Tips for Parents on Teaching Reading, Writing and Math Skills

I received an email from a parent asking me to write some tips to help parents (new and experienced) provide reading, writing and math instruction to their children at home or in addition to what they learned in school. Often parents feel like their hands are tied when it comes to helping their own children to learn, especially when the parent has a learning disability. I want all parents to realize that they are the first educators their children will ever meet and they have a huge set of advantages – time, opportunity, trust, skill, and knowledge about their children. For your child to be a good student, you have to show them the way and you are equipped – trust me.

Tip 1: Read books that you are able to read fluently. By reading a book fluently you are teaching your child how to read in a conversational way. Do not worry whether or not book is simple or complicated. It only matters that your child hears the text come to life in a way that resembles everyday conversation.

Tip 2: Read books with numbers in them. This allows your child to build number sense and helps them to see numbers in a universal way. This is especially good for small children who are just beginning to talk.

Tip 3: Phonemic Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate phonemes or what experts say is the smallest unit of sound that can differentiate meaning. This is something you can do in the dark. Play a game with your children. Turn the lights off or have the child cover their eyes and practice sounds. You can say /b/ and have your child mimic the sound. You can choose any letters for the night, but it works best if you choose letters that combine into one word (like /b/, /a/, /t/ (bat), so throughout the lesson your child is actually spelling words phonetically.

Tip 4: Phonics is putting the letter symbols to the sounds. After you have a child spell the words using the sounds – then let them see the word and say the letters. You can do one or two words each time you play, but the more you play the more vocabulary you can introduce and this will help your child spell in the long run. It is also fun and can be a great way to get your child excited about learning!

Tip 5: Highlight/underline vocabulary in the text and help your child to create child friendly definitions for those vocabulary words. If you are struggling to define a term, look it up. It is great for your child to see you search for information in a dictionary or online. This allows your child to see and use other resources. Write those vocabulary words on an index card with definitions on the back. When you have down time (or as a barter for some TV time) quiz your child on a few words from the deck of index cards.

Tip 6: As soon as your child can write more than the alphabet, have the child write the definitions. Writing is a tough skill to master, help them practice as often as possible.

Tip 7: Keep a notebook with your child – a journal – making it beautiful or whimsical on the outside makes it more unique for your child. When you move about your day, point things out and have your child write them in their journal. For instance, say you decide to take a stroll to the local park. You can point out bugs or clouds or cars and say, “Hey (child’s name here). Look at that (item here). Let’s write that in your journal.” Then write, Today I saw a (item). Let your child write the sentence that you wrote. If your child is older have them write a short paragraph about whatever it was you saw.  Be sure to remind them about it the next time – we call this activating prior knowledge – when children associate new skills to what they already know, they tend to maintain that information.

Tip 7: Speak in complete sentences and encourage your child to do the same. Set the expectation that you and your child can use proper sentences.

Tip 8: Practice math problems with your child. This is easy. Example: Take boxes out of the cabinet. Set a few on the counter. Talk out loud about how many boxes you have on the counter. Take some away or add some and talk out loud about the process. Count the number of boxes you have and then speak the number sentences. Example: I placed 5 boxes on my counter top. If I add 3 more boxes, I have 8 boxes on my counter top. 5+3=8. I know this sounds monotonous, but it helps your child to see how to add and subtract. Do this when you are shopping at the grocery store or any other place where you can discuss numbers. The more you build the better you get.

Tip 9: Many times parents tell me that the educational system has a responsibility to bend to meet the needs of their child. This is an interesting perspective.  Even if the educational system bends to meet the needs of the child through their high school years, that will not always be the case when that (now) adult goes to college or when they find a career later in life. As hard as it is to come to terms with, we must teach our kids how to work around others in a way that might be outside of their comfort zone.

