Stafford resident Lisa Williams knows that troubled children can be overlooked, ignored, punished and even ousted during their time in school.
Staff members are responsible for so many children that often students who need additional attention can fall through the cracks.
In her experience though, that’s not the case at Hampton Oaks Elementary School — a school she calls “second to none.”
Williams said her 7-year-old son Noah was recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the school’s principal, assistant principal, counselor and Noah’s teacher, went above and beyond to help him. The staff was also supported by school social workers and a private psychologist, she said.
And while Noah doesn’t qualify for state-sponsored programs for children with mental-health challenges, his mother said, the staff at Hampton Oaks “stepped up.”
Since he was in kindergarten, Noah has acted out in his classrooms and on school buses — everything from screaming, lashing out, harming himself and attempting to flee the school, said Williams, noting that behavior issues began around age 3.
The staff came up with tools and approaches to engage Noah and worked with his family to find solutions that helped Noah be “an active participant in the school without feeling alienated and different,” his mother said.
“They organically cared,” said Williams. “As a parent, hearing the principal state he will not give up on my son — even when I felt defeated — has left me feeling optimistic and infinitely grateful.”
Allen Hicks is the principal of Hampton Oaks Elementary School.
Williams said that the statement was the reason she did not give up and withdraw Noah from school. A school can easily suspend students until expulsion to avoid the challenge, she added.
Staff advocated for him attending field trips and participating in class activities, even when Williams and her husband hesitated, for fear of him being a burden at the school.
The vice principal, Nicole Ochs, had lunch with Noah to keep him from feeling alone, she added.
Williams said that she isn’t sure what the behavior issues could stem from, but she and her husband once attributed the problem to sleep deprivation secondary to enlarged tonsils. The tonsils have since been removed, which improved his sleep but did not improve behavior issues.
Still, Hampton Oaks has truly made a difference in Noah’s life, Williams said, and children in these crisis situations are often looked on as “broken.” But Noah has greatly improved and has had fewer behavioral challenges.
Before this, Noah changed schools several times due to behavior issues and that left his family feeling hopeless and helpless.
Things that helped Noah included the realization that the classroom-behavior management chart was escalating the frequency and intensity of his behavior.
Noah’s teacher switched to an individual behavioral chart to set individual, attainable goals.
Noah was also included in making decisions about goals and rewards, his mother said.
The approach changed from discipline at home to positive reinforcement when the teacher taught the family how to use new approaches at home.
“In my heart and spirit, I know they truly care about Noah and want him to be successful in first grade,” said Williams. “I will forever be thankful.”