Managing a Child's Learning Disability: Mine for Gold
The resource teacher, Susan, became the first and still most outstanding, teacher Danielle ever had. It is important to find the people who are devoted to children and support them. I stopped by Susan's classroom after the meeting. It was in the basement in a small, cramped space. There was a partition separating her classroom from the speech therapist. But, despite the cramped space, it was a welcoming place. Susan sat with me and told me that she really enjoyed working with Danielle. She said she had read her IEP and knew from experience that we would have a challenging road for her to learn to read. She asked me to come back as often as I could. One year after Danielle's diagnosis, three weeks into the first grade year, one congenial and one uncomfortable team meeting later, I felt a new and knowledgeable person was on our side.
Over the next few months Susan became the honest and direct translator of Danielle's brain. Susan explained to me that Danielle could not learn to read like most children. The combination of her language disability, processing difficulties and her short term memory deficit were making it difficult for her to recognize letters or remember what she saw.
In addition to school, Danielle had a private language therapist, an occupational therapist and our learning consultant. I vowed to constantly obtain and monitor the best people in the field, but I soon realized that I could not and should not become an expert on Danielle's learning challenges. I would manage the process and find a way to pay for what she needed, but when I became too immersed in the depth of the problems I was overcome with the sheer magnitude and complexity of all she faced. I found that I could be a more positive, hopeful force if I found the best resources, understood what she needed and believed in the solutions. I could support and assist her, but my main role needed to be as her mother and not her teacher.
Be on the alert for positive experiences you and your family can share outside of school. Find something that the kids can enjoy and that will remove the focus from what can become all encompassing. Danielle was immersed in a life of specialists, but both girls were also dealing with a new school, a new house and still painful post divorce adjustments. Danielle had always had a great love for animals. Both girls were energized and happy rolling around with the dogs or riding horses when we occasionally got away to a YMCA resort an hour from our home. The girls and I would ride horses on a trail, all in a row through little streams and rocky paths. The horses were old and comatose but the girls rode until they were filthy and dropping from exhaustion. We drove home with them asking to ride some more. I decided to find a way for the girls to ride horses on the weekends. One of the best decisions I ever made.
The girls rode horses for the next ten years. Saturdays or Sundays at the barn became their salvation. They found solitude with the horses. They cleaned stalls, gave the horses baths, rode for an hour, completely focused on the physical demands. It became obvious that they both were drawing benefits from time with the horses. As they became more serious about riding and wanting to go faster and jump fences I found a teacher who gave lessons on the weekends.