Example. My daughter has severe ADHD. She wants to be an accountant in a business office. For that to happen she had to go to college. The majority of college campuses are not designed for different types of learners. She had to learn to sit through the interview without bouncing, she had to learn how to directly respond to questions, and she had to prove that she could adapt to the culture of that school.  She will have to do the same thing when she is ready to find a career. For that reason, we spent a lot of time teaching her how to sit still and focus. We trained her how to hear questions to ascertain what was being asked. We pushed her to find outlets after she got out of school so she could get through an 8 to 10+ hour workday.

I hope she finds a career that she loves, but I also feel better knowing she has the knowledge and the skills to make it in a world that is not accustomed to her way of doing things. We did that not by teaching our daughter about the world as we hoped it would be some day, but by teaching her about the world as it is. I have no doubt that one day I will find her working while dancing – in a company that has a great deal of confidence in her ability to do what it takes to get the job done.

RECAP:

Parents, I understand that reading, writing and math are hard things to tackle. However, I want you to think about it under these types of terms. If your child wanted to be a dancer, football player, journalist, etc., you would ask them to practice the skills they needed to be successful at those things. Academic skills are no different. For our children to become better students they need the skills. You don’t have to do all these things at once. You can just take one tip and apply it. I give you these tips because they worked for me.

Please continue to write. If you want more details on any particular tip, I am happy to spend more time. I wish an abundance of blessings to all of you and your children. If you have tips to share – please feel free to share.

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Re-Learning Letter Sounds: The Almost Impossible Mountain Climb to American Sign Language

Over the last several months, I discovered that I do not have a letter-symbol-sound understanding. That is confusing, so allow me to try explaining another way. I do not necessarily recognize letters, which makes it difficult to teach the letter sounds. I discovered this while sitting in my literacy class. The teacher would say a sound and I would actually see an image – not a letter.

I then spent some time attempting to figure out what I was going to do to develop my special education skills. Teaching phonics is a key element of my job.

Like most days, I tried to paint. It was helpful in the fact that it allowed me to work through my feelings, but I did not miraculously find an answer – or maybe I did. Just after I painted my last piece, I remembered something that happened to me in the 4th grade. At that time, I joined City Wide Choir. I was struggling to really sing out and speak up for and myself. Mr. A., my teacher at that time, taught us how to sign our names. Mr. A. would play a note on the piano, sign it, and then have us sing it.

With the memory fresh in my head I signed, “My name is Rhonda.” Not fast – I am sure I made some big errors, but it was easier for me to use my hands then it was for me to use my voice.

I set out to try it in my class. I decided to use a sign, speak the sound, say the picture on the card, and finally speak the sound to my students. My first day was not miraculous by any means, but it worked. I was able to slow down, match the symbol to the sound and match the sign to the symbol.

Since, I have been taking a little time each week to dedicate to watching sign language (ASL specifically). I can state here and now that I have so much respect for the deaf/hearing impaired community. I do NOT say that as hero worship. I say that with the understanding that I wish I had been taught to sign earlier in my life. The body is so interesting. I used to move my hands without mission or purpose. Signing makes me feel like my hands have a purpose. And I appreciate the fact that there are not so many words. Most of my life English has been a challenge. I stumble over words, phrases, rules, sounds, and letters. I could cry right now – I just feel like I missed out on so much.

I have no idea if there is any research into teaching individuals with autism sign language in addition to their own native language. I would love to find out.

In the middle of full time work and full time school, I have realized that I do not have enough hours in my day to devote to learning sign the right way, but I at least plan to try. Now, I plan to put out a challenge to any reader that I may have, IF you have any resources that you would like to share – PLEASE DO! I am open.

Looking back at the title of this article, I would like to explain why I call this the almost impossible climb to American Sign Language. I only say this because it is a great challenge for me to force myself to move beyond finger signing. To date, I have never been able to learn another language other than English. My fear with sign language is that I might mess up and say the wrong thing and completely offend another person. I have some interesting hand to eye coordination issues that sometimes impacts me when I do things like walk (this might look like me trying to put the same foot forward twice – forcing me to trip – it also impacts me in other ways as well) and point or do anything at the same time. I could do each lesson and finger sign, but then what am I teaching myself??? How am I growing my students??? I want to show my children that having ASD and learning disabilities may present challenges, but with the right supports they can build new skills and become stronger people.

