Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Embracing ...................Learning Disabilities

Embrace...."an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically"

All about me....
When choosing the word embrace as my one word for 2015, I was mostly focused on what it was going to mean for me. What can I say? I'm a little selfish when it comes to choosing my word for the year. Focused on embracing the everyday busyness, the daily trials, and the mess that I know I am.....well let's just say that's where I mostly thought this word was going. However, God has been working on my heart overtime and he is letting me know that he has bigger plans for me and my little one word this year. 

But what about my children?
I slowly started thinking about the word "embrace" in terms of my children. One child in particular was sticking out in my mind. I felt like God  was encouraging me and asking me to really embrace his strengths and weaknesses. As I began to focus on and accept his diagnosis, it energized me to really try to make headway and progress on a situation that seemed to be at a standstill. 

As a teacher, you do all of the things that you're "supposed to" in order to help your child learn, to help them get ahead, to give them a good start in the area of academics. Most mommas do this, I just have an inkling that a teacher momma feels more of a pressure to focus on these areas. So you read to them often, you teach them numbers and 1 to 1 correspondence, you give them scissors early on & play dough to work on those fine motor skills, you try and get some of those sight words in earlier than they need to, and when it's time you're always checking on their reading readiness. And as a teacher mom, you're sure if there's something amiss...you will know and you can help. But deep down inside, you might just think there won't be anything wrong.....well because you've done everything "right".

You see, most people do not know but our son was diagnosed with dyslexia last Fall. It is sort of a long story, maybe another blog post, as to how I learned about dyslexia and at what point I suspected he had a learning disability. All that can really be said in regards to him being diagnosed is that God has had his hand in the process before I could even see it coming.  

Where to start embracing the diagnosis?
I focused this last month on truly embracing his learning disability. At first, I set my eyes on a change of attitude. I reset my mind and have been trying to embrace his dyslexia with a positive attitude. 
After that embracing his learning disability sort of looked like this;
- teaching the tutoring program to myself (tutors are too expensive for us) 
- teaching the program to him (this involves tears some days....and not always his)
- learning as much as I can about dyslexia and dysgraphia (because we're pretty sure he has that too)
-letting go of unconventional ways of learning and of my stigmas of what "smart" looks like
- focusing on his strengths (dyslexics are often very strong in other areas) and fostering that as much as possible even though it doesn't really "fit" into a traditional style of learning and school.

All of those things are the physical changes I took on in order to fully accept his diagnosis and make "progress".
And let me tell you in all honesty, because I'm a pretty honest person....It's exhausting. It is physically and emotionally exhausting. There are so many stigmas regarding this learning disability that I won't even touch on but what I can say is I'm learning more and more every day.....and dyslexia has MUCH more to do with just reading and writing.

 I will never forget the time I asked him why he doesn't like to do his work at school, work that he is able to do at home. And he said, " Because the teacher writes words on the big board and I try to write those words on my paper but they look different than hers and so then I get confused and forget what I'm writing. She writes the numbers big and the letters small. " His brain processes information different!!! He can not copy writing from the board, sometimes he can not copy items from a paper directly in front of him! The child has plenty of words but will count his words first and make the shortest sentence possible because the task of writing a sentence is so mentally and physically exhausting.

And the point.....
I know, I know I'm taking a long time to get to my point. The point is as I was working on learning how to teach my son, I realized I needed to empower him by sharing part of his diagnosis with him. I needed to teach him to EMBRACE his own diagnosis. I needed to acknowledge to him that I know some parts of school are hard.  He is still pretty young and so I haven't given him a name for it  yet although I will very soon.

One night, when I was putting him to bed I told him that I know school can be hard. I asked him if he liked reading. His eyes looked nervous and he said, " ....when I have to read ?" Because this child LOVES to be read to more than anything in the world. His comprehension of what is READ TO HIM is actually way higher than his grade level. But the thought of him having to read it ....well that made him nervous. So he said, "No. I don't like to read, it's hard. " And that's when I told him. I explained to him that it wasn't his fault that reading was difficult for him. That it wasn't because he didn't try hard enough and it wasn't because he wasn't smart. Because he was very smart! I told him that he was born with something that made it difficult for him to read and write. That God chose for him to be born with something that made it a little harder for him to read but that sometimes God gives us challenges because he can help us overcome them and bring him glory. Sometimes we can grow from those weaknesses. You should have seen the relief come over his face....it was as if he knew for the first time that it wasn't his fault.
Sweet, sweet boy. This parenting moment was bigger than watching them learn how to walk, or ride a bike, it was so precious that my little boy felt some relief for his struggles and the fact that they had nothing to do with anything that he had done wrong!

The bigger point....
My entire goal was to embrace his learning disability which in turn changed into empowering him to accept his learning disability and embrace his own weaknesses.
But ultimately what I'm really learning is that what most people perceive to be "weaknesses" are really not that at all. Having dyslexia is not a weakness. It makes him different. It makes many things harder but it will NOT MAKE HIM WEAK.

Moving forward....
And so we move forward, learning how to understand him and how to teach him. We focus on all of his strengths such as art and building and I pray for God to give me the strength I need on the days that are tiring and overwhelming because my little guy and I have a long road ahead.

