Monday, November 4, 2013

Homeschooling, learning disabilities, and trying something new

When I started the homeschooling journey, several years ago, I never thought I  would have to learn to become a special ed. teacher.  But, these days, that is exactly where I am finding myself. 

At the end of the summer, we had our oldest son go through a series of educational tests.  One day a week, for about a month, we headed to the educational psychologist's office for two hours for J's testing. And a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I sat down with the educational psychologist to hear the results.

As we sat down that morning, I learned some very important things.  First, J is smart.  I knew that already and the test results confirmed that he IS smart.  When it came it auditory learning, he was OFF THE CHARTS.  Again, I knew this about him.  Then we came to his writing scores.  The first set of tests that showed results in the Learning Disability range.  Again, this did not surprise me.  But, it was good to hear it confirmed.  And good to give it a name.  He has dysgraphia.  I had not even heard that word until that day.  Quite simply, he cannot write.  When other children his age, can, without even thinking, form letters to make a word, and write words to form sentences, he has to concentrate on EVERY SINGLE pencil stroke. He has to concentrate so much on the actual forming of a letter, that the rest of the content: the spelling of a word, the space between words, the use of proper punctuation, is lost and forgotten.  This is my amazing son that can memorize and recite a Psalm with little effort, but spells his own name incorrectly if he writes it too quickly.

The testing did show two other areas of concern, which really just complicate his dysgraphia and other school work more.

When we walked out of that meeting that day, I was overwhelmed with love of my son.  My son, who works so hard just to stay focused and to do the work he does, no matter how imperfect I,or others may think it is.  I gained a new appreciation of the areas he is gifted in and I became determined to learn what I can, to not only help him overcome his learning issues, but to help my other two sons become stronger in areas that they are weak in as well.

And that is exactly what I have been doing over the last few weeks.  I am researching occupational and vision therapists.  I am "Pinning" apps for the iPad that will help with dysgraphia and vision issues.  I am reading about what exercises we can do at home to get the left brain and right brain to communicate the way they should.  I am making lists of exercises to strengthen fine and gross motor skills.  I have purchased games to help with visual perception and executive function processing.

We have been testing all of this out too.  The boys enjoy rolling on my exercise ball, for the first time ever since they were never allowed to play with it before. They are having fun squeezing squishy balls in their hands and proudly proclaim that their fine motor skills are getting stronger.  They work hard to concentrate on all of the figure 8 exercises.

There are days now that I think our homeschool looks more like some sort of therapy play house than a place where learning takes place.  And as hard as it is for this overachiever to let go of book lists and performance, I am OK with how things are.  My main desire right now is to help my oldest, and my middle son to overcome the difficulties they have with learning.  And if that means putting some of our books aside for a while and play a game, so be it.  If it means that I stop visiting homeschooling blogs because I compare, and feel inadequate afterwards, than so be it.

I am really not sure if all of this will work or not.  I am not looking for a miracle cure.  All of these efforts are really driven out of love.  Just like any other mother, I want the best for my children.  I desperately love them and I can see just how hard learning can be for them.  And, if there is a way, I can lessen the struggle for them,  not by expecting less of them, but by providing tools that assist them so that they can work to their true capabilities, I am willing to do what I can.

So, as the days and months pass, I may write here and there about this journey of me becoming a more adept, special ed. teacher (hopefully) and the boys improving too!

9 comments:

  1. You're an awesome mom and J is blessed to have you :) It must be so overwhelming to have to dive into this unknown territory but you are doing it and I think that is so great.

    ReplyDelete
  2. you are SUCH a great mom. It's inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Katie, what a calling you have! How blessed are your boys to have parents who will do whatever is possible to make learning easier for them. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with the others... you are a fantastic mom! Thanks for sharing all this and know that you are in our prayers!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this post, Katie. It's such a real part of homeschooling, but not often spoken of so frankly. Your boys are so blessed that you are their teacher and that you love them so dearly!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fantastic! May God bless your efforts!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Katie, you are an amazing mom - only LOVE can teach and teach so well children who need special attention, special help and special understanding - you are that person for J!! You inspire me to be more patient with my own children. Keep going - it's just like running - painful, difficult at times, but worth every ounce of sacrifice we put into it!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh my gosh, I'm right there with you. My son has already completed 36 weeks of Vision Therapy and it helped him so much. We were blessed that we found a vision therapist who was also an occupational therapist so she was great at working on vision and reflex integration. We also just finished the grueling weeks and weeks of evaluation with an Educational Psychologist. We ended up with a Dyslexia diagnosis which confirmed everything I'd been seeing. It's hard to see your kid struggle. So. darn. HARD. But, now we know exactly how to help him so we've set him up with an Orton-Gillingham tutor and it's back to the OT, this time for handwriting. It's extra hard to reach out to outside professionals as a homeschooler because you feel so scrutinized. I've been blessed though, that all of the "Special Ed" professionals I've encountered in our quest for answers have been HUGE supporters of homeschooling because most districts can't provide the support kids with these sorts of issues need. I know that feeling you mentioned walking out of the office after getting your results. It's EXACTLY how I felt the day we got our Dyslexia diagnosis. So crushed with love for my little man who works harder than most adults ever will. Big hugs and prayers from one special needs homeschool mom to another. Your son has the best teacher in the world for him.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Playing with Knex helped a dysgraphic child I know. It was actually rather terrifying what a difference a standard toy made in his handwriting in just a few months.

    ReplyDelete