It is my hope to become the best special education teacher I can be. I hope that ASL might help me. I thank you all so much for your endearing support. May we all continue

Speaking Up, Speaking Out, and Near Misses

Last night I had the opportunity to speak at a charity event for an inner city youth program here in my local area. It was an honor to be invited. I shared the stage with some truly beautiful individuals.

I began the evening with a slight bit of angst. Just after getting ready for the dinner, I received a call that my son was “missing”. Those are words no parent wants to hear, right?

Right!

So, let me take you back a few steps and explain. My son is about to hit 14 years old. He has a high IQ and Autism Spectrum Disorder. For this reason, we have chosen NOT to have him ride on the bus alone. Not because he is incapable, but, because sometimes he makes choices that sometimes difficult for me to understand.

That said, yesterday, I was getting ready. I had my simple black dress, pearls, and high heels on when my husband called to ask me if I knew where my son was. My husband was picking him up that day and I had requested that my son wait for him just in front of the school. Regardless, my heart hit the ground that very moment.

Trying not to panic, I asked my husband to check each of the three buildings that sit on the property where my son goes to school. In all there is a middle school, a technology building, and a high school. This is not a small area. He now has the school searching and the worry is moving from my heart to my head. I knew we needed a plan and we needed one quickly.

My husband begins searching again and I proceed out the door – ready to call the police. Foot on the gas – tears in my eyes – I asked my husband for two things:

  1. Check the park next to the school.
  2. Stop telling me all the possible things that could go wrong.

Just as I turned the car down a major intersection near my son’s school, I heard my husband say, “He is standing on the bleachers looking at me.”

I can honestly say that I felt both anger and relief. As soon as my son was near the phone I demanded to speak to him and I yelled, cried, and apologized all at the same time – thanking God the entire way.

I went to my event – without my speech (I left it in the house when I went screeching towards the school). It was so difficult to formulate great thoughts knowing what happened just before. As I took the stage I realized that this was exactly where I needed to be. Because of circumstances, some poor child did not have the support of parents or loved ones (like my son did).

I found myself imagining what could have happened if my son was alone and left to fend for himself – what if there was no one there to realize he was missing? I think it was that thought alone that pushed me to continue to speak when all I really wanted to do was to come home and hold him in my arms (which I did – as soon as I walked in the door).

My son truly thought that he was going to a place where we could see him better – some place high where we could spot him. He acknowledged passing adults who could help him. He viewed them as busy and did not want to interrupt (we have been teaching him interruption is rude). He chose not to use the phone because he had not been given permission. I think the odd thing about these types of disabilities is that I can fully understand the logic behind his responses as I realize how much work I have to do to help him navigate the world. My son was trying to comply with social norms that are confusing. Just as the students I was speaking for are trying to cope with situations that are confusing, potentially debilitating, and completely out of their own control (just like my sons ASD is out of his control).

I write this today to tell you to speak of for, support, and be an advocate for children who cannot help themselves – even those with families that love them. Don’t just sit on the sidelines. In a blink a life can change – be the change agent.

Everything I know about the subject of learning disabilities will ONLY ever be a drop in the bucket of what I have yet to discover

I write this blog post today as a mother, a special educator and as a student with exceptional needs.

The key to really helping students in exceptional educational programs, whether they are in gifted and talented (GT), on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a learning plan (LP), or even mildly struggling in a general education program, is a three way partnership between parents, teachers and students.

I know this sounds like something that always happens, but the truth is that it does not always happen (for various reasons on all sides). I have noticed that parents do not always realize how much they can do at home, teachers don’t desire to burden parents and children who already face challenges, and students are sometimes unprepared to fully and actively participate in their own learning. Full and active participation has nothing to do with excitement. Any SPED teacher can tell you stories of how excited their students are.

