As parents we are given the precious gift of helping a baby grow to a toddler, then a young child, preteen, teenager and then a young adult. We all have ideas of the perfect child and the perfect parent that we are going to be. Unfortunately, that perfect plan doesn’t always play out the way we envisage.
When my first child was starting school, it was an exciting time. He was growing up and becoming a “big boy”. He went to a lovely nurturing school, with lots of kids he already knew and new friends to be made. His first year was mainly play based and he settled in beautifully but the next year sight words came and he really struggled with learning to read. If you ask him, he remembers going away for a family holiday and missing some days of school and never being able to catch up again. He was my first so I tried to listen when people told me it was age appropriate but my gut instinct told me something wasn’t normal. We spent thousands of dollars on tutoring and online programs in the hope that they would help but nothing did. After 2 years of asking for help and being told everything was fine, we had a breakthrough. A relief Learning Support Teacher at the school who was a qualified Educational Psychologist assessed him and we finally received a diagnosis of dyslexia. This was the beginning of a long path that wasn’t what I had envisaged for my son.
He spent the next year with a wonderful speech therapist who was able to move him to the reading level of a 9 year old by the time he was 10 (I never knew a speech therapist could help with reading - after all my son had excellent speech). What followed this initial progress was years of watching him put in incredible effort but continuing to struggle. Hours upon hours of sitting with him doing repetitive work to find that at the end of year 6 he had actually gone backwards and at the age of 12 his reading level was that of an 8 year old. He was about to start high school and even with continuous weekly support and all the effort he put in at home he had not progressed and actually gone backwards.
He was subsequently diagnosed with a severe learning disorder and we were told there was nothing more that could be done. He would receive assisted technology, allowances for extra time and a reader in exams. My mothering instinct kicked in again. I was not accepting that fate for him; at the very least I knew I could get him to a reading level of a 9 year old again.
It required a huge amount of commitment – an hour a week with a tutor, followed by 45 minutes a day of homework for 12 weeks. My son was willing and so we worked together over the summer holidays and by the time he started Year 7 he was at the reading level of a 12 year old. That was 4 years improvement in 12 weeks after everyone but his mother had given up on him and by half way through Year 8 he was able to move out of learning support English into mainstream English. He is now going into year 10 and loves Maths, Design Technology, Science and Engineering. Had he not worked so hard and been so determined in the younger years on his English and to move out of learning support he would not be eligible to do science and engineering in his senior years. He is an incredibly intelligent person who needed to be taught to read in the right way for him. There are many wonderful programs available that can help children who learn differently to read however it has to be the right style for the individual. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.
If you are a mother tearing your hair out with frustration because you have tried yet another course of action that has not worked for your child, know that you are not alone. I have been exactly where you are now and I know how it feels. Please don’t second guess your mothering instinct. Keep persisting, even when everyone else has given up because the end result is worth it. That is the wonderful gift of being a mum and I am so grateful to have been able to support and continue to support my son on his journey.
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves