“I Just KNEW That Something Was Missing”
How One Woman’s Journey to Solve Her Son’s School Struggles And How What She Discovered Can Help Others
Have you ever had that “nagging” little voice in your head that tells you that you’ve forgotten something, that you left something out, or that something is missing?
Moms all over the globe know this feeling…something is unsettled, not quite right, maybe “out of synch.”
Teaching and counseling in the public schools for the past 20 years has often given me that “not quite right” feeling as I’ve watched students struggle in the classroom.
I can even remember looking at specific kids and feeling that there was so much potential that wasn’t being “tapped.” If only I knew how to get through and help struggling students “connect the dots.”
It was VERY frustrating.
This feeling of a missing piece has carried over into my own family. My son has struggled with learning and memory, seemingly from day one. While he has amazing special abilities and memory as it relates spatially, learning his alphabet and numbers, reading, math and spelling, have been a day-in day-out, week-in week-out on-going, never-ending “treadmill” of frustration.
And the GUILT I feel!
As a mom AND as a “professional,” I feel as if I’m SUPPOSED to have the answers. After all, this is my area of expertise.
It has led to an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. We are continually learning more about him. But as each school year starts with high hopes, we keep meeting with excellent teachers who remain baffled by how his very bright and capable brain works.
The journey to find an answer -
These struggles have led to an enlightening journey of learning. At age 3, our son began stuttering so we worked with area speech pathologists and attended a family based program to stop his stuttering. It worked! Yet, his struggles continued and intensified with an inability to learn his colors, numbers and letters. The school jumped in, dedicating as much 1x1 time and practice, extra tutoring and support, as they were able. We practiced his words and played all the games that would teach him his dolch words.
Over time, he maintained some of the information, yet could only retrieve it randomly.
Our feeling was he just needed more time and practice. This theory no longer seemed plausible by the end of first grade. We began the SST process of specific interventions. We had him evaluated in the community. He was labeled with dyslexia and memory issues. He did not qualify for special ed with these diagnoses, but he did qualify for a 504 (Individualized Education Plan).
Thankfully, his teachers never tired of trying new ideas and worked tirelessly with him.
Outside of school, we enrolled him in 3 hours of reading tutoring a week. He began to progress a little more quickly and information was beginning to stick. He was evaluated for special education towards the end of 2nd grade, yet by then, he no longer qualified for reading (though it is still difficult) but he did qualify for math. Processing and following steps is also difficult for him and very important when solving equations.
While writing this, he is now in 5th grade. School is still hard for him even with his continual tutoring. He doesn’t enjoy it. Homework is painful. He has improved and the school has done what they can. The problem is, what he needs is something the school is neither equipped nor trained to offer. Over and above all that, there is not time to meet all his needs in school when standards and assessments demand constant adherence to specific teaching strategies (that don’t work for all students).
Our son is not alone. I have worked with many students and created a wide variety of interventions, yet felt they needed more than we could offer.
There are many who present symptoms and struggles that we’re unable to deal with in the school system.
This all has led me onto a journey for answers and options.
What I have learned and discovered has opened many doorways and has shed light on who my son and all those other unique students, really are.
Now, I KNOW we can meet their needs if we begin by looking at which rungs of the ladder they are missing as they climb towards academic success. We all know that without a strong base, one can’t move forward; Without strong underlying cognitive processing skills, people can not acquire and retain new skills efficiently, or sometimes, at all.
My journey has led me to Colorado and California where I attended intensive processing, attention, and learning training.
I have experimented [triumphed?] with my own children and family and have witnessed changes in their learning. I feel optimistic about my son’s potential. I have spoken with children and adults who have undergone this training for themselves and they all relate the excitement of growth and possibilities. This program is not just for children; it has benefited all ages of adults as well and has opened many doors previously thought closed.
I’ve taken all that I’ve learned on this journey and developed Duluth Core Learning to help other students and their families.
Duluth Core Learning provides a cognitive processing skills assessment and then matches research based programming with the individual so that those missing skills can be developed and strengthened. My hope is that those people who are full of potential, yet struggling, will be able to gain some independence and control over their own cognitive functioning.