Hi everyone! I've been a long term member but not a frequent poster.
My son is a young 1st grader (summer birthday). He says he hates school, he'd rather be at home, school is "boring" and "stupid" and "too hard". Several times he has had a full anxiety attack and full refusal to attend school. The principal has been able to talk him out of it and he has gone on to class and had a normal day, but during these episodes he is sobbing, begging, it is very hard. We haven't figured out yet what is triggering these episodes-he usually has some specific complaints, but minor issues (ie the teacher was "mad" at him because she looked at him weird). We are seeing a counsellor and it seems that his anxiety stems from having to leave home rather than anything going on at school.
He has good friends and is well-liked by other kids and the teachers/principal. He is super sensitive to any kind of correction and reports "getting in trouble" a lot, when the teacher perhaps gave him a warning such as "Sit in your seat". The teacher has only reported that he occasionally needs a reminder to stay on task, never has had any major behavior issues.
At home he is a perfectionist and will often want to quit a task saying it is "too hard" when in fact he just doesn't want to do it or is frustrated that it isn't quite right. He has little desire to do school work, but when I get him in the right mind frame he breezes through it all very quickly. He is reading books such as "Runaway Ralph", the Junie B series, the Magic Treehouse series for fun, which are all at reading level M-O, yet at school the teacher identified him as level D (on A-Z reading scale, Z being highest level). The tasks he is breezing through at home she feels are challenging for him since that is what he says/how he acts at school. His grades are all "grade level" but I know he is capable of more.
I don't want to push him, I keep thinking this will maybe improve as he gets older and finds his own interests, and learns better how to deal with the anxiety and perfectionistic tendencies. I am also afraid of him falling into the habit of underperforming and getting more and more bored.
Anyone else dealing with this? I was the kid who loved school and was disappointed at breaks, so this is unfamiliar ground for me. Any suggestions on getting him more interested and motivated would be appreciated.
I would consider a psychological educational assessment so you can establish for the school what his abilities are and if there is something about how he learns that is interfering with his ability to function in school.
My ds had similar behavior in 1st grade (plus other things related to ADHD and Aspergers). Early in K his teacher thought his reading comprehension was below grade level (which we knew wasn't true), and discovered that he wasn't paying attention during testing because he was 1) distracted by what was on the walls, 2) bored by the story, and 3) insulted by the easy/obvious testing questions; so from then on she was aware that more effort was required to keep ds on track. His ADHD diagnosis (and OT eval) helped his 1st grade teacher be aware of what was going on, then we had a psychological educational assessment done along with a behavioral assessment mid-year.
When ds gets very anxious he can freeze up and be completely non-communicative. His teacher last year was very good at talking him out of it and he went from "freezing" for several minutes to half a minute or less by the end of the year. He might freeze for a number of reasons; he thinks he's right and no one agrees, he doesn't want to do it, he thinks it's too hard or too much work (once he froze for over 20 minutes because he thought going to lunch would mean missing the class Valentine's Day party), he may have missed the directions and didn't know what to do, or the task requires abstract thinking and he has more of a literal mind.
You can request your school do an evaluation, but I would also do one privately if you can (it's faster and they work for you).
If you decide to request the school do an evaluation, you need to "start the clock" in your letter of request; the school has 60 days from the date they received parental consent for evaluation to do the evaluation; your written request should note that this letter is the consent for evaluation. (And, if you did not do it in writing, it never happened!).
I can relate to some of what you write about your son. My son is also a perfectionist and does NOT take criticism or scolding easily. I wrote something in the gifted forum about this also (which is different than your experience; the WAY my son was acting, one would have thought he was failing--however he was in the top 3 out of 100 kids in his second grade class, and his teacher thought the world of him, he never got in trouble, etc). However he went from loving school K-1 to hating going by 2nd. He also started showing symptoms of anxiety (no anxiety attacks though), depression, unhappiness, stress, etc. He too thought the teacher hated him, that work was too hard, he even came to us crying on 3 separate occaisions saying he never wanted to grow up, because we taught him he was going to school so that when he grew up he could be a smart adult and get a good job, and since he hated school, he never wanted to grow up, etc.
First, I agree with the pp that you should have him evaluated. In lieu of that, I can offer our thoughts towards their perfectionist tendencies. Is your son a first born, or only? We joke that being the first born we were able to create a little bubble for him, and that he didn't get to experience frustrations (and not doing something right the very first time) b/c we were always able to step in and make things successful for him. Our second and third children, however, take frustrations much more easily, since we had other children when they came along, we weren't able to be as 1:1 with them.
Were his K teacher(s) having the same experience as this 1st grade teacher is? If not, I also wonder just how much his teachers personality towards him is causing this. One of my sons teachers was a much more direct, in-your-face person. Now, *I* am not that way as a mom, I take a more gentle approach, but I do NOT think badly of that teacher (or other moms for that matter) for having that type of personality. Its just different ways of talking to people. But from a 6 yr old standpoint, that may take some getting used to, and he may be interpreting as the teacher doesn't like him, and he's shutting down. My son had this experience also, and it took me observing a full day in the classroom to see how the teacher talked to all the kids including my son for me to understand he was taking how she approached him a little too seriously.
Finally, we did end up switching my son's school, and he is much better for it, even if the curriculum is easier, he's actually getting so much opportunity to do things to his interest, and in that way I've already seen him choose harder approaches, so I do feel like he's being challenged enough. But you have just started figuring all this out so I would never suggest you jump and do that; however just my opinion, I'd take full-on anxiety attacks seriously, which it sounds like you are doing. I would view anxiety attacks as the sign that he's not able to deal with this on his own.