By Cindy Adams


For 7-year-old Paul*, numbers, letters and almost anything academically oriented was something he feared. He didn't want to look at numbers or talk about letters, and he knew how to work around all of it. Hitting, spitting, biting, running and other extreme behaviors consistently resulted in his ticket out of the classroom. He quickly became unplaceable in the public school setting.

"Paul was five and still in diapers when he came to live with me," said his foster mom of two years. "He progressed through so many developmental stages in such a short amount of time at home, so I knew he could do the same at school. I was desperate for someone to just stay the course with him."

As young Paul worked the public school system's policies, he was also forming his self-image. When he acted out, the classroom was cleared. When he continued acting out, he was sent home. Poor behavior was getting locked into his routine, and his failure experiences were leading to a lot of negative self-talk. That is until he met the staff at Roanoke Minnick School.

"I was nervous that it might not go well at Minnick either," his foster mom confessed, "but he quickly learned that his prior behavior wasn’t working for him in the same way. He was now in an environment that could handle his extremes."

Just as his foster mom expected, pushing through the hitting, spitting, biting and running phases long enough has demonstrated love and commitment to Paul. The patience and endurance Roanoke Minnick educators have shown as he adjusted to a new school environment have resulted in dramatic and encouraging improvement.

"He is so proud of his good behavior when he gets home," his foster mom said. "He can't wait to go over his performance chart with me, and he has started to talk about his schoolwork and school participation with pride. This is a dream come true."

Paul is still spitting, but most of his other behaviors have started to diminish. His support network is using trauma-informed approaches to teach him that he can work through this. His foster mom explains that he will test you, try to find your breaking point and then, he will stop.

She added, "I have no doubt, now that he is assured of his teachers' commitment and standards, that he will continue to explode into his potential."

*Name changed for privacy