Scooter Boy

by Brian on December 21, 2005

in A Parent in Israel

As we were coming to pick up our six-year-old Aviv from his third week
in first grade last year, his new teacher pulled my wife Jody and me

“He seems a little spacey in class,” Yael said. “Like
he’s not really paying attention. I’m not sure he’s really ‘getting’
things. I’m a bit concerned.”

This is not something any parent wants to hear — that their precious child may have learning problems.

“I’d like to do some tests on him,” Yael said. “Let’s talk after that.”
Yael didn’t seem particularly worried. But we knew that Aviv was not
like everyone else. This was not the first time he’d been tested for
having a few “differences.”

It started when he was an infant and refused to crawl. Instead he
“scooted” on his tush. It was really quite remarkable the speed and
agility this little spunk of a kid could manage while remaining
entirely in an upright sitting position.

At first we thought it was cute. It was other parents who put out the alarm.

“You know my kid did that. I had to take him for years of occupational therapy.”


“You really should have that checked out. Could be an early sign of autism.”

But he was such an adorable, loving, easy child…so much easier than his
big brother and sister were at that age. How could there be anything wrong with him? And anyway, children in Papua New Guinea never learn to crawl either, choosing scooting as their preferred mode of pre-toddler transport.

Just the same, we took him to an occupational therapist.

“Low muscle tone,” Dr. Paz said, explaining that this condition gives
him less strength in his arms and hands which is probably why he wasn’t

“It’s something genetic,” he reassured us. Nothing we did. He
prescribed a number of exercises but warned that this would be with him
for life and that he’d probably have difficulty handling a pencil and
learning to write.

It’s amazing how such a minor disability can lead those who aren’t
familiar with it to jump to conclusions. The year before, in
kindergarten, Aviv’s teacher labeled him “slow” because he couldn’t cut
with a scissors or color between the lines the way the other kids
could. A specialist was brought in who suggested maybe Aviv would be
better off in special ed when he went on to first grade the next year.

We weren’t willing to give in so easily. We knew he was bright. Let him
try regular elementary school. If he couldn’t handle it, we could
always make a change later.

As Aviv was about to begin first grade,
though, a slight glitch was thrown into the plan. His big brother Amir
had just had his Bar Mitzvah and his grandparents wanted to take the
whole family on vacation to celebrate. Overseas, to Turkey, to boot. But the only time we could schedule
it was the first week of that school year.

I admit that I agonized about it more than Jody. But then I was the kid
who loved school. I went for twelve years with only two days off for
illness. I just couldn’t stand to miss a day of learning.

My kids think I am so weird.

Despite my concerns, we took Aviv out of class and his teacher gave him
homework to work on at the beach and in the airplane. Jody was
particularly diligent about him getting through his alphabet and not
falling behind.

Apparently too diligent.

The day after Aviv’s first grade teacher Yael administered the test
upon our return from vacation, we called to get the results..

“Frankly, I’m shocked,” she said.

Alarm bells started ringing full force.

“He’s absorbing everything. There’s no problem at all. He just got too far ahead while you were on vacation.”

In other words, he was acting spacey because he was…bored!

“Lay off the workbooks for awhile and let the class catch up,” Yael instructed us.

Now we know this isn’t the final verdict. Aviv’s low muscle tone will
most likely raise its weak arms again in entirely unexpected other
ways. But for now, we were in the clear. And who knows? Maybe we have a
little genius on our hands.

I wonder if Einstein used to scoot on his tush, too?

It’s been a year since I
wrote this story, although I never had a chance to post it. Since then,
Aviv has received his yellow belt in judo and is learning to play the
electric piano (known here in Israel as the organit). He and his friend Oshra love kicking a soccer ball around.
And, as you can see from the picture above, he is quite the “scooter boy”
these days. We love you, Aviv!

A follow up to my article on “10 Reasons I Still Love Jerusalem.” A
number of readers wrote in to say I was wrong in stating that there’s no decent
sushi in Jerusalem and recommended a small takeout place called Go Sushi on Luntz Street in
downtown. I had a chance to try it this week and you know what…it was
pretty good. Now there’s no reason not to visit…or live in Israel’s

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