However…. There is one problem that I have as a parent…

As a parent, I find that I tend to OVER HELP my children. What I mean is that, through no fault of my own, I give assistance (or scaffolding) where it can cause more harm then good. Let me give you an example:

My daughter was highly verbal when she was born. At some point, she stopped speaking. I knew that we had some stress in the house, so I began to cater to her signals. I got things down from the cabinet when she pointed to it and I just allowed her to have her own space and communicate in her own time.

One day I had a friend babysit. Before leaving, I explained to him that she was non-verbal (for now) and to just let her point, she was a really good child – just quiet.

When I returned home I could hear him outside the door say, “No. Nope. I am not going to get it until you speak to me.” She was crying at this point and the mother in me wanted to swoop in and save the day. I found some way to control my person and I walked in and just waited. My daughter looked to me to save her and I didn’t – I wanted to see what would happen. When crying stopped working and saving was no longer an option my daughter spoke her first real sentence in over six months.

“May I please have a peanut butter sandwich?

It was music to my ears. It was also a good reason for me to stop the internal hate that was growing for the person who stood there and pushed my daughter to speak.

My daughter has not been quiet since and if she is quiet –something is going on…lol.

That was nearly 17 years ago.

The point is still the same. I was scaffolding my daughter because I noticed that she had a deficit in an area. My scaffolding would have been helpful had my daughter become completely non-verbal. Unfortunately, I had never fully tested the situation out in order to determine if this was a permanent change or a temporary change. It felt permanent because of the amount of time this had been going on. I had begun to give up on hearing her speak again and I had been researching how to teach sign language. What this taught me was that all I actually needed was to stand and wait and use two of the most powerful letters in the English language, “N” and “O”. NO!

Disclaimer:

Now: before anyone begins to post about the word NO being negative… I state here and now that NO is POSITIVE. It is the best way to defend oneself. Children need to know how to voice it and how to show it in body language (as do adults – for me this is an important skill for all people). A child who cannot say, “NO”, is at risk. There, I said it. I hope we all feel better and can move on.

I need to be clear about something else – had my friends test proved unsuccessful – I might have been really angry with him. But, it is important for me to understand that just doing the test (whether she spoke or not) was the only true way to discover what my next steps should have been. My friend showed me that I was OVER HELPING and that was causing a lot more damage then facing the situation head on and dealing with my daughter directly.

This post is my way of asking parents and educators to step into one another’s shoes. I believe that most of us want what is best for our students with exceptional needs – it’s my hope that those who do not want that will look for wonderful careers outside of education – I did say hope – so please no hate mail.

I have the same capacity to OVER HELP and Under Stimulate the learning of my students, if I am not careful. As an educator, I must always remember the lesson this situation has taught me. I must be willing to research, to test, to try harder, to try new things, to step away, to let another try, to seek additional answers even when I am sure I understand the problem.

As I said before, everything I know about the subject of learning disabilities will ONLY ever be a drop in the bucket of what I have yet to discover.

My Friend the Television an ASPIE perspective

I have heard many people badmouth television as a useless device. I hear parents all the time say things like, “I limit my child’s ability to watch TV because I don’t want to turn them into a mindless drones.”

Here is my take on this subject.

When I was younger, I really had a difficult time understanding people. Human actions in a neurotypical (NT) sense are contradictory to human words. There are hidden undertones and messages that don’t make sense.

Television makes those hidden elements in conversation easier for someone like me (a person who has a hard time understanding facial expression and emotion) to comprehend. When I was a kid, I spent hours and hours watching television and it helped me to practice the social skills I needed to participate with people in school and at home. This was important, because my grandmother refused to have me tested when I was in school. She was not doing it to be spiteful. She did NOT want me labeled. For that reason, my siblings were frustrated at my behavior – they called me spoiled, difficult, rude, blunt, mean, and a few other choice words that I would rather not write.

