On the Home Front

Seeing the Potential

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I thought I got used to having a learning disabled child and all that it entails. Everyone out there with a learning disabled child, especially one who is in the mainstream system, knows what I mean: explaining to the new teacher that your child really isn't lazy, even though his performance is erratic. Trying to convince your child to tackle that last chunk of work even though he is sick and tired of trying and failing. Trying to explain some bit of knowledge that everyone else his age already knows.

I think the worse thing is thinking that you've made a lot of progress, and then finding out one tiny thing that seems to mar all the progress you've made so far.

This happened today with my son. I asked him to pick up his little sister from nursery school, since I was running late. We moved just last week, so I was prepared to give him really good directions, even though he is quite talented spatially.

So I tell him to step out of the house, and make a left. The key word there folks is left. I suppose even without the Jeopardy theme music you can probably guess that my 12 year old son turned right.

How frustrating. Over the years we have worked on all kinds of things, and I remember once tackling this many years ago. I guess I didn't get back to it, or thought he had it down pat. And no, it didn't t help me at the time this happened to remember that it is common for kids like him to reverse things.

At the time I was thinking, "So has it come to this? Thousands of dollars of therapy, thousands of hours of my time and his, bit after bit of progress painstakingly pieced together with teeth gritted and hands crossed behind my back-and it all comes down to left or right, right or left.

I had a similar moment a few weeks back with my foster daughter. She and her sister came to us about a year ago, after severe neglect, and let me tell you, there was a lot of work to be done there.

It's nearly a year later, and I'm finally thinking that maybe we've reached a big milestone, maybe things are not so bad after all. Of course immediately after that thought, she got upset and started to bite herself.

Well, so much for that. I realized that there was a lot more work to be done than I thought.

Truth be told, that's just how it goes. You know the old

one step forward, two-steps back deal. Sometimes though it's hard to really internalize that you're in for the long haul, lock, stock, and barrel.

Sure, I'm long past the point where I expect a miracle cure. I know that being learning disabled is something that permeates that child's life-and the life of everyone around them.

I can live with that.

But I get tired of having to tell everybody else that. I know my children will do something great some day-heck, every day they get up and face the discrimination and impatience of others who don't understand, yet keep going, is an act of greatness.

Funny, despite everything, when I look at these children-anybody's, not just mine- I just see the potential. Every child can progress forward, no matter how far behind they are when they start off. Every step, no matter how small, follows the next, until you see that the long journey you took wasn't so much a matter of miles covered, but steps taken.

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