What is it with Boys and Dinosaurs? Why do they become so obsessed with them?
Ok, to be honest I am sure it is not all boys. Beeswax has never shown any interest in them (although it is hard to know what interests him, he is so fearful of loss/rejection that he doesn’t get attached/excited about anything. Well maybe football). Buzzbee on the other hand is the complete opposite. Once he is interested in something, it becomes his obsession and takes over his life and at times his thoughts. There is not a room in our house that does not have some form of dinosaur related object in it. He has a full size mural on his bedroom wall, several LARGE boxes of assorted sized beasts, remote controlled, cuddly & soft, giant inflatable ones, the list goes on and that doesn’t include his DVDs, computer games and his enormous collection of books.
Buzzbee is a bright and curious child and loves to know how the world around him works. We have always seen this hunger for knowledge as his way of feeling in control in a world that is unpredictable and scary for him. But his obsession with dinosaurs is something much more. His keenness to absorb every morsel of dinosaur and prehistoric animal information, and his amazing ability to reel off their names, sizes and diets is incredible. But for Buzz this information is not enough. He will regularly take it to a whole new level. They have almost become an extension of his daily life.
Have we indulged this obsession? Maybe! Have we been able to use his obsession to bond with him, help him learn and boost his self-esteem? Definitely! Well, at home we have anyway.
Warning: This is where I will probably go off on a tangent and probably lose you. So I apologise in advance.
Buzzbee has always struggled emotionally and socially. During his time at Nursery his love of dinosaurs not only gave him comfort and security, but also gave his key worker and other members of staff a tool to support, encourage and manage him. His very clever key worker soon realized that she could gauge his emotional state and levels of tolerance by observing in what form he was interacting with the dinosaurs, and then respond appropriately. For example – if he sought out his plush, he might be feeling insecure; or if he had his large heavy dinosaurs and was bashing them about or had taken himself off to the reading corner and was flicking rapidly thorough his favourite books then he was beginning to dysregulate and needed someone to step in and help him calm down again. She attuned herself to him and although it wasn’t always successful, over time she and the staff managed to not only create an environment where he felt safe enough to accept their support, but by using his interest they were also able to help him develop his social skills and self-esteem.
Sadly since starting school this level of understanding and support has been lost for him, along with the security of having his Dinosaurs nearby and he now feels unable to cope emotionally, socially or academically. His self-esteem has completely gone out of the window, children tolerate him but he doesn’t have any ‘real’ friends and for several months now, not only has he not been learning, but he has felt unable to remain in the classroom. We are now at the stage where he has 2 members of staff (not including class teacher) supporting him at all times but he still cannot access the work. I know that both school and he are stuck in a vicious cycle and nobody knows how to get out of it. I try to work with school closely and offer them suggestions, including making use of his dinosaur obsession but school say he simply refuses to learn and chooses to play and not try to do any school work. Until the recent arrival of a new member of support staff, school have been reluctant to entertain the idea of being more creative with methods for enabling him to access his learning. They had simply suggested that we encourage him more at home.
Some of you may now be reading this and thinking “why don’t you move him or home-school him?” and you would be right to wonder, I have considered it. I know that I could never home-school him and I am not sure another mainstream school would do any better. I do not believe that his inability to succeed at school is because he doesn’t want to work, but due to his emotional state and his mistrust of the school staff. At home he loves to look at his books and is keen to learn more, but in order to do this he needs to feel that he is safe to make mistakes and won’t be rejected or humiliated if he gets it wrong.
Please understand me I am not writing this as a criticism of his school. Yes, I am frustrated by the lack of understanding and knowledge the staff have about working with children with a complex early history and their resistance to accept that it is not personal. He is not trying to show them up as inept teachers/support staff.
See, I knew I would go off on a tangent. Forgive me, my mind tends to jump around at times and more so when I am thinking about my boys and their needs.
So, earlier I said that Nursery, Bumble and I have managed to take advantage of Buzz’s Dinosaur obsession to bond with him, and boost his self-esteem. Could this be the answer for school? Should I push the issue more? Realistically all I can really do is lower my expectations with school, as I have with both my boys. I need to take baby sized rather than ‘Argentinosaurus’ sized steps with school and be prepared to accept that for every step forward school and Buzzbee make, they have a long way to go and mistakes will be made, and they will fall back a few steps, but I have faith that one day they will get there.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” Saint Augustine