The Steps of Progress (19 years and Counting)!

For those of you who are parents, you know (especially when you have children with learning disabilities) progress is sometimes a slow crawl on a long journey towards adulthood. It’s hard to know if the decisions you have made in your child’s younger years are going to become the roadblocks or bulldozers that they deal with in their adult lives.

When I first discovered that my daughter was having difficulty learning, I admit to feeling apprehensive. I went to the people that I presumed where the experts (her teachers), but I found myself facing what I considered to be a brick wall. Most people thought that I should allow her to just be “happy” and let everything else (learning and education) go.  I don’t understand why we think that a child facing an obstacle should be forced to make the choice between learning and play. However, when it comes to learning disabilities, I find that is often the first response.

I can’t explain what that feels like.  I can only tell you that it is insulting.  It was so insulting to me that I determined in my own head that I wanted my daughter to have more than an enjoyable childhood – I wanted her to enjoy her life as an adult.  For that reason, we began writing and reading at home, tutoring over the summer and practicing those skills in other non-academic situations. What I mean by this is that I found a book and I scheduled our days, we would work for an hour or so and play for an hour or so.  If we took a trip to the zoo or the museum, we broke that trip down and wrote about it (wrote while doing it). We would walk to the library and read out loud.  If we saw a movie about something, we researched it to find out more.  When she was older, we took notes, practiced responding to questions and we dove into things that were unfamiliar.  It was not easy and sometimes she fought me, but we pushed on.

I recall other parents telling me that doing this was abusive. One parent told me that my daughter would grow up and become ‘wild’ because I had her practicing her writing when she could have been outside playing and enjoying her life like all the other kids her age. I cannot tell you how often I questioned my choices, especially those years when it seemed like my daughter was not making any progress or when she would take a test at school and come home feeling defeated and sad.

The only thing that kept me motivated during those times was the idea that my daughter was going to struggle as badly as I did if I did not find a way to help her. I thought about the insecurity she could face as an adult if she could not read and write and that was all that I needed to keep pushing forward.

This week, my daughter called and announced to me that after her graduation from college in May (with a BA in Business Administration), she will be moving on to a one-year graduate program. She is also hoping to spend part of her summer over seas. I leapt for joy – physically and emotionally.  I was so excited that I announced her good news over Facebook before she had the opportunity to share it herself.

When I look at her now, I still see that little bitty kiddo, struggling to hold her pencil. I see that kid who could not stay in her seat. I see that little one crying because the words in the book were hard to read. I see the kid who called herself stupid. I see the child who was picked on for being different. BUT, I also see an amazing and beautiful woman with hope and love and joy for any and every second that life provides.

I still question my choices. Maybe that is the price we pay as parents. However, I no longer question them as bad choices. I wonder what I could have done better, what would have made things easier, what skills can I develop to help parents in the same position I found myself in those years ago.

My advice at this point is – DON’T GIVE UP! People with limited vision will tell you that what you are doing is stupid, that your child should play instead of learn, that you are being mean for working for a future for your kid. Hold on to your vision! Do NOT let it go! Don’t let it drive you crazy, but use it to fuel your child to a lifetime of victories. I have faith in you all and I hope you have faith in yourselves!

I wish you a happy and Joyful THANKSGIVING!!!

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7 comments on “The Steps of Progress (19 years and Counting)!

  1. This is wonderful, congratulations to the both if you! That’s so great. I’m so happy she has found her way.

    I have a learning disability as well. I grew up going to smaller special classes for math and English. From grade 2 on I was told I couldn’t do certain things and my peers called me stupid. There were times I believed them but my family knew I was better than that. I was encouraged to keep going. Sometimes I gave in but I managed to find my way. I’m now 23 and although I have some other issues affecting me I have been able to pursue things I have wanted. I graduated from high school and went on to graduate from a social service worker program with honours before I was ended up in a fine art programming where I was the student council chair person and won an award for my work for them ( for community service and record high fund raising efforts).

    Now I am a Mom who is trying to teach her son.

    I find many people don’t really understand what learning disabilities are. I have worked with and mentored college students with LDs and they are some of the most creative and intelligent people I know.

    • Hi Apparently a Mom,

      Your message came through loud and clear. Your success is a testament of your hard work. I agree that many people do not understand what it is like to live with an LD. My daughter and I often hear people say, “You graduated, you don’t have an LD.” I now tell them, read my blog and my LD will become clear. I think that is why I choose not to hide every mistake I make on this blog. I think it speaks volumes to the fact that I have a disability. I am not ashamed of it! I DO have to work with it – just as I would if my disability was physical.

      I am so glad you had a supportive family – look at how many lives you have touched as a result of your experiences. Thank you so much for your kind words and support. At this point, I get to finally say that this is all my daughter’s achievement. If there is a way I can help you with working with your son, let me know. I would be happy to post another blog about tips on how to read and write.

      • Thank you! I think that would be a wonderful post. My son is only 11 months old so we aren’t quite there yet. I read to him often and point things out. I hope he doesn’t have to struggle like his father and I do but I know the chances for him are higher because of us.

      • There are some great things you can do to help your son learn right now – in fact it is the perfect age to start. First, do you happen to have any Dr. Seuss books – like 1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish? Or The Cat in the Hat? Green Eggs and Ham? These are books that you can read fluently that have both numbers and letters in them. Reading these can help you to develop number sense in your son. By reading them like you are talking, it helps him to hear books read conversationally – this helps him to be a better reader. You can record yourself reading the books and that way, when you are not at home – your little darling can listen to you read.

      • I don’t own any but we pick them up at the library! He loves them
        🙂

      • That’s a great start!!! And the library is a wonderful place to begin.

  2. My phone really messed up some of my post 😦 you get though, I’m sure -_-

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