When I knew that I could not speak to them – I turned on the television and used it to study what I needed to differently.

There were times when I failed to watch the right shows. The show Punky Brewster springs to mind when I think about failed television role models. A person should not dress in multiple colors of socks when one lives in an at-risk urban neighborhood. Reading books helps me to read emotion in the text; it does not give me any indication about how that looks in the flesh.

My point in writing all of this is to ask people – especially people who hate television – to consider another side of the coin. Television changed my life for the better – it is like a friend, a teacher, and a comfort all rolled into one. I do not have to speak to it, make eye contact, humans are all over it, and I don’t have to be socially acceptable.

Food for Thought –

DRR

How to or Can you argue with individuals who are NT when you have intellectual disabilities/ ASD?

I am writing this blog to address something that has been on my radar but has not truly bleeped until just recently.

I got into a discussion about debating/arguing in a community forum. A person determined that my leaning-in was aggressive unless it came with a specific facial indicator, especially when I have the facial expression that she viewed as “aggressive”. While my personal opinion about leaning-in meant only that we were about to really begin having an authentic conversation, it did not matter what my facial expression was. She stated that tone in a debate made her concerned. I stated that directing feelings based on words made me frustrated.

In a sea of individuals who are neurotypical (NT), I find it increasing more difficult to explain the differences in how I see debate/arguing or participation in debate/arguing and in the way people who are NT see it.

But is that right or wrong? Is it merely different?

I believe that requires a great deal more thought.

My challenge to you as a reader is this: I want you to consider if our understanding of how we can and should intact with one another in a community setting is only addressing the comfort of a specific set of individuals and will this damage our ability to create a culturally responsible way of dealing with all individuals in a shared space?

Let’s take a look at a few things that might be different between individuals with NT and individuals like myself:

Tracking the speaker: Tracking the speaker shows you are listening and paying attention.

As an individual with ASD, I find that I listen best when I am able to type or fiddle with an iPad when others are talking. Tracking the speaker often makes me tired and requires so much cognitive energy that I am unable to focus on the content of their side of the issue.

Additionally, tracking the speaker often makes it more difficult for me to watch my body language and tone (BLT). In understanding how individuals with NT relate to BLT, I normally try to make myself aware of what my BLT says. However, in the heat of a debate BLT becomes harder to manage. In that space, words and direct understanding of word meanings become even more important, which typically means that my gaze has become specific and my focus more dynamic since I am working through my own desire to keep the communication going (even if it’s verbally at a tone that is hard for an NT or emotionally sensitive individual). I do not mean that to say that individuals with ASD are not emotional, we are very emotional people. I mean that to say that these specific ideas slide off the plate when my focus has to move from the computer screen to the individual speaker.

Interruptions: Interruptions are rude and create tension.

As an individual with ASD, I interrupt to discuss the specific language being used or to clarify any misinterpretations that I can see forming when another person begins to discuss what I have addressed. I also see interruptions as an interesting part of the debate process – not that they are required all the times – but they are often valuable in the learning environment.

I have heard others say that it’s unfair to allow students to interrupt one another in class because it shuts others down. Some have even suggested writing down the question and coming back to it later. However, this goes back to tracking the speaker, in my mind. If I am writing, I am not tracking and therefore, I am not holding true to that other social norm. Also, it is also much more difficult to go back to the thought later on because once the person has completed the thought, they have branched into another topic – which places me in a particular situation – do I (for the sake of clarity) go back to the thought on paper or do I let the important thing slide to make it easier on the NT person who may not even realize that I see two or more different things happening in the sentence they have just stated??????

Others say they are thinking out loud and attempting to contribute more to the topic. It’s not always conscious but it is in an effort to foster continued dialogue.

Time and Length of Arguments: Making points quickly and directly.

