NEW YORK, USA: Learning About Learning Disabilities
My son is eight months old and clearly utters his first word, and quickly starts to add more words into his daily speech and quickly starts to put them together to form ‘sentences’…in multiple languages! At 9 months old I start to potty train him, and he understands what I am trying to teach him.
‘This child is brilliant’, all the adults in his life agree.
My son is about a year and a half. He goes to play at a nearby kids gym which has an area to climb and slide, a Lego area, an area to jump, balls, puzzles, magnets and blocks, etc. So many fun things for a toddler to do. Most kids are so excited. They run in and start playing with all of the toys. But not my son. He walks in and stands off to the side to observe the other children and watch what they do. To understand what is expected, I suppose. Once he understands what the other kids are all doing and how he is expected to behave and play with them, he joins the fun – and he has a blast – never wanting to leave.
When he is 18 months – 3 years old he takes ‘mommy and me’ classes on subjects he enjoys, like construction, art, French, music and cooking. He is tentative and does not participate straight away. It takes some time for him to warm up and I (or my mother, who is his daytime caretaker while I am at work) have to do most of the activity for him until about 10 minutes before the end of the 40 minute classes, week after week.
He is almost 3 and has started ‘school’, a few times a week, 3 hours at a time. The teachers comment that he would rather talk with them (and his vocabulary is amazing for a 3 year old – he started talking at 8 months after all), than play with his friends. He watches his friends and directs them (tells them if they are breaking a rule, or shows them how to do something), but does not easily go and play with them. He is more like one of the teachers than one of the 2 or 3 year-olds. I also notice that he doesn’t recognize, or confuses his letters (like mixing M and W), like other 3 year-olds.
This trend continues, although he does get better at socializing. He does get better at playing with other children, but only because he mimics their actions (good or bad). He doesn’t realize when an action is” not good”, because someone else did it before him, so it must be okay.
At 4 years old he starts having tics. His pediatrician tells me it’s normal for boys, there is nothing wrong with him. I take him to an eye doctor (one of his tics involves rolling his eyes), and he does need glasses, but the opthalmologist tells me that the tics are normal. I take him to a neurologist, who tells me nothing is wrong with him. Over the years I continue to express my concerns to the pediatrician. We realize that the tics are caused when he is stressed or excited.
“Nothing wrong,” says the doctor. This is not very reassuring.
I speak to his teachers over the years who assure me he is incredibly bright. He is mature. His vocabulary and speech are well ahead of his age, yes he is still mixing up letters, but the teachers assure me that it is within a normal range. He is indeed a very special child, teacher after teacher says.
But all of the reassurances in the world do not stop me from thinking that my son is different.
I watch to see if the other kids shun him…. they don’t seem to, but he is not choosing the friends that I would like him to have. That is to say, the nicer, gentler boys. I am afraid that he may be choosing the rowdier friends because he is over compensating. He is trying to fit in.
Fast forward to this past September. He started first grade as a normal 6 year-old. He was given a reading assessment (as were all of his classmates) and no red flags. About two months into the school year his teacher noticed that he was not doing as well as she would like, so she had him assessed even further. This time there were warnings. He is having problems reading (which I had asked his teachers about previously). He starts to spend one-on-one time with the reading specialist in his school and he has been making some progress, but there is some concern. I mention to the reading specialist that personally, I believe he may be dyslexic. She agrees that he does in fact have a “reading disability” (apparently dyslexia falls under that category these days), but that she is not qualified to be able to properly diagnose him.
That conversation was a few weeks ago. I feel relieved and worried. We have to keep working the system visiting specialist after specialist until I get an actual diagnosis. I don’t want to frighten him by taking him to see these specialists, but I do want to get an understanding of what I should do. And once I get a diagnosis, what should I do with it? How can this affect the rest of his learning, his education, and ultimately his life? What if the other kids make fun of him or shun him? How is this the same child who scored in the 90th + percentile on his kindergarten entrance exam on vocabulary, conversation and comprehension? (Yes they actually administer this test in NYC.) What if we decide to move, and have to change his school…will he have the help he needs to succeed? I have so many unanswered questions, and feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start…
Does you child have a learning disability? How did you find out? How have you helped your child learn to cope?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Maman Aya and was inspired by fellow WMB contributor Sophie Walker’s post, The Book I Never Thought I would Write.
Photo credit to Lesley Show. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.