October is Learning Disability Awareness Month. Did you know that 1 in 5 children in the US has a learning disability? This post is about our one.
I had a feeling. A little sense deep down that there was something.
I saw some signs each year regarding math, but they weren’t always so clear. She would struggle in some areas and do well in others but always made it through.
Then the homework started. We spent a couple of years fighting over anything math-related.
There were tears.
It was terrible.
I didn’t mean to compare her to her brother, who breezes through anything related to school, but I found myself trying to do with her what I knew worked with him. It was all I knew.
Teachers told me there might be something there, but she was still within age-appropriate limits. They were so helpful. They tried different strategies in class, after school during office hours, and through tutoring. It seemed to help, but it was as if the information would only stick temporarily.
In second grade, the conversation shifted from “waiting” to “evaluating.”
That was a difficult conversation to have. Mostly I was shocked, but the piece of me that sensed something felt validated. All the teacher’s reasons for evaluating made sense, but one specific reason hit hard. When math class started, I learned my child would hide behind her desk in fear. My heart sank. This evaluation needed to happen.
Still, I was scared to have my child evaluated.
After her evaluation, we discovered she has a visual-spatial learning disability called dyscalculia.
With the results came an array of emotions. Relief, anxiety, joy, fear, confusion, excitement–it was like riding one of those rides that drop you over and over.
There was one feeling that rose above the rest: amazement. We were amazed she had spent years taught in a way that didn’t make sense to her, and she still found ways to figure it out. She figured out how to get through, year after year.
While discussing these results with her, we explained that she has a unique way of thinking and learning and that with this information, we would be able to go to school and make sure they could teach her how she learns best.
She started crying.
I felt my heart shatter.
My husband asked her what she was thinking.
She looked up and said, “I’m happy. I thought I wasn’t smart.”
The pieces of my heart shattered into a million more.
I can’t accurately describe how it felt to hear those words from my child. I was disappointed that I missed it, ashamed because I knew my actions didn’t help (and probably made it worse), and sad that she was going through this alone.
We immediately reiterated to her that she was brilliant and this had nothing to do with intelligence; it had to do with being taught in a way she understood.
After that, the train began rolling. We shared the report with her teacher, tutor, and the school. Then we came up with a plan. We were so thankful because we really needed their support and guidance to know what was best for her.
I feared her diagnosis would make others see her differently, or she might look at herself negatively. That was not the case at all! It was a stigma I had been carrying that was what was guiding that fear.
I thought she would feel restricted by her diagnosis, but she felt liberated.
My daughter will gladly discuss her unique learning abilities. Dyscalculia does not hold her back or make her feel weak. It’s part of how she learns and it has empowered her to take control of her education. Now she has the confidence to ask more questions and gets the information in a way she understands.
Watching her bloom in this process has been awe-inspiring and taught us so much about giving her the support she needs.
The what-ifs come and go. What if I had her evaluated earlier? Was it because I let her watch too much iPad in kindergarten? What if it was something I did during pregnancy? Etc.
I try to remember that the what-ifs don’t matter; what matters is where do we go from here?
We are still new to all this and are still learning, and asking for help as we go. It’s a process for all of us.
And you know what else? She is no longer hiding, and there is no more fear.
Note: Everyone’s experience is different. I wrote this in hopes it might validate the feelings others may be going through and open a conversation that can lead to a connection between mamas.
Updated October 2023