Monday, November 19, 2012

The good news is your son doesn't have dyslexia...

My son Bubbie has been struggling in school.  Not your normal "Your son is slightly behind," or "Your son is fidgety and disruptive" kind of struggles either.  Bubbie can not write.  You can BARELY read his own name when he writes it down.  He also can not spell....not even simple words like "the."  He is in 4th grade, so this is totally unacceptable.  I have been to numerous meetings with the school, but was told that because his overall academic performance fell within the "normal" range he was ineligible for services.  In my heart I knew something major was going on.  Bubbie is a people pleaser by nature and was very depressed and self-critical over his academic and sports performances.  He WANTS to do well and he just couldn't.  

I took him to be independently tested by a Developmental Neurologist.  She ran her tests and came in and said:  I have good news and bad news.  The good news is Bubbie doesn't have dyslexia.  The bad news is he has Dysgraphia, fine-motor dyspraxia, severe vision disturbances, and ADHD.  

I was floored.  All these years I have been telling everyone that would listen that there is more going on with Bubbie than just ADHD. But it was falling on deaf ears, or if his teacher KNEW that Bubbie needed special help his hands were tied by the fact he did not have any formalized medical diagnosis.  

Dysgraphia:  a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

  • Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
  • Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

    Here is what Bubbie's writing looks like:
Most times he can't even read it

Dyspraxiaa term that refers to a specific disorder in the area of motor skill development. People with dyspraxia have difficulty planning and completing intended fine motor tasks. 
  • Coordination difficulties can be particularly problematic in physical education classes and other sports activities.
  • Writing difficulties such as poor letter formation, pencil grip and slow writing can make school work frustrating.
Visual Disturbances:  Bubbie has visual disturbances both in eye tracking and eye teaming.  In a nutshell, this means that his eyes do not work together.  So for him, most writing looks like the bottom line to the right.  This means that his brain then has to decode what he sees and/or decide which eye is going to dominant, neurologically shutting down all inputs from the non-dominant eye.  Because the brain does this, he is unable to track moving objects in his field of vision.  So, for example when playing sports he either sees 2 balls coming at him, or he can not "follow" the person carrying the ball.
Bubbie the next Gatorade spokesma
Add ADHD into the mix described above, and basically it is a miracle and a testament to Bubbie's intelligence level and temperament that he has achieved as much as he has both academically and physically.  He has played football (not well, but not horribly either) for 4 years.  He played baseball for 4 years and actually made some pretty good catches and plays this year.  He reads above grade level and can do long division in his head (even though he can't write down his answers).   He is well liked by his peers, and his classmates actually protect him and stand up for him.  He does have a lot of anxiety and frustration levels, but has been working really hard to be in "better control" as he calls it.  I am so VERY proud to have this wonderful child in my life who is teaching me that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade.  I strongly feel that BECAUSE Bubbie has had to overcome so many obstacles as a child, he will be a very successful adult who will not quit or give up when presented with seemingly insurmountable problems.  He will have the skills to break them down into manageable parts and realize that he can DO ANYTHING he sets his mind to achieving.  

There is a lot of hope and hard work in the next couple of years for Bubbie.  He will finally be getting and Individualized Education Plan through his school.  This means he will be getting occupational therapy, assisted technology (laptop or tablet), as well as any accommodations he needs to reach his full potential academically, interpersonally and physically.  He will also be going to occupational therapy to help him train his right and left sides of his brain to communicate with his body (he can't skip, or successfully touch his right hand to his left foot, for example).  He will also be seeing a developmental optometrist to work on the eye teaming and tracking.  Of all the developmental concerns he has this one is probably the easiest to overcome through vision therapy.  

The best news is WE FINALLY have a diagnosis and are working on a plan!  It is like a huge boulder has been lifted from my shoulders.  Bubbie is also relieved to know that all of his academic problems weren't "because he didn't try enough."  

To all you parents and families and individuals that struggle with learning disabilities, I salute you and have much respect for the paths that you have forged allowing my son to be able to get the help he not only needs but deserves!

With much gratitude to medical science,