CONFESSIONS OF A SPECIAL EDUCATION PARENT
My heart breaks when I receive documentation from the school concerning my son’s reading ability.
We did everything you are supposed to do. We have read to him from infancy, we practiced sight words for hours and hours, we read, and we read, and we read. Yet, our twelve year old son still finds himself in the very bottom percentile when he is tested for reading.
Some brains just work differently than others, and that is okay… sort of.
It isn’t okay when he gets called on to read, and he can barely get the words out. It doesn’t feel okay when he is consistently measured and evaluated and found to be wanting…. plummeting below the benchmarks.
It would be okay if it didn’t matter, but it does. It matters.
I confess, I didn’t want this for my child, and I often wonder if I could have done something differently to prevent this.
Life comes with so many challenges; I didn’t want my child to face an environment on a daily basis in which his greatest weakness is highlighted in almost every task he must accomplish.
No parent wishes a disability* on a child. Given the opportunity to take his visual processing disorder away, I would do it. I am not going to pretend for a second I wouldn’t. I would.
If you can’t read well, everything is harder. It is an uphill battle.
Thank God my baby knows how to climb.
When he was about 8 years old, there was a little hill between our home and the local track. I remember running with him to the track. As we pushed up the hill, I told him that although he will always have to work harder than others academically, he has natural advantages in other areas. I encouraged him to learn to put the same hard work into the natural talents with which he was gifted.
From a very young age, my son has been told again and again by the educational world that he is a failure. Yet, he is finding academic success in his classes. The standardized tests can tell him he is not smart enough all they like. His report card tells a different story. He has learned hard work and using support systems leads to success.
His disability has taught him what to do with his strengths. He has been finding success in sports. He has an advantage because he is tall and naturally athletic. However, he listens to his coaches, lets his father and I give him tips, plays catch every chance he gets (and does push ups when he drops a pass), and he frequently does exercise in his room before bed. He has a goal, and he knows how to work hard in the face of failure.
Here is the real confession: I need to remember to climb the way my son does.
When challenges come, I need to view them as a natural part of living, seek help from the supports available, and work hard. The tough parts are what teach us to be ever grateful for the strengths we have and to use them to their full capacity.
Keep climbing, my friends.
*I know there are many children who face challenges far greater than a visual processing disorder. I do not intend to take away from their challenges or pretend to understand the difficulty they and their parents face.