Complicating Factors

It was too hot.

It was too cold

I didn’t sleep enough.

I dressed too warm.

I started too cold.

I didn’t eat enough.

I ate too much.

I should have had a gel.

I definitely SHOULD NOT have had that gel.

The coarse was too hilly.

The coarse was too flat.

It seemed like we ran uphill, against the wind THE ENTIRE TIME.

There weren’t enough water stations.

I trained too much.

I didn’t train enough.

It’s the wrong time of the month.

I’m still slightly injured.

I injured myself 1/2 way through and gutted out the rest.

There are a lot of complicating factors to running races.  Conditions never seem to be perfect and a runner needs to adjust to the physical conditions around them.  Last spring my goal was to run a 1/2 marathon in 1:40 in order to get into corral 1 for the Twin Cities Marathon.  It didn’t happen.  There was always a complicating factor.  When I finally thought everything was working in my favor and I was going to run a very fast course I had run before….I injured myself.  It’s always something.

While #2 was being reassessed by the school district I had a complicating factor which caused me to not pay enough attention to the process.  My dad was going through a health crisis.  He was diagnosed with end stage heart failure that winter and had an LVAD implanted about a month later.  I was overwhelmed and felt pulled in two different directions.

The reason I share this information is not to gain sympathy, but to illustrate that there is always a complicating factor for families.  On paper I was the perfect parent to navigate the convoluted system of special education and get the best services for my child.  I did my college psychology research on learning disabilities, I worked in Special Ed., I was a 1st grade teacher, I felt comfortable with education jargon, I had a close and trusting relationship with the classroom teacher, I was a stay at home parent with flexibility to attend meetings, we had the ability to get an evaluation by a private professional, I had a strong support system of family and friends, etc.  However, I was also dealing with another stressful situation and that lead me to drop the ball on #2 for a couple months and trust that the school was doing their job.

It makes me sick to my stomach to think that other families are going through the same assessments and IEP meetings every day….well, the “lucky” children who’s learning disability is alarming enough.  Other children are just getting pushed aside and allowed to fall between the cracks (this was the tale of #1 before we moved him to a new school).  What about the children who don’t have parents as well versed in dyslexia?  What about the parents who are working 2-3 jobs to get food on the table?  What about the parents who don’t speak English?  Can’t afford an outside assessment?  Do not have a strong social support network? Have never heard the word dyslexia? Had a negative educational experience themselves so accepts when their child fails as normal?

This weekend the New York Times had a Piece “No Rich Child Left Behind.” While reading it I couldn’t help wondering what role dyslexia plays in the equation of the middle and lower class not performing as well in school as the upper class.  It is estimated that 5-10% of the population is dyslexic.  Many people believe 20% of the population is dyslexic. It does not affect 5-10% of affluent children who are able to afford outside tutoring and private schools, but 5-10% of the entire population.  Up to 10% of any classroom could be children with dyslexia, and our school district doesn’t recognize it and is not equipped to teach these children in the most efficient and effective way we know.  If a child requires a special method to learn, such as the Wilson Reading System, in my district you are told to figure that out yourself, even if your child qualifies for an IEP.  My district has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country.  Dyslexia is not the main reason for our achievement gap, but I do believe it is a complicating factor.  How many children out there are suffering with a learning disability and our schools are not equipped to help them?

My kids are fortunate.  They were born into a family with resources.  I have the knowledge, skill and financial ability (because of my husband’s job) to homeschool and tutor them individually with curriculum designed for children with dyslexia.  This is not most people’s reality.  Our situation is still difficult and we are stretched very thin at times, just like many families.  We are not an affluent family, but we are definitely not poor.  We have material and non-material resources and I was still unable to muster the energy to navigate through the educational system and figure out how to get help for #1 and #2 so they could learn and have the confidence to face dyslexia.

Our society needs to start recognizing dyslexia and do a better job of teaching these children.  We can do something about this.  It will always be a complicating factor, but it shouldn’t be the reason children fail.

For children with dyslexia, it’s time to

slow down,

get better form,

rethink the goals,

practice,

become stronger,

believe in yourself,

and get back on track…..

Monster Dash 2011

just like injured runner.

Imagine the possibilities if we could help children with dyslexia before they failed.

All children deserve the chance to soar.

