Managing a Child's Learning Disability: Celebrate Every Victory
When we couldn't sink any lower or feel any worse, there would be a teacher who really "got" Danielle. A teacher who admired and respected her, a teacher who wanted her to learn and found the means to make it happen. We learned so much from these individuals and used that knowledge to develop learning strategies for other classes. We called upon these teachers to convince other teachers that developing alternative ways of teaching didn't compromise their academic standard. We understood that they were the true measure of Danielle's potential and we retold the stories of those successes over and over again.
When Danielle was in high school she had an English class that was going to be a huge challenge. There was a tremendous amount of reading and several papers. The teacher had attended the IEP meeting before school started and was clearly unhappy about being there. She said Danielle should do her best and she'd be fine. Danielle still struggled with comprehension of complex material and required strategies to recall the content. She also needed written reports to be reviewed and revised multiple times.
Danielle and I spent many, many hours each week with her dictating her thoughts while I wrote them down (her brain thinks faster than her hand writes). Sometimes the story line was out of sequence or the plot was confused and would need to be re-organized before it could be read for revisions. When she brought her draft to the teacher and asked for her comments, the teacher returned the paper with a sea of red marks and a terse note at the bottom that said Danielle needed to try harder. We had spent six hours working on a draft, following a week of my reading the assigned book aloud to Danielle. Trying harder wasn't the solution.
I asked for a meeting with the teacher and the special education expert. The teacher was clearly angry and defensive when the meeting began. It didn't take long for her to express her displeasure at being called to this meeting and that she was doing everything necessary for Danielle. I knew the meeting was a mistake. We should have met with her without the special ed teacher. The situation was escalating and I knew from experience that if we didn't find a different approach the outcome would be bad.