Ross isn’t understood by his family.
They think he’s got mental health problems.
His mother told me how much work he is, and how worried she is about him. She thinks his younger brother might be OK most of the time, but every now and again she worries he’s turning out a bit like Ross. Nowhere near as bad, mind. Just a little bit like Ross.
Ross’s mother, Marie, doesn’t work. She has a bad back and depression, so she spends a lot of time at home. A lot of time worrying about Ross.
Why is he like he is?
Why doesn’t he do the things the other kids on the estate do?
Why isn’t he normal?
I ask her what she means. What is it about Ross that worries her so much? I’ve spent time with him and he seems untroubled by any discernible mental health worries. I’ve taught him off and on for two months and nothing about him raises any alarm bells for me.
Ross is on Ritalin, so he’s probably OK at school, but when he gets home he’s a nightmare. She just can’t control him. Her husband helps when he gets home, but sometimes he’s out until 7, and it really isn’t fair to bother him after he’s been at work all day. He’s worried about Ross too.
She asks for some advice. The doctor (a new one) wants to take Ross off Ritalin, but she doesn’t think she’ll be able to cope if he does. What can I suggest? Is it better to travel all the way over to Dr Jewson in the far surgery? They’re not really in the catchment area, but Dr Jewson has helped her in the past. In fact he suggested Ritalin when they used to live over that way a few years ago. He’d seen Ross after they’d all had lunch at the fair, so he knows what Ross is like.
I tell Marie that I can’t make a decision like that, she needs expert medical advice. Perhaps she needs to take Ross into the new doctor for an assessment, things change, and maybe he really does no longer need the Ritalin. I explain that one day last week there was a visiting theatre group and Ross forgot to go to reception for his tablet, but there was no deterioration in his behaviour. Maybe the new doctor is right.
Marie assures me he isn’t. There are really is a problem. Ross just isn’t normal.
I ask Marie to clarify this, I tell her I don’t really understand – what exactly is Ross doing that worries her so much?
Marie tells me. Ross runs all around her on the way home from school. He won’t stop talking. The meds must have worn off because he shouldn’t really be like this. He keeps telling her stories, he goes on and on and expects her to reply. She can’t even look at her phone when he’s like this as she’s worried he’ll step into the road as he’s not concentrating on where he’s going.
She pushes the buggy with his younger brother, at least Darren’s usually asleep by then, otherwise Ross gets him going by talking to him and asking him how nursery went. It’s endless. It drives her mad.
Her sister’s kids aren’t like this. They run off ahead on their own on the way home from school. They’re in the front garden when her sister gets there. Why doesn’t Ross do that?
When Marie gets in she makes a cup of tea and settles down in front of the TV. Her back hurts after the walk to and from school, pushing that buggy is tough as Darren’s quite a big boy. But she can’t relax. Not with Ross all around her. The other kids are out playing on the wasteland at the side of number 13. But Ross isn’t. He says he doesn’t like doing the stuff the other kids do. But she doesn’t think the other kids do much harm. Number 13 isn’t lived in anyway. She locked him out one afternoon. Not for long, just until tea-time. But he still didn’t go away and play with the other kids. He just sat in the garden with a book.
Books! So many books! It’s not normal. He doesn’t go out with the other kids unless they’re playing football in the park. That’s what he should be doing. Not reading things he doesn’t understand. He gets them from the school library – can’t we stop him picking difficult things?
After tea he goes on his computer. Always on his computer. That starts fights with Darren because Ross won’t let him play games on it. He keeps looking at things. Really weird things.
And then he asks questions. He keeps asking questions. He won’t shut up.
“What’s a black hole?”, “How long will it take to reach Mars?”, “If God invented the universe, who invented God?”, “How do rainbows form? Why are they bent?”, “Who invented money?”, “Who’s the richest man in the world?”, “What weighs more – an elephant or a rhino?”
Questions, questions, it drives her mad. Her eldest never did this. He kept quiet until he went inside. Why can’t Ross? Maybe she should see if Dr Jewson will increase the Ritalin? She might get some peace then. Why can’t he just be normal?
And then I understand.