Sunday, November 1, 2015

Are you saying my kid's "slow"?????? Yes, Congratulations!!!!!!

I went to college, got my degree, in what at that time was called Mental R-----------. It's now politically incorrect to use those words.

About the same time my sister married a young man who had a really difficult time in school.  He was very enterprising, sometime shortly after he got married to Teresa, he quit drinking, and walked the straight and narrow.  He told me he quit school in 10th grade.  Me, in my stupid mouth said, "Oh, you must be learning disabled." He never forgave me. He thought I was calling him intellectually disabled, or at that time, the terminology was "the r word". He hated me. Can you blame him?

But you see....there is a difference between what is now called Intellectual Disability, formerly M.R...and Learning Disabilities.   I took a couple of classes in Learning Disabilities to get my degree so I had a slight idea of what it was.  To be given a label of  Learning Disability, you had to, at  that time, be of average or ABOVE I.Q.  An average I.Q is 100.

 To be Learning Disabled, you could have an I.Q of 160+, like one student I had in my Special Ed class of Title I...extra help in reading and math.

Eddie was long as it wasn't on paper. He was a walking encyclopedia.  Just don't ask him to spell, do math, or write....As long as the interaction was verbal, there was no end to his intelligence...the 160 was deceptive because it could have been higher.  He just topped out the test as a 6th grader.  They didn't go as high as his intelligence did. In school, he was a slightly below average student. How frustrating for him. He was kind of a pain in the rear, but in the end, I told his mother I would be proud to have a son like him.

From my mouth to God's ears...

Now, my son, who couldn't do timed math tests, write legibly or quickly,  or spell (for a time), but was a good reader...had a label of semantic pragmatic disorder from a Neurologist when he was 3 years old.  He said he wasn't autistic, as he paid attention to social cues. He was, however, severely delayed in language.

Now, the school decided he was "Educationally Autistic"...and honest to God, I think it was because the government would pay more of the cost to them for the Occupational Therapy and the Speech Therapy he needed. If he had gotten a label of Learning Disabled, the Federal government would not have covered the cost of speech and OT to the extent they did, as well as the  LD classroom where Ben went to take tests.  They always give a label that generates the most cash. I had a student who was in a wheelchair, with severe CP, couldn't talk, walk, feed herself (was fed by tube), or see letters smaller than 2" at a distance of 14 inches. Do you know what her label was?  She was considered Blind, because they could only choose 1 handicap, and it generated the most funds.  I don't hold this against them, and Ben really needed the therapies. He spoke "echolaically" until he was in fourth grade, that is, he repeated strings of words he had heard on t.v. or in conversation.  He could not generate language independently without using "scripts", and that seems very autistic, just to a lesser degree than many autistics, who may never even generate language.

I was so worried for Ben.  In middle school, he was in a "Behaviorally Disordered" classroom.  He took medication his whole public school career (ritalin). BUT...Mr. Davis told me once he was the smartest kid in his class.  I thought, oh biggie, a class of 7 kids.  But he said, no....the smartest kid in his grade of 800 kids.  I thought he just meant he had the smartest mouth...I could just not accept Ben was that bright EVEN THOUGH I had Eddie as a student.  It just didn't click. How can you be brilliant when you use your fingers to add? When he nearly flunked 8th grade Algebra, and had a severe reaction to ritalin, we brought him home to homeschool.

No more drugs. No more time mediated worked until you got it done.  Without the pressure, he really was a good student.  I enjoyed teaching him.  We had frequent, long discussions.  We delved into subjects, and found the answers when questions came up. I taught Science, my husband taught History, and it was FUN.  He was the kind of kid you liked getting in school before testing became the be all end all of student success. He was a thinker, you know?