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Running backwards

“Remember 5 days ago when I was so happy to be running in capris?” This is a text I sent one of my running partners last week.   Minnesota is enduring the return of winter.  Little did we know in December that getting through this winter would be its own form of an endurance event.  Each time I look out the window, it seems like we are in a time warp and have gone backwards in time.  We are stuck in February.

path in snow

Sometimes my days with dyslexic children are like this.  Last week while #2 was writing I had to remind him that b is made “bat-ball” and d is “donut door.” I thought I was going to lose it.  Honestly. I usually sit by his side while he is writing and watch him make every letter so I can stop a mistake before it starts.  The more times he forgets which way a b goes and writes it backwards, thats twice as many times I have to remind him which way is correct.  Last year we sat with colorful reminders of trouble letter shapes in front of him.  This year we have tried to move towards cementing that knowledge and relying on kinesthetic reminders with his hands or verbal reminders.  This multisensory approach is incredibly important to dyslexic students when we are trying to make new imprints on their brain of what a b looks like.  Its stunning how much practice an intelligent child needs on such a basic skill. Someday I hope he gains automaticity in his letters (although there are many times that I also whisper “bat-ball” or “donut-door” when I’m writing).  #2 can discuss presidential history, but when it comes to writing I constantly feel like I’m going backwards or stuck in a time warp….Its always gloomy February.

Last fall I heard Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree, speak.  His book is about parenting children with differences.  One part I really connected with is that the parents that seem to come out of difficult parenting situations to tell stories of success have found deep meaning in their parenting journey.  This is something I have found myself going back to as I look outside and wonder what month is it and then I look at #2s writing and wonder the same.  Am I making progress?  Is this worth it?

And yes, it is.  The patience and time it takes to help a child with profound dyslexia is worth it.  I don’t know the path it will take, but I’m determined to make it worth it.  There are bright spots with his language.  18 months ago he broke into tears if he was asked to read a book as simple as Go, Dog, Go!  Last week during free read time I looked over and found this:

fortune cookie wookie

There is hope.  Its amazing what discipline, practice, grit and perseverance can do.  It can turn a non-runner into a marathoner.  It can turn a non-reader into a voracious reader.  Lately its a small battle to get him to put DOWN a book, especially when its such high class literature as The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee: An Origami Yoda Book.

Today my text to a running parter will be, “Let’s try to qualify for Boston at the TC marathon this fall.”  We all need hope.

The sadness of a runner

“I am a runner.”  These are words I never thought I would utter.  Ever. Today despair struck at the biggest moment in the biggest event of my favorite sport.  At the finish line, after having run 26.2 miles, emotions completely take over a person.  The finish line is the place of jubilation, gratefulness, peace and overwhelming love of life. The Boston Marathon is seen as the reward to many runners after years of hard work and a fast qualifying time in a previous marathon.  This was not supposed to happen.  Running is a peaceful sport where people encourage and challenge each other to bring out their best efforts.

My heart breaks for everyone personally effected by the events in Boston today.  Runners put miles in together, we greet each other at 5:30 AM out on the trail, and runners stop to help others.  The image of athletes finishing the marathon and running to the hospital to give blood makes sense to me.  This is what people do.  People help each other.

Mr. Rogers

“I am a homeschooler.”  These are words I never thought I would utter.  Ever.  I came to running positively, but I came to homeschooling very reluctantly. School should be a place where children feel safe.  Like a marathon, it should be a place of jubilation, gratefulness, support, achievement and love.  For #2, it was anything but this.  His experience was filled with anxiety, misunderstanding, low expectations, learned helplessness and tears.  It was not a safe place for him, rather a daily assault that would drain him every time he walked through the doors.  Many parents with children who fall outside the norm understand my feelings of frustration and sadness.  There were not enough helpers at school for #2…and the school didn’t understand what helpers #2 needed.  I could not let him continue to sit in school and watch his self-esteem and confidence melt to zero.  This was not supposed to happen.

Sadly our public schools are not set up to handle children with profound dyslexia, especially when it is accompanied by an anxious and sensitive personality.  In his book The Dyslexic Advantage, Brock Eide describes 4 personalities of people with dyslexia.  One personality is highly sensitive accompanied with high levels of anxiety.  At a recent conference at Groves Academy a parent asked Eide how a parent can help a child with this personality cope and learn in school. He responded that unless you are able to send your child to a school like Groves, your answer is to homeschool, there is no other option right now. This is not OK, although this is my reality at the moment.  We need more helpers in the schools in the form of teachers trained to understand and teach children with learning disabilities.  Many times these children are also gifted.  We must form a world where there are more helpers for our children to turn to.  Let’s imagine and put forth a world where children who struggle feel safe and parents no longer need to fight to get their children the education they deserve.