For a very long time, Blake has been able to function in school without his OCD being noticed. He’s in the ninth grade now, and I believe that most of his teachers from 6th grade on have been surprised to learn that he has OCD. That is due, in good part, to Blake having done a terrific job in battling the disorder before then. Even as symptoms started to creep back in, they mostly occurred outside of school.
Then came last summer, when Blake’s fighting over treatment and constant insistence that everyone else had a problem (not him), led my husband, myself, and his treatment team agree to stop treatment. If he was going to fight, refuse and point at others, perhaps he should get what he was asking for – to manage his own life and his own OCD. Thus began our current chapter, where it is up to Blake to ask for help if he wants it. So far, he wants none, and his OCD goes along on its path, undisturbed by others.
Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail from the resource specialist at Blake’s school. He was following up on a concern from the math teacher. Blake has been leaving class frequently to wash his hands. It has been so noticeable to the teacher that he reached out to the resource specialist for help, even texting him for assistance in the middle of class yesterday. Blake was repeatedly leaving the room and the teacher did not know what to do.
The Resource Specialist Responds
The resource specialist responded right away, checking in with Blake to see if something was up with math. That’s when he saw the state Blake’s hands are in – chapped, scabbed, raw and oozing in places – and he asked about that, as well. Blake noted that nothing was wrong with math at all, and his hands, well he was just washing them a lot because they are dry. So the resource specialist responded as any caring adult would. He advised Blake that hand washing would only make his hands worse, and he suggested Blake get a good bottle of lotion and carry it with him at school. Blake had reasons why this was not a good idea for him. The resource specialist let Blake know he is there for him. And then he went to his office and wrote to me to ask my thoughts.
One of the things I love about Blake’s school is that the staff care about each student as an individual and that they are thoughtful about how to approach a student’s issues.I called the resource specialist. He picked up right away. We talked for a while about what’s going on at school, and about what is happening at home.
I let him know that Blake was not being honest with him. He talks several times a week about how he is struggling in math. Of course it is stressing him out. We’ve discussed ways he can get assistance with the areas he is struggling with. We’ve even talked about going to the resource specialist. I also explained that Blake does not see his OCD as a problem for him. We’ve been waiting for him to feel the consequences of not taking care of himself. Maybe this situation was an opportunity for him to begin to feel the repercussions.
A Plan Is Born
“Is his math performance suffering?” I asked.
“I surveyed the staff and he’s doing stellar in his classes, except math. Yes, it is affecting his performance.”
“I’m thinking maybe it’s time for him to hear that his behavior is having consequences for school. If he hears it from me, or if I attend a meeting, he’s likely to put it all on me. I think maybe he needs to hear it from you and Mr. C. (the math teacher).”
We talked about it for a bit and decided that the resource specialist and the math teacher will call Blake in for a meeting. They will simply tell him that his leaving the class as much as he is, is negatively affecting his grade in class. They will work with him to problem solve ways he can decrease the number of times he leaves class, and eventually eliminate this behavior altogether. If Blake works with them, they will work with him. If he is unwilling to change his behavior, math will continue to suffer and his grade will reflect that.
“I know you well enough to trust you guys will handle this with kindness and care,” I tell the resource specialist.
“We will,” he tells me.
“Just drop me a note or call me to give me a ‘heads up’ that this meeting has occurred.”
So, I wait to hear when the meeting happens and to observe what will come of it. I think it is positive that Blake will finally be hearing from others who are not members of his family that his OCD is creating some issues. I also think that it is positive that he will be challenged to address the issue. Whether he decides to proceed positively or whether he disregards the meeting, it will be one more piece of information stacking up to demonstrate that something may need to change. I’m hoping for the day when enough information piles up and sends Blake moving toward a life less bound by OCD’s grasp.