do scribbles. I would let him sprawl on the floor with his two feet criss-crossed on air while busily doing his sketches. I would just peek at what he's working on and when he's done, he would get up and run to me to show his latest work. Of course, I had to make sure to support his interest--to allow him to pursue his talent. I had to stock on paper, crayons, markers, oil pastels and watercolor because a mere pencil would not do. And when Kyle turned six, it was the only time I officially enrolled him at an art class where he did his first oil painting. It's nice to encourage your children to be the best once they find something they love with a passion--be it in science or arts. Be their number one fan, the steady force in their corner, the wind beneath their wings. It's with our invaluable support that they will themselves strive for excellence.

Kyle won 1st place during Crayola's on-the-spot art competition.

Kyle busy working on his artwork.
Everyday Kyle teaches me the real meaning of parenthood. If you see Kyle, you'll think he's like any normal eight-year-old. But really, he isn't. He's got Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is a condition believed to be caused by biomechanical imbalance in the brain which allows problem solving, planning and impulse control. It usually impairs a child's ability to function well in school and can certainly disrupt learning. They have problems sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organized and completing tasks. This means I had to learn new skills and values in order to raise him properly and learn to live with his ADHD. I've learned to give up a lot of personal luxuries and learn patience, sacrifice and acceptance. The challenges, the frustrations, the worries are tenfold or maybe a hunderdfold for someone like Kyle.

As a parent, discovering that something may stand in the way of your child's success can be unsettling and difficult. I have met people who feel differently about their special children--those who feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed. Sometimes they were surprised to hear me talking candidly about Kyle's condition and how proud I am of him. Anger or depression will not change the fact that he is a special child. I cannot wish or fight the condition away.  Sure, I might never have a typical relationship with him but I can still have a fruitful relationship with him.
He's proud of his work.
Kyle was a joy to me. Seeing him healthy, thriving, coping and even excelling in mainstream (a regular school where he's in the star section) class was an answer to our prayers. Kyle's mind is differently wired, he's psychologically challenged but he had geniuses as well. He's a consistent honor student and he's won numerous awards even representing his school in academic, sports and art competitions. He does well in a regular school, not only because of an excellent teaching and caring envirionment, but also due to the fact that there is a team of people behind him: his occupational therapist, SPED teacher, kind and understanding class adviser and us--all supporting him in every step of the way.  
He loves to draw a lot of sketches.

 When he started grade school, I've told Kyle that he can't just get by with just listening to his teacher during class time. To fully understand the lesson (and getting high marks at that), he must allow some extra studying time on his own. He has a study area at home conducive to learning. I make sure it's well lighted, uncluttered, comfy and as quiet as possible. Studying  regularly is a MUST. It may already sound cliche but having a place to study is only effective if he spends time in it at a specific time each day. I've explained Kyle to consider study time sacred. And before he knows it, studying has already become a habit on his own. But I still had to be present to guide him. Frequent discussions about how was his day in school is also important for me to know if he's coping up in class. I usually encourage him to do his best (no mediocre performance) and inspire him with real-life accounts of famous people who also suffered from ADHD but have shaped their careers and accomplishments.
Proudly showing off all the awards he had received.

 I have also given Kyle a few rules and guidelines when it comes to studying too. I told him to study first the most difficult lesson, then proceed to easier ones. In this process, even if he lacks studying for the easier subjects, he had at least acquianted himself with the more difficult subject. He must never procrastinate. Sure, he might get a rush out of beating deadlines, begging his teachers for consideration might also work, but he will end up submitting his work although on time, sloppily done. Anything from cramming spells disaster.

The lone male awardee during Timezone and Ayala Mall's on-the-spot coloring contest.
 I also make sure that Kyle gets sufficient sleep. If not, it's like gonig to school feeling like zombie. Lack of sleep might lower his resistance and anit-bodies making him more prone to sickness. A few weeks before the exams, I would also exert effort to make mock up tests to work on and review him. Making mock up exams isn't easy but I do this for his mastery and to have an idea how he'd most likely fare on the actual tests. It's difficult to keep Kyle focused, but it's even harder when he'd sometimes throw his apocalyptic tantrums during study time.
Aside from arts, he's also inclined into music.
 It's also important that Kyle stays healthy during hectic school days. This means he has to take care of himself. It is a rule for me to eat breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day. He needs to eat well, exercise to keep him fit, and improve his concentration and minimize stress. It is my duty to serve him balance and nutritious meals. He must also drink his milk, take his Nutroplex and vitamin C with zinc daily.

Kyle's multivitamin which my Mom had used on me, a brand our family had trusted for years.

He's got to understand that he's not a machine that can work 24/7 without taking a break, even machines breakdown.  He needs to have fun too. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy." I reward him for every milestone he accomplishes. If he's done with his assignments, for instance, he's allowed to watch TV, buy books, or a new toy or we'd simply hang out at the mall.

How time flies. So much had changed in a span of eight years. Now Kyle looked different, he goes to school with nary a background glance after I kissed him goodbye. He's ready to take on the world. I realized that the hardest part of parenting isn't just raising him but letting him go. I could only step back, but become teary-eyed as I waved goodbye. My baby is now a boy--and though I'm so proud of what he's learned and what he had accomplished, I miss what he'll never do again: silly conversation, sticky kisses, endless Barney songs and videos, and lots of hugs. These everyday details are so precious but easily forgotten.

Someone said that God only lends us our children, we let them go but the gift is what they leave behind. The memories, the lessons, the joy of being part of their lives, that way they'll always be ours.
Here, Kyle won in the 25 m run at Amoranto Sports Complex.


  1. nice article sis, goodluck on this one:)

  2. Congratulations! Both for winning the contest, and for raising your son well - and making sure he has a balanced life :)


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