Help with a unique student?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Starlight, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. Starlight

    Starlight New Member

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Granted, I am still a fairly new teacher (5 years and counting!) and I have had the joy of getting to know a broad range of personalities in children, but I have never encountered someone like a little girl in my second grade class this year. Get comfy and put your thinking caps on, this is a bit of a tale.

    Allow me to introduce Sayla; She was born in Sweden, mother is Swedish and father is American ( she is fluent in both languages and is learning French with surprising speed). For reasons unknown (listed simply as 'hardship transfers') she has switched schools four times in the two years she has been enrolled in the school system. Sayla is exceptionally bright, so bright I wonder what her IQ is (on the first day of school she told me in very technical detail how a blackhole is formed) and strikingly pretty with an infectious personality; she seems to have kids lined up wanting to play with her.

    The problem is, Sayla doesn't want to play with other children. She claims they are 'exceptionally boring', that she 'hates other kids' and would rather talk to adults because she feels they are more 'on her level'. I gave her an independent vocabulary test and she read up to freshman college level before having problems. I'm really astounded by her, and I fear she is bored in my class. I've tried talking to her parents but, well, that is another problem...

    Sayla is listed as living with her grandmother and seems to switch homes between relatives fairly often (even at one point overseas!). I can't seem to find out who she really lives with! When I ask her about her family members she won't answer, but will tell me in great detail about her favorite pet (another red flag, when she told me she doesn't like kids, but she feels extreme empathy for the suffering of animals and seems generally distressed when she hears of any kind of animal being hurt (even minor things), though shows little interest in the injuries of her classmates) or the time she stayed with her best friend down the street for awhile. Her parents are divorced, and I notice on certain Mondays she comes back extremely depressed and withdrawn. She also became hysterically upset when I returned a math test to her and she had missed some questions and begged me to 'destroy the paper'.

    I also have noticed she doesn't like to share; we had an incident the other day during our science lesson (blowing bubbles with soap and wands). Sayla went into the classroom without my permission (she often does things on her own without asking and doesn't seem to understand why she can't do things without supervision), grabbed a bowl from our art sink and used it to pour some of the soap water for her private use. A little girl came over and dipped her wand in Sayla's bowl, to which she responded with upending the bowl of soapy water into the girl's eyes. The little girl was crying and said she only wanted to play with Sayla, to which she replied "I don't want to play with someone like you! You will ruin everything!"

    I've looked for signs of physical abuse but I don't see any. I can't understand this girl, she is so charming to the point I wonder if it is borderline manipulation, as she has been known to manipulate the kids in her class for her amusement, but doesn't seem to manipulate the adults she deems worthy or 'up to her level'. But at the same time she's so sweet, and she talks with so much enthusiasm about, well, anything that interests her (at least to adults, with her peers she talks in a very condescending tone, and treats them as though they are years younger than her).

    Another thing that worries me, is, well, regarding going home she doesn't seem like she wants to. The only time I met her father was a little after 9pm a few weeks ago. Sayla stays for after-school care, and usually is gone by 5. It was already 6pm when I was leaving my classroom and happened to stop by the gym to talk to the supervising teacher and I saw Sayla was there. I asked her why she was still here and she didn't seem too concerned, so I went home. About 8:30 I received a call from the supervising teacher and was told Sayla was still at the after-school care; they had tried her home and emergency numbers but no answer. Feeling responsible for her, I came back to school to talk to Sayla, worried she might be upset at the thought of not being able to go home. Instead, she said something very curious to me: 'Oh, so am I going to live with you now?'. It wasn't so much what she said, but how she said it... in a very matter-of-fact tone, as though this was a normal thing for her. After awhile we finally got through to her father, and he seemed annoyed that he had to pick her up. When I told Sayla that her father was on his way, she seemed extremely anxious and tried to convince me in a would-be-casual tone that she would make a great daughter and she 'doesn't have to stay for too long' because she 'never does anyway'. When her father arrived she seemed very anxious and quickly began telling him all of her accomplishments of the day, as if to please him because she seemed to know he was upset.

    I didn't know if I should contact CPS, because, as I said, she doesn't seem to be physically abused, nor neglected; she has very nice, new, expensive clothing all the time, told me she has a separate living room and bedroom to herself (unusual in our area of town, as our neighborhood is the lower-middle class section), and seems to be healthy.

    I'm worried about her and I don't know what to do. If her previous school records show anything then she will probably be withdrawn from school and placed somewhere else by Christmas break. So, any advice? I've tried approaching the Principal but, well, I hate to talk ill about him, but he's more worried about funding and making sure every student is standardized and doesn't do very well when things are not easily placed in a black-and-white column.

    So, any ideas?
     
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  3. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Do you have a guidance counselor, school psychologist, or social worker at your school? I would talk to one of them and get some advice. They might be able to come in and observe her behavior, and give you further insight into the situation.

    Have you looked through her entire folder for information? I know that sometimes when we get people involved in investigating attendance issues (and other similar issues), the parents often split. At our school it is very common for students to move several times (they tend to get evicted frequently), but it doesn't sound like this is the climate at your school. I would be curious as to why the family is moving so much.

    I hope you find some answers to your questions! Keep us posted :)
     
  4. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Report it...something isn't right about this...I have a 2nd grader, she would be out of control if she was left anywhere. She can't wait to hug whomever picks her up. She also talks better to older people, but likes playing with peers.
     
  5. Icare

    Icare Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Hi,
    Okay, before you jump to conclusions and call CPS on this child's family, talk to the School Pyscologist.

    This child has A LOT of traits/red flags of Asperger Syndrome. I have two children with it and there are definitely some behaviors that I can see.
     
  6. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    Sep 27, 2010

    It would be a waste of time to call CPS because as you said, she has no physical signs of abuse. As far as switching homes, while it's not the ideal situation, she DOES have a roof over her head so there is no neglect there HOWEVER, her being left for so long with after school care, the father should have had the police called on him. THAT is neglect. I hope they documented that.

    Talk to your guidance counselor about this. I would also see if you can get her some gifted testing.
     
  7. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Something is a bit off.

    The lack of empathy for other students, but for animals, makes me think something on the Spectrum.

    Talk to the school psychologist/social worker and your principal, then see what to do.
     
  8. Icare

    Icare Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Exactly Bros, a lot of girls on the spectrum obsess over animals. Plus that black hole thing.... so many more things that just seem spectrumish to me.

    Also that lack up empathy thing, kids on the spectrum do have empathy, they just do not know how to show it like other people do.
     
  9. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Yeah, I know. I just phrased it oddly. Students on the spectrum have empathy for others, just that it is an unusual emotion to express. Some people know how to express it naturally, others require a bit of help.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Wow. This is a highly detailed and somewhat upsetting FIRST (and currently ONLY) post. I'm also very hopeful that the OP did not use the student's REAL first name...
    In any case, I would suggest talking with your school guidance counselor, psychologist or child study personnel. This is not something for you to 'diagnose' on your own or about which have us speculate about. You have given enough details that someone might be able to identify the student- please protect her privacy and work with the professionals in your district who are qualified for the assessment and classification of students.
     
  11. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2010

    Yes, school psychologist and counselor (and principal to cover yourself) are the correct routes to take.

    Go from there. If nothing seems to be getting done, come back here and we'll brainstorm for the next step.
     

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