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Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm a Parent of a Child With Learning Disabilities.

I didn’t realize how bad things were until I went to the parent-teacher conference last year. As soon as my husband and I settled ourselves into the chairs, that were ten times too small for our large butts, the teacher uttered the sentence that changed my life.

“I’m worried about your daughter.”

Now it wasn’t so much the sentence, but it was the way she said it. She had heaved a huge sigh before she uttered it, clenched her hands in a fist on the table, and her gaze grew bleak with concern. It was the look of someone delivering bad news. Then she went on to list her concerns.

It seems my daughter could not read, had temper tantrums, bouts of crying, and was behind in math as well. For those of you who don’t know, my daughter has a marked speech disability. Bless her heart, she sounds like Scooby Doo at super speed. When she gets upset, excited, or tired it gets even worse. Sometimes even I have trouble understanding her. Until that conference, however I thought that was the extent of it. I was so, so wrong. The thing that hurt the most was my daughter could not read.

I’m a writer, books are the center of my life. They bring me joy, comfort and an escape from my troubles. The fact that my daughter wasn’t able to share in that was heartbreaking. We tried everything, tutors, bribes, and threats in order to get her to work on her spelling words or reading exercises. Nothing worked. It always ended with her in tears and me more disheartened. Then a miracle happened this past week.

A large, heavy box was delivered to my house. In it, my first print book. As I cut it open, my daughter hovered over my shoulder, a look of excitement on her face. As soon as I lifted the flaps, her tiny hands reached in and seized a copy.

“You said I could have one, Mommy.” She lovingly caressed the glossy cover.

“Yes, I did, but lets put it up so it doesn’t get dirty.” I reached for it and she pulled back and held the book protectively to her chest.

“No, it’s mine. I’m going to learn to read it.” She jumped down from the chair and ran to her room, her new treasure tight in her arms.

I felt tears building up in my eyes. My book had finally made it so my baby wanted to learn how to read. It was humbling. Then my joy slowly turned to horror. My innocent daughter wanted to read my very adult book. The one that had dirty words, sex, and all kinds of forbidden things in it. Oh no!

Does anyone have some whiteout tape handy?

-Stephani

3 comments:

Lynn Crain said...

I understand you on both levels, Stephani.

My youngest is dsylexic and it wasn't until sixth grade that the light was finally turned on in his little brain. I worked with him so much that the teachers told me to stop. We did phonetics in the summers and reading programs. Just anything to get him to learn to read. I was like you, it's such a big part of my life, how could my own child not read?

The moment that the on switch came on, he was like a sponge. He literally devoured everything he could read including the Harry Potter books which had been read to him in the past.

It might not seem so right now, but things will turn around in that area. It just takes a little time.

About the other...sigh...unfortunately, I had to nip it right away. My youngest and his best friend would sneak up on me and watch me write. I would hear a snicker and get really upset. It didn't matter what I did, they just had to see what I was putting in the computer. So one day I thought to myself what was the worse thing that could happen to teenage boys. Yeah, evil grin here.

One day when they tried to sneak up on me I was ready for them. Upset that I had caught them, I just smiled and said, "Someday I woman will love it when you treat them this way." Thank goodness it was one of my 'sweet' erotic romances if you can call it that. It sure wasn't a BDSM one! LOL!

From that point on, when they tried to bother me while I wrote, I initiated a mother/boy type of talk. It always ended in 'ew' and them walking away. I had his friend's parents' permission as they knew what I wrote.

It only took about four times of this for them to lose interest. With a girl, I would have loved my mother to have talked to me when she explained things to me in the first place. Unfortunately, she didn't and it took a few years for me to even understand the whole sex thing. Maybe that's the tact you should take.

Talk to her when she's old enough. You might even give her an age that she can actually read your books. It might be something you both can look forward to doing together.

Lynn

AP Miller said...

Wow! What a challenge you will have trying to get that book away from your daughter Stephani!

I am a former Special Ed teacher so I completely understand what both you and Lynn have gone through. I do disagree the teacher handled the situation poorly and didn't quite grasp that your daughter had a slight learning disability, and I use that word literally. Lynn was correct in teaching her son at home. The learning process begins in the home, and i commend any parent who has such love and dedication for their struggling child. Bear in mind, God gives us special children because he knows we will love them and do what's right for them. I lost my special boy when he was just a baby. Born three months premature with several health issues I lost him to SIDS back in 1981 at the age of 5 months. But for those months I did whatever it took to keep him alive and happy. I taught children with Autism and down syndrome for twelve years and every day was a blessing just watching their faces light up when they did something for the first time. Nothing is more special or bonding then the love of a parent and the sacrifices we make daily for our children. My two are adults and married. My first grandchild is on the way, and I know that whatever values and upbringing I gave to my daughter she will instill in her child and become as loving and dedicated as I was to her when she was a baby. It's a mothers instinct and thats something no one can change.

Hugs,
AP

Stephani hecht said...

Lynn and AP, both of your comments brought tears to my eyes. I sometimes feel alone in this battle and it is nice to know I have you caring support.

The other day I was driving with my daughter and she told me, "When I grow up I want to be a writer, just like you, Mommy."

I see light at the end of this long tunnel for the first time ever.

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