Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 53 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
“‘In general, Osher gave a calm, satisfied impression, and it is evident that he is comfortable in his current environment. Even before the information that was given over by the teacher—that is his Rabbi Reiness, I assume?—it appears that he became a bit more socially integrated, and was less drawn into confrontations; he was more open to listening to others and accepting what they said.’ Very nice. It’s good to read that he’s happy and he’s beginning to get a hold of himself.”
Yigal flipped forward two pages. “‘Osher displayed good analogical thinking…he overcame his initial impulses and the difficulty handling a large number of simultaneous stimuli…’” He raised his eyes from page number three. The house was quiet. The girls had gone to school, and he had come home from his morning shiur to read through these papers with his wife. Last night they’d been too tired to delve into the small lettering on the stack of papers the fax machine had spit out. But it was important for him to read it, even if now he would be late to work because of it. He hadn’t let on to anyone how anxiously he’d been awaiting the results of this evaluation. Rabbi Reiness had spoken very highly of the evaluator from Zichron Yaakov; he’d referred to him as “a person who knows how to put his finger on the right spot.” So, if they could find exactly the point that made it so hard for Osher to manage his life, there would be no one more thrilled than his father.
“Where was I? Oh. ‘In the memory tests, it is clear that Osher displays excellent cognitive processes. The score twenty out of twenty that he got on the Standard Progressive Matrices Test’—what is that exactly?—‘shows further evidence of his advanced processing abilities.’ Tell me, Irit, did anyone ever talk to us about learning issues with Osher? Or memory problems?”
“No,” Irit replied from the sofa.
“All his complications over the years were only because he didn’t want to sit, listen, and follow instructions…”
“He didn’t want to? He wasn’t—isn’t—able to.”
Her husband nodded. “Either way, we know it. So what is this evaluation trying to evaluate?”
“Maybe flip ahead a bit,” Irit suggested. “It’s a multidisciplinary evaluation; maybe you really can skip all the terms on the page you’re on now. They are more connected to learning.”
“But if they are complimentary to my son, then why not.” He smiled thinly. “It won’t hurt me to read some good things about Osher. So where should I turn to? It seems like you already know what all of this says.”
“Well, I couldn’t fall asleep last night,” she admitted.
“So you sat and read it all?”
“Yes. Until 2:30 a.m.”
“Like a suspense novel, huh?” He turned to the next page and glanced at it. “Is there at least a happy ending?”
“Depends how you look at it.”
Osher’s father bit his bottom lip. “And how do you look at it?”
She didn’t answer the question. “Read,” she said. “Later on, the evaluation directly addresses his ADHD, and the conclusion is that it is rather significant, but on the other hand, he has no innate communication issue that he was born with. His whole difficulty communicating with his surroundings is a secondary problem.”
Yigal turned a few pages. “Secondary? Here, I see something… ‘In the mediation that was given throughout the tests, there was an emphasis on reigning in his impulsivity before giving an answer. The ease with which Osher acclimated to the mediation and these habits show that he is able to reach a reasonable level of attention, despite the ADHD.’” He opened the shutters partway, allowing some rays of the morning sun into the house. “So what are they trying to say? That it’s not a serious problem? If so, why does he keep getting messed up?”
“Because the problem does exist.”
“You know, Ariella managed to cope very well with it.”
“True.” She smiled and squinted; the sun was hitting her eyes. “But you shouldn’t compare the two of them, and I’m also not sure that the situations are so similar. Look what they write there about his social difficulties.”
“Here, I see. ‘…And even though his ADHD is relatively mild, it is evident that it has affected his social functioning, due to a difficulty in recognizing and processing social cues. That has prevented him, over the years, from pausing in order to draw conclusions from events he experienced, and therefore he struggled to interpret interpersonal codes and social demands and norms. These difficulties, in addition to the learning difficulties that developed, apparently left deep emotional scars that make it difficult for him to forge proper communications…’ Wait, what does this mean? That Osher has emotional scars?”
“Is that news to you from this evaluation?”
Yigal was quiet. His fingers drummed on the table, and his eyes kept scanning the written lines. “‘Osher’s strong point,’” he moved to a different angle, “‘is his flowing and outstanding creativity in the grapho-motor field.’ What is grapho-motor? Related to graphics? Sketching?”
“Sounds like it.”
“Did you know that Osher has good hands? Flowing creativity?”
“No,” Irit said. “I mean, he was always weak in cutting, pasting, and drawing, but his notebooks were always full of all kinds of strange, vague sort of sketches, which I wouldn’t really call creative. You remember what his notebooks looked like, right?”
