I am an A type person – A-type in every way. Star student, hard driving, goal seeking, avid reader, knowledge seeker type of person. Learning has come easily to me so guess what? – I like it. Imagine if reading - a key skill for knowledge acquisition was hard and made learning more challenging...and you can’t seem to maintain your focus… That would suck. That would really suck. That is what life has been like for my husband and my son. Guy and Liam have learning disabilities and ADHD. Diagnosed and certified based on the best available information at the time but either way – reading is hard and learning in the traditional ways has been a struggle. The ADHD only exacerbated the issue as it was hard to get focused – especially on something so “boring.” ADHD, as I have learned, rarely travels alone and there are often other concurrent issues that we see in play. Their self esteem has suffered. My heart has broken for them. It would not be as painful if they were not as smart as they are – they are highly intelligent, creative, and engaging people who I love to spend time with. As a partner and parent, I have spent the better part of my life learning about how to help them learn and make it easier. It has not been an easy road for any of us. For my husband growing up, he was labelled “dumb”, and my son has been in “special education” from grade 1 onward. Working to identify the issues and find the right combination of academic and emotional supports has been a challenge. But we are making progress. We are seeing results. You can too. Guy is now a teacher, focused on special education in Toronto and Liam is a thriving grade 11 student.
Here is what I would have to say to my fellow parents who are living this reality. I have jumped in with two feet and have made it a point to contribute to supporting parents and children with similar experiences.
Things that we found helped us along our journey:
Get informed – there are several great resources through CADDAC and other organizations to start your learning process.
Ask for help – you are not alone, and the network of organizations is growing – tap into it!
Get support – Take advantage of the supports available to you. Get the Canadian Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and any counselling you need to get through. Explore ADHD and other comorbidities that often accompany learning disabilities and look to find services to support your child and your family.
Advocate – meet your child’s teacher, establish lines of communication with the school leadership and actively pursue getting the accommodations your child needs for success. Look at programs to augment where the school simply cannot meet your needs. It is my experience that they can’t. And yes, even the private ones.
Be patient – someone once told me that “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and truer words have never been spoken. Like child development overall, don’t compare yourself or your child to anyone at any time. We are all on our own path.
Get a psycho-educational assessment – it is worth it and will give you the information and leverage to advocate and support your child and provide detail to support the IEP and direct your enabling activities.
Reinforce strengths – identify the things your child (and you) does well and find every opportunity to point them out and reinforce them to build confidence and connection with your child.
Love – take care of yourself and your family’s emotional needs first and always. Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with learning disabilities and all the things that come with that is very hard. Doing it all within a global pandemic is next level. Be kind to yourself and try to feel and express the love.
Guy and I have focused our efforts of late in establishing the READy Clinic – a full-service reading clinic that also acts to support parents, children, and their families to navigate these waters. Through this Clinic we offer the Barton Reading Program - an Orton-Gillingham influenced approach to reading and spelling that has helped our family with the dual diagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia and we want to share it with others www.thereadyclinic.ca