M other
I think Kovi’s quirks are cute! They remind me of myself as a kid.

Father
I’m a teacher and I run a perfectly organized classroom, but I cannot get Kovi under control.

Kovi
For heaven’s sake, all I did was pull a bell.… Everyone needs to chill a little.

Miriam Kommel makes a grand entrance for their initial consult. “I’m a party planner,” she apologizes, waving her phone and pointing to her Bluetooth. “I have an event today, actually two events. Crazy mistake, don’t ask — Beth, are you sure the flowers are directly under the lights? — but this meeting was an emergency. I’ll be off in a minute — yes, Beth, I’m with you…”

Aaron Kommel looks apologetic, and I feel sorry for him.

“We’re here for our son Kovi,” he begins. “He’s ten, and he’s in trouble in school.”

“And at home!” Miriam interjects. “No, Beth, I’m talking to someone else here….”

“He’s a great kid,” Aaron backtracks. “He gets all As. Academics are fine.”

“What about friends?”

Aaron hesitates. “Kids love being around him because he’s always up to something. But I think they’re also a little afraid of him. Because you never know what he’s going to come up with next.”

“He’s not mean,” Miriam says defensively, finally hanging up. “He just says it like it is. So some kids might feel hurt by the things he says, even though they’re true.”

“He says whatever comes into his head and acts without thinking!” Aaron’s exasperation comes through loud and clear.

“Give me an example.”

“A new kid joined the class,” Aaron says. “Kovi asks him, ‘Why did you switch schools? Did they kick you out because you were too dumb?’ Once, they had a sub and he commented, ‘I can tell this is your first time teaching, but I can’t tell yet if it will be your last.’ ”

Miriam laughs. Her husband throws her a disapproving look. “Sorry,” she says, wiping her eyes. “It’s funny.”

He turns to me. “He’s smart,” he reiterates. “He just doesn’t think! And yesterday was the last straw.” Even Miriam sobers. “He pulled the fire alarm — not only did the entire school evacuate, but the sprinkler system went off. And when I asked him why he did it, he just shrugged and said, ‘I wanted to see what would happen!’ ”

“This is a disorder?” Miriam interjects, looking at me. “I mean, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you’re a therapist, you make money by calling things ‘disorders.’ ”

I sneak a look at Aaron; he says nothing.

“Have you discussed the option of therapy before?”

Miriam waves a hand. “A million times!”

“What happened that finally brought you here?”

A pause. “It was something the principal said, after the fire-alarm thing,” Aaron finally replies. “In all Kovi’s… adventures, no one ever used that word before.”

“Yeah,” says Miriam, in agreement for once. “A word worse than ‘therapy.’ ”

I look from one to the other. “Suspension?” I guess. “Self-contained class?”

Aaron shakes his head. He spits it out like it’s costing every ounce of his courage. “The word,” he says reluctantly, “was… Ritalin.”

Kovi’s bluntness and unpredictability make it hard for other kids to trust him as a safe friend.

Kovi himself doesn’t really know why he does things; he acts on impulse, not logic.

What Miriam doesn’t realize yet is that the goal is not to change Kovi’s nature, but to teach him appropriate boundaries and self-discipline skills.

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 562. D. Himy, M.S. CCC_SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice for over 15 years. She is the creator of the Link-It reading comprehension and writing curriculum for elementary school students and directs continuing education programs for speech-language pathologists and educators.