In thinking about time and length of arguments, I have noticed that if an individual does not get to the point quickly or state the point succinctly; others around the person begin to show physical signs of frustration with the speaker. Those individuals roll their eyes, increase the intensity of their gaze, shake their heads or yawn, and or state in some way that the conversation should be ceased. I continually hear many NT individuals say that people are safe to share as it suits them, but I have not yet fully seen an NT group conform to allowing others to speak how they want, the way they want, and take the time they need to get to the point. I do not believe that these physical difficulties are NT related, as many individuals with ASD struggle with this issue. Some need to have the time to ferret out their thoughts before giving feedback. Others need to state specifically and quickly. This will require more study to understand.

Hidden emotional tags:

Often, when arguing with NT individuals, I discover that my tone of voice or the word descriptions I am using create drama and added stress. The individual I am in argument with then determines my feelings, intentions, cares, concerns, and or desires based on the words they have heard me use.

Conversations with a few ASD support groups have proven this to be a common frustration among members of the community. Many members of the community find that often NT individuals will begin classifying emotion or ascribing emotion to a strong opinion about one topic or another, which leads to further intense debating about something that is completely different than what the ASD individual had set out to say.  I find that I grow defensive when someone attributes an emotional tag to me that I did not request or feel, this in turn makes me more direct and probably more aggressive (I do not see this as a bad word) in my stance in the discussion.

Leaning-in

As stated before, leaning-in was seen as aggressive based on facial expression. This was an interesting thought to me. Leaning in to hear people better or to show them I’m invested in what they are saying is important (especially if there is not a computer to serve as a baseline).

Obtaining Clarification: Those are not my words!

I have often heard individuals with NT state that they feel attacked when I begin discussing a situation that has occurred. This is done for someone like me in order to gain specific understanding about (1) why the situation occurred, (2) how that situation has informed my thinking, and (3) to determine IF that can or should be something that might change if those things are worked through completely. When an individual uses a statement that in doing such is attacking them, that moves right back to the idea of subscribing a feeling or thought process to my words. Thought processes and feelings that I do NOT feel or think and they are NOT things I have added to the discussion, which in turn becomes a misrepresentation of my voice. This is one I will need to speak to NT individuals to understand. I am not sure if I am too emotional to understand this or if I do not see the connection between one or the other, but it is a dilemma that I face in dealing with how an individual with ASD should debate or argue with an NT individual.

This is starkly different when I am arguing/debating with another person with ASD. In my communications with an individual with ASD, I have discovered that we can debate/argue for hours and we thrive. Passion is a stepping-stone to engaging in understanding. Often things like leaning-in are not noticed or not commented on unless the other individual does not understand or recognize the behavior. An example would be, I might lean in because I am trying to hear or I am interrupting to clarify word choice. In doing so, I might get too close. The other ASD individual might then pull back and site the behavior and then comment on what makes the behavior problematic for them. I explain my intention and we adjust. Either I move back or I continue to lean-in, but we continue with the conversation. That in a nutshell is starkly different. I have also realized that for people who truly know me – this is something we have learned to navigate for one another – even when we did not have the appropriate words for it.

Hero affirmations: You have really overcome enough to argue.

The final difficulty that I have encountered while debating/arguing with NT individuals is that I often (not always) run into the assumption that my particular perspective is blinded by that fact that I had the desire/ability to overcome my ASD and that I am somehow a different then other individual with this type of cognitive disability. First, it is impossible to overcome ASD. I might find tools – but I can’t rub this out with positive intention. Second, I am not any different than any individual who has faced any type of challenge. In stating that, to me, it indicates that you believe that my ASD is something that makes me completely crippled. I might have a disability but that does not cripple me and it does not make me unable to face a challenge (whether I fail or succeed).

Never once in a conversation with an individual with ASD do I encounter this type of statement while debating or arguing. There is never a presumption that the ASD makes me different nor is there the presumption that any person who is NT has or has not overcome a challenge, we just don’t seem to find it necessary to make that a precursor for an argument. I wonder if others with a disability of any sort can understand this point.