“Sure. And that is called overflowing creativity in the graphics field? Scribbling in a notebook during the lesson? Nu, nu. What else do they write here? ‘…Increased awareness of his creative ability could contribute to his self-esteem and increase his achievements in all the other areas.’ So what are we supposed to do? Send him to an art course? Illustrations? Graphics? I didn’t hear from Rabbi Reiness that he’s one of the better boys in the carpentry shop.”
“Did he tell you that he isn’t?”
“No, but if Osher would be particularly successful, he would tell me so.”
“Carpentry is a slightly different field,” she said hesitantly. “He might be less suited to it.”
“So what is he doing there the whole time?”
“The carpentry shop only keeps them busy for part of the day.” Irit looked at the papers he had put down on the table. “It appears that somehow, he has found himself a bit over there. The fact is, he’s still in Acco.”
“He is? Who says?” Bitterness colored every nuance of Yigal’s voice. “Maybe he disappeared from there too without telling us?”
“Rabbi Reiness would not let that happen. Now he knows that Osher doesn’t always take care to update us on his plans. Besides, Ariella called earlier and told me that she spoke to Sarah Reiness last night—she’s Rabbi Reiness’s wife—and she gave Ariella regards from Osher.”
“He asked Mrs. Reiness to give regards to Ariella? Does he know she’s up north and that she has contact with the Reinesses?”
“I don’t think he knows. It wasn’t personal regards from him, just from his presence there.”
“I see.” He looked at the papers on the table. “Well, it’s late… It’s a lot of material. I didn’t realize last night how much is there… I’ll continue reading it in the afternoon, but so far I don’t see any major discoveries here.”
“Fine. Do you want a coffee before you go?”
“Wait. Where is the summary and recommendations? There should be such a thing at the end, right?” He picked up the sheaf and flipped to the last page. “Here.” His eyes scanned the lines again. “‘Osher’s personality function is lower than expected for his age, and is characterized with a bit of childishness, alongside mild communications difficulties and lack of tactfulness. These disturbances are secondary, caused by his ADHD and his low self-esteem.’ Low personality function? That does not sound complimentary at all!”
His wife merely nodded.
“And the recommendations are ‘multidisciplinary intervention, and guidance for his parents and teachers, in addition to giving Osher tools such as understanding codes in his environment, initiating communication and social responses, and emotional empowerment by expressing his strong points. All these would be an effort to get rid of past scars, and to help him maximize his abilities.’”
This time, Yigal did not put the sheaf of papers on the table; he nearly threw it down. “I was waiting to see when that would come,” he said, and went to get his hat from the hook. “And there it is. Gross hints in the middle, and triumphant clarification at the end. Very nice.”
“You were waiting to see when what would come?” Irit was confused.
“The guilty parents versus the poor, wretched child,” he fumed. “The parents who need guidance. They need to help their child get rid of the scars of the past, and to save his image and his low personality function that they caused him to have. But that’s how it is today—what can we do? The trend is that everyone is to blame, and only the poor boy sits in the middle and waits to be rescued. Or he escapes to Acco, if no one comes to save him.”
“It’s not exactly like that,” Irit said quietly, rolling up the sheaf of papers. “They didn’t speak about us at all, Yigal, if you noticed.”
“I don’t know.” Yigal took the keys off the shelf. “And I still cannot understand the difference between Ariella and Osher. They both grew up in the same house, and they have similar problems. According to this evaluation, perhaps her ADHD is even more severe than Osher’s. Why is she so successful while he is not? Did we treat her differently? How is it that she doesn’t have so much scarring and all that blah blah?”
“Yigal, let’s stop putting ourselves on the defendants’ stand.” Irit followed him toward the door. “I was actually encouraged by these results. If the problem is relatively mild, it will be much easier to help Osher.”
“What have we been doing all these years if not helping him? And if it’s such a simple story, then why didn’t it work?”
“Because by the time we figured out the ADHD problem when he was in fourth grade, the secondary problems were already there.”
“Yes,” he murmured. “Emotional scarring. Yes. And what about with Ariella?”
“You really need to stop comparing the two of them, Yigal.” Irit stared at a ray of the sun that had landed on the tablecloth. “Especially since Ariella is not being so successful with her life right now either.”
“Yes.” He opened the front door. “He’s stuck because of a difficult past. She’s stuck because of a successful past.”
“Which ended in tragedy.”
“At least we’re not being blamed for Nosson’s accident. I’m going, Irit. Have a nice day.”