Updated: Sep 10, 2019
It seems that a day didn’t go by when I wasn’t actively dealing with LD and all it encompasses while my daughter was growing up. As her mother, I learned very quickly that there are three important factors to keep in mind when cheering on your child: self-esteem, the right education and advocating for your child’s rights in school, with friends and family. Self-esteem and the right kind of education go hand in hand. Children who are “different” in one way or another often do not know how to stand up for their rights. They do not know how to demand the education that is rightfully theirs. They do not know how to stand up for themselves amongst friends and family. That is the job of their parents, their advocates. It would be awesome if all teachers and guidance counselors as well would step up to the plate and help kids with learning disabilities..
Children with learning disabilities or with any disability deserve to get the education that is rightfully theirs, and I believe the right education is one that strengthens their strong points and does not dwell on their weaknesses. It is our obligation as parents, teachers, etc. to discover those strengths. If they don’t have an excellent on their report card, it is necessary to find that “excellent” somewhere else. Why Math, and not theater? Constructing scenery for a play is a lesson in geometry, law of physics, lighting and perspective. We have to focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses and find the benefits in what’s different.
I’m sure most parents remember the toddler toy sorting cube where you have to fit the right geometric shape into its match. I have memories of my children trying to put a triangle into a square. Of course, no matter how hard my kids tried to force the triangle into the square it never matched up. If I were that triangle, I would feel pain, frustration and anger. And that’s exactly how children with LD feel in the school system. At this point I want to interject that as a parent of a child with learning disabilities and as an author, I value children’s books about dealing with anger. I’ve seen pain and frustration build up to anger. It’s not a pretty sight
The educational system doesn’t always cater to children with LD, consequently they don’t match up to the school system’s expectations. The system tries to mainstream special ed children, but it just doesn’t work. It’s exactly like trying to push that triangle into a square. The school system built for one kind of child, just doesn’t fit every individual child especially those with different ways of learning.
It’s time to stop trying to trying to fit that triangle into the square. Obviously that doesn’t work. Children come in all sizes and shapes. They are individuals with different ways of learning. Let’s stop trying to fix the child when he/she doesn’t have to be fixed. The way we teach has to be fixed so that the child who is different can learn
A great way for parents, teachers and guidance counselors to provide support for children with LD is through fictional stories.
Here’s an excerpt from If Only… my new contemporary YA fiction that deals with this issue
After gym I headed over to Math class, dreading it. Mrs. Trombini always tried to act cool. On the first day of school she said, “Please call me by my first name, Angela. You can drop the Mrs. Trombini formality.” She dressed kind of funny. Every day, whatever the weather, she wore the same black and white polka dotted skirt and only changed her T-shirts, which she had in every color you could think of. She probably thought she looked cute. All the kids said she was okay, but I didn’t think so. Her too-sweet voice didn’t fool me. Angela was mean to me in class. I hated her.
I sat down next to G hoping not to be called on. About halfway through class, Angela said, “Lisa please come up to the board and solve this equation.” My knee started to tremble. One of my knees was always out of control when I got nervous.
I glanced at G for help, but there was nothing she could do. Once again, I wished I could be more like her. She was so perfect at everything. I was sure her knee wouldn’t shake if she had to go up to the board.
I felt sick and wanted to puke my guts out. I wrote out the equation. My answer was correct, but the way I got there was all wrong. Angela badgered me with her pain-in-the-ass voice,
“Lisa, dear, why did you do it that way? That’s not what I taught you to do.” I couldn’t explain how I got the right answer—I was just grateful that I did.
I answered angrily, “I don’t know, I just did it! I can’t explain. Can you leave me alone now?” I stood there like a dummy, all eyes on me. My knee was totally out of control.
Just in time, the bell rang. As I rushed out of class I heard G calling me, “Lisa, wait!” But I didn’t wait and ran straight to the cafeteria thinking, Why am I soooo stupid? I knocked a chair over on the way in and then crashed into an empty seat in the corner.