There is really nothing harder than finding out your child is different.
Maybe it is his height or weight.
Maybe it is her excruciating shyness.
Maybe it is a physical or mental handicap.
Maybe it is a delay that can be placed on a spectrum.
But, when someone identifies your little baby is not like the rest of their classmates, it is difficult to swallow. Hard to accept. Hard not to take blame on yourself.
Did I get all the multivitamins I should have during pregnancy?
What about that time the scooter hit him in the head and I didn't rush to the ER?
How about that crazy family history?
Isn't he JUST LIKE ME?
Undoubtedly, it is easy to play the blame game. It's easy to decide that you'd rather bury your head in the past tense "why" than figure out the future tense "how". But, as with all things parent, we have to figure out how to accept, move on, and get our children the help they need.
This is what has happened with both of our youngest sons; they were both diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life. And, after the shell-shock, we picked ourselves up, dusted off our behinds, and fell headlong into finding as much help as we could possibly garner.
I'll admit, being spitting distance from a world-class school for LD, The Shelton School, has been so amazing that I just don't have words for it. I feel blessed and humbled and grateful. I can't imagine the pain my children would have endured had we not had this resource.
But, in writing that sentence, I also realize that there are way too many families out there who have children who could use a Shelton in their life. And, it breaks my heart. I wish every community could have a school that specializes in LD that was accessible to all the children who need it.
And, I also understand that families and well-meaning teachers who don't understand LD have misconceptions about children who deal with them. So, today, I'm posting an article I read online about the top five misconceptions about learning disabilities. This is a writing I can agree with 100% and I hope others will read to gain understanding and dismiss ignorance. Because, often, the first step to identifying your child needs help is to understand what a LD is NOT.
LD children are bright, often gifted, but may be socially awkward due to their academic inabilities.
LD children learn to compensate for their inabilities and can often figure out how to compensate academically, such as using pictures for ques when reading, up to the point that school work becomes too difficult for compensation.
LD children aren't lazy or stupid or forgetful. They need parents and teachers who encourage them, even when they ask too many questions or need too much repetition or can't keep a concept straight two minutes after it is taught.
LD children aren't all hyperactive or overactive or behavior problems, not anymore than children who don't have LD.
I want to give hope to families raising LD children who are currently struggling: when Hooman left preschool at five, we knew there was something "different" about his learning. Testing revealed that he would likely develop dyslexia as he progressed.* After raising Nickels, who was an avid reader by first grade and gobbled up books like Thanksgiving leftovers, we were stunned.** And angered. And distraught. And a host of other emotions that we share with parents who learn this news.***
Hooman spent four years at Shelton and two of those years doing a wonderful reading program through the Texas Reading Institute in Houston to compliment his education. In fourth grade, he was ready to transition to a "regular" classroom sitting, with the forewarning that spelling and foreign languages would always be a difficulty for him.
Not only did we believe Hooman could make that transition, we believed that he could function in an environment where a classical education was taught. So, we held our collective breath and asked The Covenant School if they would take this path with us and enroll our son, even with the challenges he was facing and his past history. They said "yes".
This past quarter, Hooman earned a 93 in spelling and an 85 in latin. Even his teacher commented on the amazing progress she had seen this year. He has made the transition to Covenant look like childs' play, no doubt due to the remediation at Shelton and the Texas Reading Institute.
Equipping children with the tools necessary to compensate for LD is possible, but it starts with recognizing and acknowledging the problem.
LD children can overcome huge obstacles and move to a "regular" classroom environment. They can also stay at a school for LD children and be accepted into a host of colleges worldwide.
They can accomplish amazing things, given the tools.
But, probably most importantly to most parents, those early years of struggle can become a distant memory for your child; life can become easier. Those struggles can lead to intense persistence, amazing organization skills, and an appreciation for those who are suffering. Those are a few of the traits we see in Hooman.
And, beyond the grades, this is what we are most grateful for: a son who is becoming a Godly man early in life for the very reason that he was challenged in a way that many children never are.
To GOD be the glory.
*This was from a combination of family history and preschool testing on patterning and auditory processing.
**Which is another mistake many parents make: kids number one isn't going to learn like kid number three or vice versa. Just a little trick I think God likes to play on us so we don't get too comfortable with our jobs.
***I remember a day when Mike honestly shared with me that he wasn't sure Hooman would EVER be able to read.