When Your Child Has a Learning Disability, Going Back to School Isn’t Always Enjoyable…
Back to School With a Learning Disability
Since kindergarten I have fought and fought and fought some more to get him the same education as any other child in our school district. It has been a hard battle to fight, a steep hill to climb and an emotional journey full of more lows than highs. I have spent countless, sleepless nights tearfully worrying about my son-whether I am doing everything in my power to help him, whether I did something that caused his disability, whether I will ever be able to get him to a place where he can thrive in the school system.
Since kindergarten I have written letters to news organizations and government officials highlighting the lack of education children with learning disabilities receive.
Since kindergarten I have demanded high ranking school district employees attend IEP meetings, conferences and informal discussions I had with teachers and specialists.
Since kindergarten I have watched as my son was shuffled through a broken system of bureaucratic red tape, ridiculous hoops to jump through and a school system that is unable to correctly educate those who desperately need the extra help.
Since kindergarten I have been my son’s rock and cheerleader when he needed it and his voice when no one would give him a chance, all while collapsing into a mound of stress and emotional upheaval when no one was looking.
Last year, for the first time ever, my son was placed in an inclusion class with the most wonderful teacher.
Last year, for the first time ever, my son read on and then above grade level. He passed the state mandated tests needed to advance to the next grade.
Last year, for the first time ever, I felt as though I had won the battle that I been fighting for four years.
With a new school year right around the corner, the stress and anxiety of being in fourth grade, a new classroom setting, a new teacher and new friends is eating at me as much as I know it is eating at my son. Most kids are excited to go back to school to see friends they haven’t seen, to meet their new teachers, to experience new experiences. For my child with a learning disability, a new school year brings every anxiety, stress and worry that had diminished last year back to the surface. He worries if others in his class will make fun of his reading, his writing, his speech. He worries that his new teacher won’t be as patient or wonderful as his teacher from the year before. He worries that he won’t get good grades, won’t be able to write a paragraph, or won’t be able to finish a test.
As a parent, it breaks my heart to see my son struggle…worry…and be afraid of school.
As a parent, it breaks my heart that I cannot make his disability disappear.
As a parent, it breaks my heart that my son doesn’t have the self confidence he deserves to have.
As a parent, I have learned to mask my fears, worries and anxieties from him. I cannot let him see that I am fearful for him, worried for him, anxious for him. I have become a champion of hiding those fears and portraying a strong woman and mother who will always be, no matter what, his biggest supporter, biggest cheerleader and loudest voice. My job as a parent, as it is to all of my children, is to build him up, catch him if he falls and love him, no matter what, every step of the way.
I will never be able to understand how my son feels everyday when he walks into classroom. I will never understand how frustrating it must be to not be able to pick up a book like his siblings or classmates and just read it…without help or without embarrassment because he has to ask for help. I will never understand the anxiety and stress that must run through his mind each and everyday school is in session. I didn’t struggle in school. I was the total opposite. I was that kid who never had to study for a test or quiz. I was the one who could write a report in a day and it be perfect.
I have spent the last years trying to be able to fully grasp what my son goes through, what he is thinking, and what he is feeling when it comes to school. I have come to the conclusion that I will never fully understand any of it. I have also come to the conclusion that I can’t focus on the negative, that my job as a mother is keep doing what I have been doing for years. I need to keep cheering him on. I need to keep reminding myself to not get frustrated with him when he can’t do (what I think is) a simple homework assignment. I need to keep on standing up for my son, who by the way, is one the smartest people I know. Yes, he may have trouble reading. Yes, he may have trouble getting what he wants to say onto a piece of paper but that does not mean he is dumb. He is far from it.
My son has the mind of an engineer, the personality of a saint and the baseball skills of the greatest player who has ever played. Yes, he may have a really difficult time reading a chapter book. Yes, he may have trouble writing a sentence. But he is so smart. And brilliant. And polite. And sweet. And most importantly, he is MY son. He is the one who has opened my eyes to the world around me. He is the reason I have fought tirelessly for other kids like him who don’t have anyone standing up for them in their corner. He is the reason I grown as a person, mother, woman and human being.
So as your kids are going back to school, make sure you take the time to remind them of how special, smart and wonderful they are. Take the time to educate yourself regarding the rights your child has and deserves in your school district. Take the time to calm your child’s fears, raise their confidence as high as you possibly can on the pedestal of self worth and take the time to sit down with their teachers and go over whatever it is you think will help further your child’s education.
We are the voices for our children. We are the ones who can and will make a difference in their lives, no matter how long that battle may take. Speak up for your child when needed. Praise them whenever you can. Help whenever they need it. Tell them how proud you are of them whenever they need to hear it.
I was raised in a household where good grades, correct grammar and GPA defined who we were as a person. I was expected to get good grades. I was expected to be perfect. Since having my son who is considered “different” by most, I have adopted a new way of raising all of my kids:
Perfection is an unattainable goal that can never be reached. Trying your hardest is what matters most in life. If I see you gave it your all, no matter what the outcome is, I will be the proudest mom in the world. Trying and never giving up is what matters…not a grade on a test, not a hit to win a baseball game, not someone else’s definition of “perfect”.
I hope everyone has a great school year. Remember, never give up on anything you are trying to attain. If needed, remember my son…a ten year old boy who has never gone to school with his head down…a ten year old boy who has never given up out of frustration, even after encountering every hurdle and obstacle thrown his way…a ten year old boy who will continue to be my definition of strength and determination…a ten year old boy who I will continue to fight for, no matter how long it takes.
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