Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Learn to Deal With Learning Disability

 K Man's official medical diagnosis is a "disorder of written expression" (which is also called dysgraphia) and ADD NOS (though I disagree with this assessment since it was made before his dysgraphia diagnosis.)  We obtained the diagnosis a little more than a year ago and floundered all last year about what to do with the information.

This year, the school is taking things more seriously. (It was an unusual year the last part of the school year last year and we wondered if some of the issues were related to family crises such as losing an uncle at a young age and a grandfather having a life-threatening illness.)

We've met and drafted a 504 plan. Thus far, the principal and the district psychologist do not think he qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), mostly because his IQ scores during his testing were high. So, we know he is intelligent (which, if you know him, is quite obvious.) but his school testing is consistently below grade level in reading fluency (though not comprehension), writing and especially spelling. Spelling in particular is a nightmare. He has fewer words to study (an accommodation we put in place last year) but still spells only 1-3 words correctly on a given test. Occasionally, there is an anomaly and he'll get 12 correct even when he's only supposed to study 10. (This has only happened twice.)

Under his 504, he will be tested away from the majority of his class in small group settings or just him with a paraprofessional. He expressed great relief when he heard of this because he said "Oh good! Now I don't have to hear the kids sharpen their pencils." It should be noted that he's been known to sharpen his pencil several times during the day, but if he thinks this will help, so be it. He will have non-reading and non-spelling related tests read to him so we can test his knowledge in each subject without bringing his disability into the mix.

There are other accommodations as well.

After I asked some questions, he told me recently that it physically hurts him to write for any length of time. I can't imagine what that is like, especially when everyone is asking you to write all the time. He pointed to the area beneath and around and his thumb and said his wrist also causes him pain. For someone like me, who loves to write and loves the feel of a great pen or pencil on paper, this is disheartening to hear. He'll never love writing like I do.

He consistently reverses letters and numbers even now in 3rd grade. Bs and Ds are especially difficult still, as well as 2s and 5s. He's been taking his spelling tests on the computer for a while now. When he reads he skips words, skips entire lines, adds words and sometimes simply guesses on what he thinks the sentence will be. His fluency has improved since the end of July (when my bigs started school) but it is still below grade level.

I wish there were some magical solution to make his brain work like most everyone else's, but I suspect that he wouldn't be the unique kid that he is if that were the case. The challenge is to teach his differently-wired brain to learn the things he needs to succeed in life. Our journey is just beginning and I worry daily. I don't ever want to have a regret I didn't help him enough.

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Holly said...

You are a great mom.

I can't say I know what you're going through, but I have discovered a bit about issues that affect learning since my son started occupational therapy almost three years ago. He has a fine motor skill delay and sensory issues. He will likely be diagnosed with ADHD as well when he's older -- he probably has it, but I don't think they test for it until kids are older. His hands hurt when he's writing too. He squirms in his seat or tries to lie down. His handwriting is atrocious.

We are just now learning about educational kinesiology -- if you Google it, you might find some resources that could be helpful. I've also stumbled across information about the symmetrical tonic neck reflex, which supposedly can be underdeveloped in people who didn't crawl, or didn't crawl enough, and this makes it difficult to sit still for any length of time. Apparently it can lead to learning problems. Who knew?

Just mentioning some ideas, from one mom to another.


Michelle Pfingston said...

Yup. Love how your standing up for him~

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