You are making an argument and you use your experience as a foundation to the topic. The experience is not ideal and it may not even be a huge triumph in your life. The person you are debating/arguing with then rebuts you argument with this type of comment, “since you have overcome, then you cannot speak for all disabled people” or they constantly need you to restate that you do NOT think you are speaking about all disabled people. On the reverse, that person might have just used their prior experience to address the topic at hand, without the need to qualify that they don’t speak for all NT individuals.

So where does this leave us in consideration of the original question? The truth is that I do not have an answer. In an effort to create a culturally responsive space for all people to argue/debate, it is important to understand the differences that occur in communication. What members of the ASD community often face is the subjugation of assimilation. This means that the majority of our working peers are NT so we are required to participate under NT rules. This is because we live in a majority NT world – is that fair – no! It is reality.

Cultural responsiveness should mean that we learn to understand that our way or doing something might not be the way another person does something. It also means that we open ourselves to the idea that people have the right to challenge what we think may be right or wrong. In looking at the various ways people argue for understanding – do we owe it to one another to hear others say, “That behavior means something different to me”.

These are just some thoughts I will need to evaluate in the years to come.

New News is Good News

It has been a long and interesting week here in my house.  My sons both underwent testing with a specialist in the field of cognitive disabilities.  There are varying reasons why, but the important part was that they both needed answers and this testing was going to provide that.  My oldest was diagnosed ADHD with sensory issues and my youngest was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. The oldest has additional testing he needs to complete.

I was not sure that I was ready to receive the news myself.  Yes, I have LD, ASD with SPD and I have a daughter with ADHD, SPD, and LD. I even knew my oldest son had LD’s.  Yet, the information impacted my sons and I in a strange way. Allow me to take a step back and tell you all about that day.

Knowing we were going to have the results meeting on this day, I took the liberty of taking the boys out of school. I had no idea that doctor would find anything. I felt that the testing had been stressful and even if nothing was wrong, the boys needed a day off.

We slept in that morning and took our dogs on a long walk. The mood was light. We were laughing and joking.   We mutually decided that we would have breakfast together.

As we loaded into the car, the mood began to change. It was silent. Then out of the blue we found our selves behind an advertisement that read “Stump Removal and Daughter”. We could not figure the sign out – even the picture on the advertisement was odd. And it quickly got us laughing.

I cannot explain how hard it was to point out the ordinary things in life, just as you are driving down to the unknown.  We had breakfast and watched President Obama address the Nation on the monitor in the dinning room. My sons had all these questions about Russia and the Ukraine. It was surreal – watching the news and watching the clock – hearing about this conflict as we had our own internal struggle about our own day.

Finally, it was time. We got to the elevators – walked to the office and I was eventually asked back to hear the results. The doctor and I then broke the news to the boys. My oldest had a few questions. My youngest quietly took it all in.

After we sat in the car for a little while. The boys both felt heavy and finally asked if we could do something fun.  I then drove them to the store, purchased real record players, bought albums, and took each son on a private walk to figure out if they could say the things that they were having trouble saying.

There were the obvious questions. What is this illness? Am I sick? Do I have to take medication? Then there were the other questions. Why me? Did I do something wrong?

Each new day brings more questions, as one might expect. Knowing though has had a great many benefits. It has helped my son to answer questions about themselves that had been unanswered for years. It has allowed my husband and I to take a second look at our children and focus on them over their grades. It has opened conversations at school that are helping our sons to navigate school better because they know what is happening and they are trying to avoid the pitfalls.

Parents as you consider testing, especially if you are worried about the labels that you child could potentially have, my advice to you is to take a deep breath and accept what comes. I only regret waiting this long to do this.  As we step out into the future, I plan to keep you all posted on our progress.

Kind Regards,

Dr. Richmond