This week I was reading a post from a distraught mother of a sixth grade son, on one of the LD websites. It was painful to read, though the storyline not uncommon. Bright, seemingly intelligent dyslexic boy with ADHD, still reading at a first grade level, and given his average profile from testing, receiving accommodations only, and struggling with this daily stress producer called school.
I could write two very different endings to this developing drama. One tale is of a parent who stays the course, down a gut-wrenching road with school personnel, and her increasingly distraught and dejected son. Todd Rose, high school dropout/Harvard PhD speaks to this path in his book, Square Peg - a must-read if you are a parent in this situation right now.
The other ending, which I suggest, could feel both daunting and freeing at different times, and would be far more productive. It is of a parent(s) who decides, respectfully, that it will no longer be acceptable to allow her son to “just get by,” continuing to work on homework for hours a night, with mom sitting by his side as reader, scribe and weary cheerleader.
Honestly, I wish I could say that the second scenario would immediately change this young man’s educational existence upon mom’s epiphany, but that is very rarely, if ever, the case. Coming to the realization that something must drastically change in the academic environment is the first, very powerful step, for sure. After that comes the hard work of getting support, possibly from an objective, outside agency, to demystify the complexities of the child’s learning profile. How can a child find academic success if school support is not directly linked to breakdowns in learning? If you find it troubling that you can’t answer the question, “What interventions are in place to support areas of the learning profile that show discrepancies in overall performance?” you may want to go on a fact-finding mission.
With this knowledge in hand, mom calls a meeting of all of the school professionals who see her son on a daily basis. She may need to take support with her to the meeting, in order to clearly discuss current findings, forge an aggressive plan of action, and determine what and when data will be gathered and discussed. It is at this point that, with the child clearly at the center, decisions can be made to determine what is best for the child moving forward. Whether this means more targeted interventions, closer monitoring of progress, and scaffolding of support, or a more appropriate learning environment, it IS a vital piece of the work that needs to be accomplished if a different outcome is to be achieved.
While I am never one to say it is too late for help, starting this journey in sixth grade adds many layers to the process. I would suggest that every year after third grade makes the work more complex, thus, all the research points to the importance of early intervention.
The moral to both endings of this young man’s story - if it feels overwhelming for the parent, imagine what it must be like for the child. Seek support, and push up against the notion that “just getting by” is good enough.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net