Even as early as 12 months, Britt’s parents knew that they had their hands full with this little boy. Boundless energy, curious about everything, happy to entertain anyone who happened by, Britt was no doubt a bundle of non-stop fun. By the age of three, he was extraordinarily verbal, and spent nearly every waking hour asking questions, talking endlessly to his parents or playmates, and if all else failed, talking to himself. He loved pre-school, singing songs, listening to stories (not an easy feat), and talking, talking, talking to anyone and everyone. His parents were pleasantly surprised at how quickly he acclimated to school. He was rarely upset when his parents dropped him off in the morning and he always wanted to stay longer when his parents arrived to pick him up. He loved his teacher and made lots of new friends and eagerly pushed for a variety of play dates. His parents knew a lot about what he did each day at pre-school, because he talked and talked and talked about it each evening.
By the time Britt entered 2nd grade at the age of eight, his energy, curiosity, and interest in people had only grown, along with his talking. He genuinely enjoyed school, everything, that is, except for the boring, routine work! Being highly Intuitive, he was both creative and insightful. This was clear in his writing content as well as reading comprehension. Britt could often identify the underlying meaning of a particular story, a skill that would be difficult for most children at this age. However, although he easily understood math and grammar concepts, he struggled with applying this knowledge consistently. He rushed through his grammar and math assignments, barely reading or listening to instructions, and making lots of careless errors. He found routine paperwork boring and was easily distracted. Britt enjoyed learning new ideas and skills, but once he mastered something he simply lost interest.
Britt’s teacher, Ms. Harper, thought Britt was a bright and talented student, but she was struggling to keep him focused on the work and to keep him from distracting other students. It was clear to Ms. Harper that he would rather talk than listen. Quite often after she had given the children careful instructions on an assignment, Britt would shoot his hand up and begin asking questions about what they were supposed to do. During circle time Britt, who usually sat near the front of the group, was always eager to answer a question, but once called upon, often did not have an answer. It seemed to Ms. Harper that he was still thinking through his answer when he put his hand up, not really ready to respond. She would then remind the group that they should only raise their hands if they had an answer ready. This did not make any difference, since Britt was barely listening.
He was not particularly enamored of rules and structure. He was forever late returning to class from recess and often forgot his homework packet in the morning. On the other hand, engaged in an interesting class project, he would not even notice that the bell had rung and it was time to go out and play. Once he was interested in something, he had great concentration and seemed to lose all track of time. Ms. Harper found his intense interest, coupled with his distractibility, a mystery. Was he interested in learning, or bored by school? If she had to guess, Ms. Harper would have to say that both were true.
It was not very different at home. It was easy to get Britt to join in on a new project or adventure. He was even willing to do chores, if the chores were new and, therefore, a novel experience. The same was true for homework. Given a new and challenging project, especially a group project, Britt would soon be busily occupied. However, he would do anything to avoid routine, repetitive tasks. Getting him to complete steady chores and typical homework assignments was like pulling teeth. And although he rarely used such tactics as arguing or whining to get out of his responsibilities, Britt was quite talented at sweet talk and plausible excuses. Oddly enough, at the very last moment, he would often somehow get the homework done, get his clothes on, and brush his teeth. His parents would marvel at his last-minute feats!
Over the years his parents received widely different feedback from teachers. Some would say that Britt was very bright and had wonderfully creative ideas and always had something to contribute. He was energetic and brought a sense of excitement to the classroom. Other teachers, though, had a very different perception of him. He was easily distracted, and constantly interrupted the teacher. He resisted following the rules and routines of the classroom and was, in general, difficult to handle. They would concede that Britt was intelligent, but often noisy and inattentive. The advice they received from these teachers over the years was equally different. The first set of teachers, conceding that Britt was, at times, distracted and struggled with getting routine work done, suggested that his parents keep affirming his talents and try to make homework and chores as fun as possible, reassuring his parents that, over time, he would become better at organization and planning and getting things done. The second set of teachers had entirely different advice along the lines of “sink or swim.” They often advised his parents to allow Britt to fail and learn the consequences of his failure in order to motivate him to change. In this view he needed to learn (as quickly as possible), that he must work independently and be responsible for his behavior. Over time his parents concluded that all of these views of Britt had merit, the conclusions being somewhat affected by the nature of each teacher.
Britt’s parents worried (rightfully so) whether they would have to literally pull Britt into adulthood. At times the future overwhelmed them both. They tried many different tactics. They tried pointing out all of the logical consequences that occurred when he did not finish his homework or chores. This seemed only to increase his repertoire of creative excuses. They tried rewards, stars for special treats. These worked for a while, but he soon lost interest. They tried disciplinary consequences, which again only worked temporarily. They tried organizational strategies, such as calendars and index cards, all of which were quickly lost under the piles of toys and clothes in his room. No one strategy solved the problem, but everything helped a bit, if only because his parents were participating. Just like the three-year-old who wanted to engage his parents in everything he did, interacting with people was motivating to the older Britt. So doing chores with a sibling or a parent was just more fun and worthwhile. Completing homework with friends, or working at the kitchen table with Mom or Dad always seemed to help him focus and get the work done. This was especially true when they allowed him to talk through his creative ideas and ask a lot of questions—in other words, do lots and lots of talking. Regardless of the usefulness of any one strategy, the many efforts that his parents made certainly made it clear to him, in an unforgettable way, that this whole business of being organized seemed to be important to most people.
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