Aimee Gervais is six-years-old, she is constantly bullied daily by colleagues at her school and has even been called “stupid” by one of her teachers when she attended pre-school.
It is a painful situation for her mother, Toribia Spencer, 27, who said Aimee cannot help her psychological state as she was recently diagnosed with three learning disabilities—Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Specific learning disorder (SLD) and Intermittent explosive disorder (IED). (See sidebar).
Spencer claimed that often she would pick up her second-year infant daughter from school, soaked from head to toe, having been doused with water by fellow pupils.
“Today I picked her up and she told me some children were taking her pencil case and throwing it in the bin. She was also poked with a pin,” Spencer said.
She also claimed that she made numerous reports to the principal of the school but nothing has been done to stop or discipline the pupils behind the bullying. Instead, her teachers often subject Aimee to classroom confinement, in an attempt to lessen or avoid the bullying.
Prior to Aimee's official diagnoses, Spencer said it was while on a visit to the hospital to treat a case of gastroenteritis that the then three-year-old had contracted, the doctors noticed and pointed out to Spencer her daughter's developmental delay and referred her to the child development unit at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
However, as a then inexperienced parent, Spencer followed the advice of her family who felt nothing was wrong with Aimee and that her daughter would improve with age. But when nothing changed as Aimee grew, Spencer reverted to doctor's advice.
“Her motor skills were not developing as it should, she was unable to grasp reading or even say her ABCs. And what stood out for me the most was her inattentiveness. I recall one time dropping her off to school and she walked past the school gate to the corner after the school without notice. It was only when I called out to her, she realised that she had passed her stop,” Spencer said.
Aimee also hears voices in her head, telling her to do bad and mean things, Spencer claimed, “She's unable to distinguish between what is bad or good. And also cannot tell a new day from a past one.
“It is difficult as a parent to watch your child go through scorn for something that they have no control over. I have had to endure hearing persons, even adults make negative comments about Aimee which was very hurtful.”
More public awareness needed
There is just not sufficient public awareness about such learning disabilities, which directly affects how schools and people, in general, treat children with such challenges, Spencer felt.
She said, “There is a severe lack of understanding and at most, a child is just often labelled as a 'problem child,' 'badly behaved' or a 'dunce.' "
If Spencer had enough money, she swore, she would send Aimee to a school specially designed for children with such disabilities, but the cost is just too much for the public servant.
Spencer said, “I don't have that kind of money. The reality is, a lot of parents who cannot afford to send their children to such schools often have to deal with the same challenges faced by my Aimee. It is unfortunate, because, in the regular schools, the environment just does not cater for such children.”
In the meantime, the mother of three is adhering to the doctor's instructions to make the situation a bit more manageable. She told the Sunday Guardian, Aimee has to remain on a low-sugar diet; attend a hearing and visual screening every two years; occupational therapy is recommended to improve Aimee's overall adaptive skills and doctors also recommended Aimee be evaluated every three years to determine the process of her development and effectiveness of the recommendations listed.
“She is not this problem child who is weird or stupid, she has challenges beyond her control. She has a personality just like every other child and wants to become a scientist when she grows up.”
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.
· Inattentive. Kids who are inattentive (easily distracted) have trouble focusing their attention, concentrating, and staying on task. They may not listen well to directions, may miss important details, and may not finish what they start. They may daydream or dawdle too much. They may seem absent-minded or forgetful and lose track of their things.
· Hyperactive. Hyperactive kids are fidgety, restless, and easily bored. They may have trouble sitting still, or staying quiet when needed. They may rush through things and make careless mistakes. They may climb, jump, or roughhouse when they shouldn't. Without meaning to, they may act in ways that disrupt others.
· Impulsive. Kids who are impulsive act too quickly before thinking. They often interrupt, might push or grab, and find it hard to wait. They may do things without asking for permission, take things that aren't theirs, or act in risky ways. They may have emotional reactions that seem too intense for the situation.
Specific learning disability (SLD) refers to a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or perform mathematical calculations.
Specific learning disability categories include dyslexia, executive function disorder, perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia.
SLD does not include learning problems related to physical difficulties (visual, hearing, motor skills), emotional disturbance, cultural factors, environmental, or economic disadvantage.
Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behaviour or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or other temper tantrums may be signs of intermittent explosive disorder.
These intermittent, explosive outbursts cause you significant distress, negatively impact your relationships, work and school, and they can have legal and financial consequences.
Intermittent explosive disorder is a chronic disorder that can continue for years, although the severity of outbursts may decrease with age. Treatment involves medications and psychotherapy to help you control your aggressive impulses.
Aggressive episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
· Increased energy
· Racing thoughts
· Chest tightness
The explosive verbal and behavioural outbursts are out of proportion to the situation, with no thought to consequences, and can include:
· Temper tantrums
· Heated arguments
· Slapping, shoving or pushing
· Physical fights
· Property damage
· Threatening or assaulting people or animals