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.