I tried for 2 years to teach him Algebra via typical books that the schools used. We would end up just quitting Algebra about 3-5 weeks in. I gave up, not Ben.  Eventually, he taught himself on .  He worked by himself in his own time, 2-4 hours a day for 9 months, in a way the public school nor I ever could.  He did well enough to qualify for regular Algebra in COMPASS testing instead of the Remedial Algebra that most kids attending Tech College have to take. (He just went over the mark...a 26%tile score, he would have had to take Remedial Algebra.  He got a 28%tile score.) He got a B in college Algebra....that nemesis, that block to higher education for 90% of kids who go to tech in hopes of going on to regular college. He graduates from Southern Crescent Technical College this fall, with a degree in Machine Tooling. He measures and cuts steel to a tolerance of ten thousands of an inch. With his fingers...I guess.  Strange how someone who failed in some parts of math, could ever be so precise.

Well, after I had been teaching Ben at home a couple of years I asked him a question.  I don't know why, I had just been thinking about his "Autism" label, and how it had directed how we taught, I guess.  The big thing in autism is the inability to get along with others.  This naivete often leads to kids with Autism or Aspergers being bullied severely in school.

"Ben, were you ever picked on in school?" I asked.
"No, not really." he says.
"You mean, the kids never bullied you?"
"No...I was bullied by the curriculum."

Jesus...I had never considered that...Here I am, a Special Ed teacher. I was struck dumb...

Everything started to make sense.

"He's not autistic, but he does have a severe communication disorder. It will probably be manifested in a learning disability when he gets older." said his neurologist, at age 3.  We took him to be tested because he didn't seem to be able to answer questions. He did an MRI, an EEG, genetic testing was done..even an x-ray, but nothing turned up.

 "Numbers sure don't stay in your head, do they?" said his kindergarten teacher.

"Ben's IQ score has risen 15 points in one year.  It is supposed to be stable all one's life. That never happens, but it's exciting!" said his second grade teacher.

After working 3-4 hours a night on homework, I complained to other mothers.  Some of Ben's friends might work up to 2 hours a night, tops. When I told his 3rd grade teacher, she said most kids finished the assignments in 30 minutes, tops. She offered to give him grades without including homework. She had trouble with school and understood.

But....nobody had a heart for Ben like Ms. Hunt.  He did not bring homework home but for maybe 10 days the whole year.

" I had a lot of trouble in school, starting in 5th grade. Make sure he finds something that he does well.  My outlet was sports..." she told me.  I'm thinking, I bet she was Dyslexic. It was the year we could breathe...she did EVERYTHING to encourage Ben, giving him 8 awards on graduation night, when he had never received but maybe one or two any other year.

I can only thing of a few...

Best Inventor:  he had wanted to be one since 1st grade. Most kids dressed up as Cartoon Characters for Halloween. He insisted on being Thomas Edison one year, and Albert Einstein the next. It was funny because none of the adults could figure out who this little wild grey-haired man with a mustache was supposed to be.

Best Scientist:  Ben scored very high in testing in Science and History...always in the upper 90's.

Best Writer:  Ben could "tell" great stories, although he couldn't easily write them down, even using the computer he was given to make his work legible.

There were others, but I remember those because they were so personal to him.

And then there was the 69.6 grade in Algebra, grade 8.

So, for now brilliant mama decides that she is going to have testing done before Ben enters Tech College. @#$% the Autism, he is going to receive accommodations for his learning disabilities. We go to a Psychiatrist, who I KNOW wants to label him autistic.  I tell him I'm not interested in Ben getting that label.  I know he thinks, "Lady, I'm the professional", but he agrees.  Ben qualifies for time and one half in math, and for double time in writing.  Ben has Dyscalculia, or an LD in Math, and Dysgraphia, an LD in writing.

I don't care what anyone thinks. I went through 8 years of hell because Ben's learning disabilities were not recognized, while his "Autism" or behavioral disability was. When we finally began to treat and accommodate his quite severe learning disabilities, he began to know success in school, for the first time.  Since that time, I have discovered that one in five children have a learning disability, most often Dyslexia. (Autism is one in 68, far, far less common.) There is a form of Dyslexia called Stealth Dyslexia in which the child shows all the signs of Dyslexia, inability to rote memorize, difficulty in handwriting, difficulty in timed tests, but they are capable readers, although it may be difficult for them to read aloud. They also have a slow processing speed, which means it takes longer for them to tell you what they know. It's not just right there on the tip of their tongue, they have to work slowly, as they only have so large of a working memory...although they have a vast memory. They have found ways of  getting around their difficulties, and they are often the brightest Dyslexics, IQ wise. Dyslexic Advantage almost accidentally introduced me to the idea that my son might be Dyslexic, and not Autistic.

