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"Do you think this gets more nerve-wracking or less?" Guppy asks Fran as they sit in the hall for parents' evening.

"Well let's put it this way." Fran says. "We've had pretty much all the bad outcomes before, so we should be experts at how to make our faces react by now."

They debate whether to divide and conquer or go together, and decide to go together rather than do rock paper scissors as to who gets to do Coral. Brooklyn's teacher has a free spot, so they decide to get her out of the way first.

"Brooklyn is an excellent reader, she's clearly very bright." her teacher says. "It's a shame she refused to co-operate in the IQ test you took her for."

Guppy grimaces, remembering. Since they had tested Fry at a young age as part of his special needs developmental assessment, it had seemed unfair to not let the other kids take the test also. Coral had scored surprisingly highly too, because the test didn't expect her to read, but Brooke had simply refused to co-operate after the first fifteen minutes. The professor testing her had suspected that actually, she was also very bright, but part of her personality meant she wasn't interested in such menial things as IQ tests.

"She needs a lot of exercise if you want her to behave." Fran is saying. "Don't be fooled by her chunkiness, she was born chunky, but she's all Tigger inside."

Brooke's teacher laughs. "Yes, we do try to channel her inner Tigger. She hasn't led an escape attempt recently, so I think we are winning."

They head to Coral's teacher next. This one is usually the easiest, and sure enough Mr Walker has only good things to report about Coral, especially as her reading has got better with her special glasses.

"The only thing is." Mr Walker says. "Since the twins left, I think Coral's found it tough making a new best friend. Now don't get me wrong, you can put Coral with almost any kid in the class and she gets on well with them, and she's always kind to everyone, but I think she gets left out a little. If things don't pick up by Christmas, we'll look at finding her a buddy."

"Thanks." Guppy says. "Is there anything in particular we can help her work on?"

"I don't think there's anything specific." Mr Walker says. "She's a sweet kid and I'm sure she'll work it out soon. Maybe organise a few playdates for her?"

The Sandhus feel relatively optimistic approaching Fry's teacher, Mr Irons, who Fry seems to have been getting on really well with. Waiting in the queue though, even out of earshot, it seems that not all the parents are enjoying their evening with Mr Irons. Bethany's mum practically storms off in a huff, pulling out her phone to presumably call her ex-husband and complain.

"Is it bad that I'm glad that's not us for once?" Fran whispers.

Guppy gives her a grin, then they take their place at Mr Irons' desk. The teacher gives them his small, reserved smile, and then begins.

"Alexander's classroom behaviour is on the whole good, with the occasional lapse usually provoked by overstimulation or anxiety. He has learned to deal with planned changes to the classroom layout, and with a pre-warned change in the seating arrangement. He has also learned to tolerate a short planned interruption to an activity providing he is able to complete it later.

Academically he is top of the class in maths, though he has improved in all subjects by an average of 12%. His reading age is that of a thirteen year old in terms of vocabulary, but he lacks understanding of abstract concepts. He struggles with comprehension exercises and composition. Similarly with history, his memory is good but he struggles with any form of imagination questions. I think he has some room to improve there in time, but really his maths is his biggest problem now."

Guppy notices suddenly the emptiness of his desk; unlike every other teacher there, Mr Irons doesn't have a single piece of paper, no notes, no prompt. 12%? Where did that even come from? But then he catches the last line, and blinks.

"His maths is his biggest problem? But he's good at maths."

"Well he is." Mr Irons says. "But more importantly he finds maths relaxing, because it has right or wrong answers, with no ambiguity. If you took any bright child and were able to engage them in sustained maths practice for, as in his case, an extra hour a day, with a particular keenness to learn new topics, they too would improve at a rate far above and beyond that of their class. This has been demonstrated in several cases nationwide by parents who have, say, coached a child with normal IQ to get their GCSE years early."

"You've lost me." Fran says. "What's the problem?"

"At Alexander's current rate of maths progress he will be at GCSE level by the age of twelve." Mr Irons says. "Now while he is at this school, where every kid is learning at their own pace in the book, it doesn't really matter how high up he gets. Myself and the teachers in the classes above are all capable of coaching the early senior school years when it comes to maths. But Alexander has skipped a year, which means he will be hitting senior school at ten."

"So it'll be difficult to accommodate him?" Guppy asks.

Mr Irons nods.

"You really have three options - you try and speed him up, which I don't advise, because it'll impact his other learning. You could try and hold him back, which we have in the past and it hasn't worked. Or we carry on at the current rate, and worry about the problem later - but either way, I wanted to make you aware that this isn't going to be easy."

"We'll carry on as we are for now." Fran says. "But thanks for telling us."

"I have spoken to the headmistress." Mr Irons says. "And if nearer that time Alexander is struggling with other subjects and you wanted him to stay in primary school another year, we could always put him back into his original academic year. I just wanted to make sure you had all the options."

"We really appreciate all the effort you've put in for Fry." Guppy says. "All the classroom arrangement and low distraction environment and stuff. He really seems to get on well in your class."

"You're welcome, but I arrange all my classrooms that way." Mr Irons says. "I like things to be in a logical order myself."

As they leave the parents' evening, they can hear Bethany's mum still yelling on the phone to her ex husband.

"Well if you didn't have to have a restraining order and were able to come to parents' evening, maybe you could ask him why he thinks Beth has ADHD!" she snaps, before catching sight of the Sandhus and finishing the call. "What?!" she snaps again. "Is it payback time? Do you want a gloat?"

"Of course not." Guppy says calmly. "We didn't know before and we won't tell anyone else."

"Beth doesn't have ADHD." her mother says. "He's a special education teacher, he's looking for anything medical."

"I'm sure." Guppy says gently. "But Mr Irons has been a real ally to Fry and... if there is anything in what he said about Bethany look, we've been through this sort of thing a lot, and if you want to talk about it..."

"No. But thank you." Bethany's mother pushes past them and leaves.

Guppy watches after her, but Fran frowns thoughtfully.

"I don't think Mr Irons is just an ally." she says.

"How do you mean?" Guppy asks.

"Didn't you notice? He rattles off stats, he barely smiles, he likes logic and order and lack of distractions." She looks up at him. "He's autistic too, Guppy."

Guppy watches the angry parent getting into her car and turns back to Fran.

"I think you might be right. Better make sure we keep it to ourselves."

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