As an educator, parents will often ask my opinion of early screenings, observations, and assessments. I am always an advocate for early intervention. I understand the impact that it can have on a child’s success. Luckily in Alberta, we have some amazing programs that provide all children, who attend a licensed preschool, the opportunity for screenings/funding for mild, moderate and severe disabilities or delays (speech, OT, physical therapy etc). As a teacher, I think this is an incredible opportunity to support young children’s early educational needs and set them up for success. As a mom, I wish I would have listened to my gut earlier.
At about the age of three, I started to question some of Anthony’s cognitive abilities. I remember so clearly the struggles we had trying to learn something as basic as colors. At first, I thought he was just being silly. I knew that at his day home they didn’t do much of the learning piece, and I was ok with that. My day home provider would always try but he had no interest in it so she didn’t want to push it. She didn’t have the skills or training to teach younger children. So instead, I would do the learning at home with him, which I enjoyed. This was when I started to wonder if something more might be going on with Anthony. I wish I would have trusted that initial gut feeling.
Back to colors…Anthony would point to something blue and say it was red. He would point to something yellow and refer to it as green. I put on my teacher hat and immediately got to work. I would lay out color cards all over the floor and play games like don’t step on the lava! Where he would have to find the color I called out and land on it without touching the hot lava. He loved the playing, but he still struggled with the colors. Night after night, we played for a month straight…until I was convinced, Anthony was color blind.
Never for a second did I consider that Anthony may have been dealing with something more or did I? Part of me questioned whether something was going on but I pushed it aside as soon as it popped into my head. I mean the kid hit all his other milestones on time or early. He was walking by twelve months, talking full sentences by two, and had a tripod grasp down by 3. Despite being a teacher and having all the knowledge and awareness of early red flags, I didn’t listen to my little voice in my head. Not at age five or six or seven did I want to believe that something more might be going on. Anthony was easy going, sweet, kind, social and emotionally he did better than most children his age.
And he did, eventually, by four he knew his colors, around five he learned to count to 100, by six he was reading and starting to write…except everything seemed really difficult for him. By grade two, the teacher had become impatient with Anthony’s excellent ability to wander off into another world during class. At this time, I chalked it up to my own faults. I was busy starting up and running my business, I was busy with a toddler at home, I was busy with a twelve-year-olds demanding schedule, I wasn’t able to give Anthony enough one to one time, I was unable to support him with his learning, I wasn’t volunteering in the classroom like most moms and I had convinced myself that it was all my fault that Anthony was falling behind. Almost every night I would end my day in bed crying. Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, trying to find something to blame. The only thing I kept coming back to was me. I had convinced myself that I had failed my child.
So I did what every other mom in this situation does. I went into overdrive. I sat with him every night throughout grade three. We read, we did homework together, I got him a tutor, he went to Kumon and I was there for every step along the way this time. I met with this teacher and we both came up with a plan to put him on a learning support program. Where he would receive help or extra time when required. The grade three teachers didn’t seem to think that Anthony really needed it but they went along with it anyway, more so to appease my concerns. Little did they know that behind the scenes, Ben and I were working tirelessly every night with our child. According to Anthony’s teachers and his tutors, Anthony seemed to be doing well. Grade three seemed like a turning point until we got to grade four.
Grade four children are expected to work more independently, become more organized and take on more responsibility. These were three things Anthony really struggled to do on his own. Sure if I was right behind him pushing him to focus, he did, but without me in class, Anthony couldn’t process working on his own. Originally his teacher seemed to have no concerns about Anthony’s ability. She reassured me that Anthony was doing well in class until I received his first report card and realized she was wrong. All my concerns were starting to flood back, why did she seem to think that Anothonys good enough were low to average grades? I didn’t want my child to think that he couldn’t strive or achieve more. Anthony was slipping through the cracks, coasting through grade four and nobody seemed to worry or care, except for his dad and I.
We decided to take a different approach. We reached out to the teacher and asked her to send us all in-class work and assignments. For months and months, Ben and I sat night after night, one on one, reading, reviewing and learning the grade four curriculum alongside Anthony. We were his crutch and we weren’t going to let him fall. We wanted him to feel successful. We wanted him to feel like he could achieve great grades and as long as we supported him, night after night, day after day, he did. He would do amazing on all his tests and assignments. In class, work was a different story.
I knew something was up, I felt it in my gut, again. He got through grade 4 and did amazing but I questioned if my support was a hindrance or if it was really helping him? I couldn’t possibly keep this up in grade five or six or seven. At some point, he would have to be able to learn on his own.
AND that is when it hit me. What if…Anthony didn’t have the ability to learn on his own right now because we didn’t know or understand how he learns. What if I had listened to my gut five, six or seven years earlier. Anthony needed to learn how to learn…in his own way. Instead of being his crutch I needed to find a way to help him walk his learning path on his own. I needed to get him assessed. Maybe he has a learning disability, maybe he processes information differently, maybe he has difficulty with focus and his attention or maybe it’s something else from earlier that he never worked through and he didn’t have the right learning tools now. I am not the expert at diagnosing and I needed to a find someone who could. So we did it. We booked him in for a psycho-educational assessment. I am so excited for him because I know that once we complete it, we will work towards a plan with tools that will set him up for a more successful school experience.
Do I wish I would have followed my gut earlier? Heck yes! Do I know why I held back…no, I can’t really put my finger on the why…or why not. In the end, my child needs support, and I am more than ok with that, I am excited for him. I hope to share with you our experience in the next steps. I am so proud of my kid. He’s amazing, he’s sweet, he is fearless and I love him so much. He’s smart and we just need to tap into his way of learning as opposed to trying to fit him into the box, the only box, the school system or some teachers sometimes expects every child to fit in.
Please comment below, I would love to hear if you have had a similar experience, story or have something to share on this…
till the next post,