What has been good about that is, I  joined the Dyslexic Advantage team as they gave me hope, that anyone dealing with Autism never did.  I started volunteering to do closed captioning on over 100 videos they have created.  Each one is the story of a Dyslexic person that always thought they were slow or stupid, but many found out they were Dyslexic when their children started having trouble in school. All of the videos are of highly successful Dyslexics, and in the videos they tell how they rose above to succeed beyond their (and their teachers) wildest dreams. To a man, or woman, they will tell you they are lucky.

They will tell you the work world is easy compared to what they went through in school. 

The first one has the most meaning to me.  It is also where I get the title for this blogpost. It also is where I get hope for Ben...he is a hands on kid. Dr. David McComas showed me that kids need talents, not just intelligence, to be rocket scientists. Even if you could figure out how to build rockets, what would it matter if you didn't have the skills to do it? Think of learning isn't everything in terms of rocket science. Somebody has to build them. Fascinating...

Dyslexic Advantage - From Slow to the Interstellar Frontier - Dyslexia and Dr David McComas 




Here is another, I just finished today.  Eli Whitney was decidedly Dyslexic.  He didn't read until he was 12 years old. But brilliance has nothing to do with reading, and even less with being a good speller...

Here is world famous Paleontologist Jack Horner, who flunked out of the College that ended up giving him an honorary doctorate...7 times.  He is also a MacArthur Genius Fellowship Award winner.

It's not just men who are Dyslexic.  Another MacArthur Genius Award Winner, who gives a dynamite example of the difference between Dylexic and "Book" thinking...Dr. Mimi Koehl.

Lastly, I love the story of Tiffany Colleti Titolo, whose mother was told she would be lucky to work at McDonalds.  She does work for them, kind of, they are just one of many multimillion dollar clients she has at her New York advertising agency, Translation. She was 31 years old when she made this video.

No one can tell you what your future will be.  No one...


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

OH YEAH! Shared on google plus (I dunno... I have readers there but no one interacts with me. *shrug*)

Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

I have one gal that does, but not often. It isn't as easy to remember to check as blogger or facebook. Thanks for sharing...

It is so helpful to see adults who know great success, even though they and school didn't get along. I have closed captioned about 45 videos, and each one just amazes me.You know, we believe in our kids, but it helps to see grownups.You would not believe some of the stories the kid who went to special schools all his life, was considered ID, and who shut down an entire internet system for 2 days...I think it was Netscape, at age 15. He now works for the good guys, trying to avoid sabotage.

Emily Morson said...

What a great title! But, it surprised me...I was expecting you to talk about processing speed here, and about Ben needing extra time but doing amazing work, if only he could finish. (I'm reminded of Linda K. Silverman noticing that gifted and twice exceptional kids often have a weakness in processing speed, and several researchers recommending that the Processing Speed section not be used in gifted testing because it can single-handedly depress kids' scores out of the gifted range! And then there's the over 3 standard deviation gap between my highest IQ subtest and my processing speed, as an adult).

"Bullied by the curriculum..." Wow! Telling...

I love Jack Horner. Used to read his books back when I was obsessed with dinosaurs, but didn't know he was dyslexic until recently.

I'm amused and charmed that Ben dressed up as Einstein and other creative scientists. Ben sounds like he has the sort of mind for making scientific discoveries. It's a shame we've set up our system of research so that in many fields of science (including cognitive psychology/neuroscience, and anything without direct applications), only those with high clerical skills succeed--because they we reward producing a lot of small publishable units in a short amount of time, running a lab, and getting government grants over creativity and rigor. Those of us with ideas but not clerical skills will just have to write books and blogs, and hope we'll someday reach someone who can test our ideas ;)