Interestingly, as much as he did not want to sit alone, and in fact, felt "put upon" (my favorite Thomas the Tank Engine label), he actually started to focus in on his work. I sat with him about half the class, with a colored pencil in hand, and he would try one and another integer subtraction or addition problem. After each attempt, I would subtly mark his work to show him where to be looking for clues with the signs.
At first he was making every possible error. Slowly he started to get one or another correct. By the end of about 15 minutes, he was nailing each one of the problems with 100% accuracy. But best of all, he was feeling confident in his ability to discern the salient figures and work effectively with them. He stopped noticing what his peers were doing and became an avid student. He finished early, with a grin on his face. Satisfaction.
In my uberliberal school, many students have been given labels to explain why they can't do something. Disgraphia, discalculia, executive functioning disorder, ADD etc. It is a dizzying display of reasons why students shouldn't be pushed beyond their comfort level, which, in many cases, is a very low threshold. This distracted students has been gifted with a number of these labels.
Yes, he is a distracted student with many, many challenges. But today he overcame them. He left class feeling proud, accomplished and part of the group.
I wish my school would drop the labelling and allow kids to work through their issues and grow up into there own selves.