Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Struggle

I've been reading to The Boy since before he was born.

When he arrived early, laying in an incubator with tubes attached, I read to him.

Cloth books, board books, picture books. They were always present from infancy through the toddler years and beyond.

Imagine my surprise when The Struggle began.

In hindsight, there were signs all along. Signs that were attributed to developmental readiness, immaturity, and just "being a boy".

By the middle of first grade The Struggle was taking its toll. Here was a child who was smart. He was engaging, articulate, creative, imaginative. But he was not learning to read. He was falling further and further behind. And he knew it.

Second grade. The Struggle takes over.

Despite good grades, The Boy still couldn't read. His problems started to seep into other areas. Spelling. Math. Comprehension. Recall. Reasoning.

It was becoming impossible to keep up.

Homework. Damn homework. An exercise in frustration. For both of us.

I'm a teacher. I am supposed to have patience and understanding. Why was I so lacking with my own child? Why was I failing him? It didn't seem to matter how much work we did at home. We were spinning our wheels. Always playing catch-up. Never able to catch a breath.

Pay attention. Quit being a goof. You have to focus. Work harder. Don't be lazy.

Exhaustion. Fatigue. Stress. Anger.


And then it happened. The moment of realization. And it was ugly.

The Boy came home with at least one whole day's worth of unfinished work.

Are you kidding me? What have you been doing in class?

I made him stay home and finish his work instead of getting the Christmas tree with his daddy, something he did every year.

We trudged through the sheets one by one.

We came to a math worksheet. Tens and ones. It should have been easy. A review of previously taught skills.

I don't get this.

What don't you get?

I don't know which is which.

This continues....#1, #2, #3, #4...

Finally, I slam my hand down on the table. I yell.

Dammit, pay attention! How can you not know which is which? We have done a thousand of these!

Ugly. So ugly. A very low moment. The look on his face. It haunts me still...

It was then that I knew. There was something wrong.

I couldn't sleep that night. I knew. I knew this was more than being a goof, or lazy, or not paying attention.

There was a real problem.


My gut was right.

There is a real problem.

The Boy was tested.

Dyslexia as well as a processing deficit with his short term memory. This affects many areas of learning, most notably with The Boy: reading comprehension and math reasoning.

The fact that he's kept his head this far above water for as long as he has is a testament to his smarts.

Now we know.

We know that The Boy's brain does not work like yours or mine. He sees things in a different way, therefore he learns things in a different way.

The Struggle isn't over. It is something that we will continue to live with. Something that we will be learning to deal with on a daily basis.

But we will be learning together.

And together, there is no struggle that we can't overcome.