He had the appointment, he started medication and he was reading at a sixth grade level by the end of the first grade. But, there were still lots of inexplicable academic behaviors. While his ideas were grand he couldn't put them on paper. His writing was completely illegible. He would write half way across the page with his left hand then switch to his right to finish off a line. He often started writing a word in the middle and added to both ends. He worked all math problems in his head and wrote them out on the math sheet left to right. At one point his Third Grade teacher told me he does his best writing when he has two sheets of paper and is writing the same thing with both hands at the same time. The very thought ties my brain in knots.
Time went on and his writing was still painfully minimalistic. Anytime an assignment required writing we'd both fall apart from the anxiety and frustration. It would take hours and in the end he might have a sentence or two. He was nowhere near writing a paragraph at the appropriate age and an essay was completely out of the question.
It all sounds pretty dismal doesn't it? It certainly felt that way.
One thing I've learned and wish I could instill in every parent with a child that struggles is a solid belief that the efforts that you put into today will pay off in the long run.
When my son stopped me in the middle of the hall and frantically demanded I listen to something he'd just written I listened in awe. What he once struggled with he is well on his way to mastering. As he read me what he had just written all the different remediation we tried over the years, all the frustrations, all the pushing, even tears, came flying back to my memory.
I couldn't help but remember all the uncertainty that I felt wondering if I was doing the right thing for him. Whether it's dealing with learning disabilities or ADHD or anxiety and depression, OCD or any of the many other disorders out there we parents wonder and worry that we are making the right choices for our kids.
What I've realized, having finally gotten farther down the parenting road, is that all that worry and work pays off. That first grader that couldn't remember his alphabet, the second grader whose writing was illegible, that third grader writing with both hands at the same time, as a 15 year old wrote this.
"Fire, an element of nature that can be seen on two spectrums. When controlled fire is a provider of warmth, light, and comfort. To a weary traveler fire can signify a warm meal and a comfy bed. Although fire is beautiful it is also deadly. When uncontrolled fire becomes a source of fear and despair. He becomes the almighty devourer consuming and destroying all things within his path. All fire does is hate and kill. He feigns the sense of comfort and the feeling of a warm embrace. He pretends to care and once close enough he strikes out his hand savoring the sound of every scream, the smell of every burn. He feeds off the pain and suffering that his fiery hatred causes all humanity."
Now he writes stories, this is for a new story he's working on. Back then he could barely get out a sentence or two. What made the difference? Hard persistent work over a long period of time. As well as some unconventional tactics to help him unwind what was already in his head.
We started by getting him on the computer using a writing program instead of having to hand write out assignments. The more he was on the computer the faster he typed the better tool it became.
He was still having a hard time organizing thoughts into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. With lots of older siblings Power Points had become a huge thing in our house. One day out of sheer desperation I told him to use Power Point to write a paragraph he needed written for school. One complete sentence per slide, five to six slides.
It gave him the structure he needed to get his thoughts out. Pretty soon we moved up to a couple sentences a slide forming several paragraphs. He would write it in Power Point then copy and paste it into a regular document. Next came a paragraph per slide translating easily to a five paragraph essay. Finally, he started writing by hand more and more and left behind the need for the Power Point altogether. Every once in awhile he'll come to me overwhelmed and frustrated by an assignment in Honors English and I'll direct him back to the computer, back to Power Point. It's a structure that works for him.
Bottom line, don't get discouraged. Regardless of the obstacles, trust yourself, keep working, and try different approaches until you find what works for you and your child. Never let a diagnosis create limits in your mind. Think of it more as a jumping off point because it is certainly not the end. Really it's just the beginning.