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Mentoring and Monitoring the Child with LD: A Grandparent’s Story

Written by Sue Kettner, Parent Contributor | June 23, 2011

I am proud of my oldest granddaughter who is gifted and talented, but was identified with a learning disability. She has an auditory memory rather than a visual memory and teaching her to read in kindergarten and 1st grade presented a challenge. I knew she was bright, because she never forgot things she heard, but she was having a terrible time learning to read.

I recently attended the graduation of two granddaughters — one is my son’s daughter and the other my daughter’s daughter. These two young women were assessed as gifted and talented in 2nd grade and their graduation was never in question. They are delightful young women and I am very proud of them.

I am just as proud of my oldest granddaughter who was just as gifted and talented, but identified with a learning disability. She has an auditory memory rather than a visual memory and teaching her to read in kindergarten and 1st grade presented a challenge. I knew she was bright, because she never forgot things she heard, but she was having a terrible time learning to read.

After the realization of the auditory memory strength and subsequent testing, she received special tutoring in elementary and middle school. The aide would read the lessons aloud to her and then she was able to learn and remember it. She did fairly well on testing and she had no idea the school had identified her as having a learning disability. It was only when she was in high school that she became aware of the “label.” She had a profound reaction, claiming, “I’m a dummy.” We stayed the course and tried to dispel her negative reaction by reminding her of all those things she learned so well that she heard – because of her auditory memory strength — and how very bright she was.

Things weren’t always wonderful at home for my granddaughter with parents that ultimately decided to divorce when she was 23. She often spent time away from home in her last two years of high school. During those difficult times, I made it a priority to pick her up from whatever friend’s house she stayed at and I took her to school every morning. Despite her tough home situation, she was very responsible. She had an afterschool job for which she was to get school credit. And, she passed her driver’s license, got a car, and paid for insurance and maintenance.

I also went with her to see her school counselor and he paid little attention to her. He was trying to tell her she wouldn’t graduate, but we made sure that she got all the English and Math credits and so on that she needed each year and she passed them. Even though this counselor had signed the work-site credit agreement and the paperwork had all been completed, he had failed to recognize the credits she’d earned from this program. When I pointed that out to him, he then corrected the oversight and she had way more credits then was needed for graduation. She graduated.

The recent graduation ceremony reminded me of how much it mattered to Heather that she had someone in her corner, asking questions, monitoring the situation and making sure that plans were set and then carried out to ensure that she’d graduate.

Her graduation made such a difference in her self-esteem. She didn’t go on to college, but now at 26 she is returning to school to get an associate degree in dental hygiene. (I’m reading the Chemistry text to her — I don’t understand all of it, but if I read it to her, she gets it.)

My suggestion to ensure graduation for all students with LD is to pair them up with a mentor/monitor who will deal only with each particular child, as I did with my granddaughter. I know parents do a great deal, but sometimes they are too close to the situation or too intimidated by school personnel and the “label” to be as conscientious as is needed to ensure graduation. This mentor/monitor person could be a college student studying education or psychology or social work. Maybe the young mentor could even get college credit for a long-term commitment to this kind of support.

My efforts on Heather’s behalf and her recognition of that effort have repaid both of us by leaps and bounds. She discusses her goals with me and she knows she’ll have my considered support and energy to empower her to reach her career goals. Every LD student deserves no less.

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