Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Widow Wednesday--Single parenting a child with a learning disability






This again touches on something that is a bit personal and has been a struggle for us. A struggle because it impacts my girls, but also if effects me and parenting. I wanted to share this because October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Ray had dyslexia and it runs in his family, so it had been on my radar as something that the girls could have. Although he was a math teacher, school had been tough for him. He excelled in math, but the rest was a struggle. I, on the other hand, have always been an excellent reader and have always enjoyed reading. I never understood how he couldn't just do it. I mean don't you just look at the word and sound it out?

Lily was speaking in sentences at 15 months and constantly bringing us books to read to her. I thought she was going to be just like me. As she got a little older she would stutter...how could a kid that was talking in sentences at 15 months stutter? She had difficulty counting, with shapes, and her A,B,C's. When she entered Kindergarten letters weren't within the lines and backward. On occasion, she would even write from right to left. Then came the first conference, she was slow in reading and writing and she couldn't rhyme. The teacher asked for me to continue working with her and suggested tutoring. Of course! Anything to help! I was frustrated at this point because I was a tutor! How can my own child not be learning and be having so many difficulties. I immediately put her into tutoring with a specialist. At the end of the year I asked if I should retain her and was told no. A lot of this was normal and kids develop at different rates. As school progressed she seemed more and more behind. Her testing was where she was supposed to be for grade level on state tests. I questioned this...how is my child doing well on these and struggling so bad? I kept her in the tutoring and working with her at home. It was exhausting. She was frustrated, I was frustrated. I continued hearing, just work with her more. How much more?! She would tell me she didn't feel good every morning because she didn't want to go to school. My heart was breaking for her. This continued year after year. Every year I brought up dyslexia and every year I felt like the teachers were looking at me like I was crazy. Being a single mom I already felt at a disadvantage because I didn't have anyone to discuss this with. I didn't have another parent to fight the fight with me. To make me NOT feel crazy and like maybe I didn't know what I am talking about. I also didn't have the parent that had struggled with this and could help me understand.

Finally I had had enough. I knew what was happening wasn't "normal". I never went through school like this. I also knew dyslexia was probably the cause. I had gone to school for school counseling and never did I learn about dyslexia. Why? I finally decided to dedicate time to understand dyslexia and what it really is. Anyone that knows me knows I throw my heart and soul into doing something if it is something that interests me or I think is important. I want to know and learn everything about it. I spent months researching and reading books. Looking up articles and trying to understand. Things that I didn't even think could be related to dyslexia were finally explained. My child not knowing left from right, days of the week, yesterday and tomorrow, getting lost, saying words wrong after constantly being corrected, rhyming, stuttering, the list goes on and on. Reading about dyslexia was like reading about Lily. From dyslexia I learned about dyscalculia and this explained her even more. I also learned why the school would never pursue it and kept pushing it off...they didn't want to deal with it and it is listed as a medical condition so they don't have to. They won't even test for it in the State of Michigan. I would need to do a private neuropsych test to confirm what I already knew probably costing in the thousands of dollars. Most schools aren't equipped or providing services that are even appropriate. I realized that unless I helped her she wouldn't get help. I researched what would help and discovered the Barton Reading Program an Orton Gillingham based program. We started it right away and within a short time I was seeing improvements. Years and thousands of dollars in tutoring later and finally something was working. To think if someone would have put us on this path in the beginning maybe I wouldn't have a child that hates school and would be farther ahead.

I had a teacher during this time that agreed with me (first time) and understood my frustrations. She fought for help in the school. For the first time I didn't feel alone. I had her tested for learning disabilities and she didn't qualify for services...she didn't even come close to qualifying or being at a level she could be retested. Even to get the initial testing was a fight. They tried to just "accommodate" in the classroom and observe her. I sat in the meeting by myself with the panel of school professionals and explained dyslexia while they all just kind of looked at me.  Again I was questioning myself. Is there a downfall to this? Am I wrong about this? Again I was feeling alone. She was now in the bottom percent in state testing. This was also explained through my research, many kids are at the top when they enter school because the computer reads the problems to them and as they get older they have to read it. Most of these kids are intelligent and can answer if it is read to them. This was also the answer I received year after year of asking if holding her back would help, she is smart and would be bored. With the constant pursue from her teacher and her state scores the school finally tested her for a specific learning disability...reading...and she qualified. She is finally receiving services at school and at home. The child who hated reading read 40 pages in a book to me last night.

As a parent it is so hard to watch your child struggle, but as a single parent you don't have the other person willing to fight for your child just as hard as you. You don't have the help when they are frustrated and you are frustrated because they are frustrated. You don't have that shoulder to cry on when you are watching your child constantly feel beat down and have to go someplace day after day that they hate and feel like a failure at. I do know though, that I feel that much more pride, that I didn't give up and continued to fight for what I knew was right. Sometimes I think why can't something be easy, but then I think it is because I can handle it.

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