And now when he puts on his shirt backwards for the millionth time, we smile because we have an inkling why. When he asks us if it is 7:22 or 7:55? we just answer him without giving him a lesson on which way the numbers face. And mostly, I  just teach him to love himself for who God created him to be, because that my friends is a beautiful gift!

Love this picture! In my efforts to learn as much as I can, I keep this book by my bed so that I can read it when I have time. This night I happened to put my necklace right on top of it, how fitting ;)

I teach my son how to read using tiles. We are using a multi sensory approach to teaching him how to read and I am seeing growth. Some days are great! And some days are pretty tough. He is working very hard.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My New Word.......And Matters of the Heart

I haven't written on my blog since November, except for the unfinished, unpublished piece that started like this.....

I'm a mess.

I don't think I've always been a mess but I can't remember a time when I didn't feel like I was a mess. A few weeks back, a friend posted about being a beautiful mess and I love that saying. Only it doesn't feel very beautiful to be as messy as I am. But with my one word this  year.....I am embracing the beautiful mess that I am.

And so I'm guessing it has most likely been about a month since I've tried to get something written on my blog. But when I went back and looked and read past blog posts, looked at kids' pictures, and reflected on the last few years it hit me that the point of keeping my blog has always been to document what is happening right now, in front of my eyes so that the memories don't slip away. Life gets so busy and we get caught up in all of the daily to dos and the big moments that all those little moments and feelings seem to get forgotten.

Anyways, I'm not actually writing to talk about how I haven't made the time to journal or to write or about how busy I've been. But really I wanted to write about my new ONE WORD, because I'm excited about it and how it's changing my outlook for the positive.

Last year, I never wrote about my word. Only those friends who also participate in ONE WORD 365 with me may have known what my word was. If you're confused and you have no idea what ONE WORD 365 is then you can read about the first time I encountered my ONE WORD and how it changed the way I made resolutions here   or  you can google it and you will find a ton of information!

Last year, the word I chose was RENEWAL. I was having a baby and I was excited to see Renewal of life and was hoping that it would just be a renewal of all things that surrounded our life; renewal of finances (following a year of my husband being so ill with Valley Fever), renewal, of energy, renewal of relationships, renewal of health for everyone in our family.....I just so badly wanted to have a clean slate or fresh start in all areas of our lives. The verse I chose to go with my one word was Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. "

So, obviously there was a renewal of life with our sweet Evan Thomas being born. Seriously, he is such a joy! But renewal of finances and health and....oh a clean heart, yeah none of that was really happening. I honestly kept my word in front of me, close to me, I thought of it but it just made me feel angry. Our finances were still in a situation of playing catch up from my husband being out of work, the medical bills from him being out of work were only being added to with a new stack of bills from delivering a new baby, and to top it off the husband ended up in hospital having his appendix out on the 4th. of July. It wasn't quite ending up to be the year, I wanted it to be. I started the school year with lots of difficulties in finding childcare and all on little or no sleep because the sweet angel happened to be our worst sleeper.

All in all, as the year came to an end.....a lot of that finally seemed to work itself out and look like it was headed in a better direction. But it wasn't until the last month or two of the year. It was close towards the end of the year when I was searching for a new word that it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe....just maybe...renewal wasn't happening in most areas of my life because, well because it wasn't happening in my heart. It was an issue of the heart. I wasn't praying that prayer "Create in me a clean heart." At that point, I wanted to dig deep inside my heart and just take all the built up gunk out, all the insecurity, the frustration for things going down a different path then what I had hoped for.  I said it was fine, acted like it was great because I don't believe in worrying. God will work all things out, his plan is always greater than our own. I truly believe that. However, it doesn't mean we don't build up walls or allow resentment to grow in our heart when life takes us on unplanned detours.

And this is how I pretty much came upon my new word.....it doesn't matter what gets thrown at us in our lives. There will be moments of joy, moments of sadness, times where we feel hurt, times when things work out just how we planned, and of course there will always be the detours. I find comfort in knowing God already has these detours in motion, that he knows what we don't. But this year, I plan to EMBRACE all that my life brings me....all of it; the messy homeschool days, the insecurities that I allow to eat at me, the chaos of having 4 boys, the sock bucket that never gets matched, just EMBRACE the beautiful mess that I truly am.
And you know what? It's already been so freeing!!

The verse I am focusing on this year is 2 Cor. 12:10 "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Because this year, I plan to embrace all of my weaknesses because God will use them for his glory. When I am weak, I have strength in him.

And I was just going to keep it to myself again this year but I am so excited because so many people have chosen words. And I keep those words all year long and think of you if you share them with me. I love seeing how this new trend of a New Year's Resolution motivates people. A good friend shared her story of her ONE WORD on a podcast and sent it to me. I had tears in my eyes as I listened to how powerful her word was in her life during the year.
What better way to start the year off than to EMBRACE all that life has to offer.....after all it is a pretty special gift!
Giving up on matching socks! Evan found them and it was his new toy for the day! Embrace the mess, it can be fun :)

These little guys don't always get along. But here big brother is giving little brother a piggy back ride. Even though they were being loud and almost waking baby, Embracing the moment.