Yes, I know. I was on a roll there for a few weeks. Posting all the thoughts and events going on in my little head.
Where did I go?
Well, school started. That is a good place to begin. Five kids. Messy house. Meals to make. Homework to do.
Yap, I am on my box! How’d ya know?
We are taking a leap of faith here- for both of our school age kids. It is this very leap that is consuming me… every last ounce of my brain that was not compromised during child bearing years. This is where our soap box begins. [Crystal stepping up to her box. Tap, tap, tap, is this thing on?]
As I have mentioned before, Anthony has struggled so far his entire elementary career. I convinced the school last year to test him for attention deficit (as there are real focus and attention issues) as well as dyslexia. We received a pretty quick determination that there are focus issues. Anyone who has been involved with learning disadvantages in the school system knows they can not diagnosis him with ADD, they can just strongly (very strongly) indicate his testing scores as high and suggest you follow up with your family doctor.
So, he tested high. Surprised? Not at all.
It has been a year since this diagnosis.
Nothing has officially been done about it at this point. Three schools of thought and three different opinions. I (step mom) am for medication in a situation where it is closely monitored and needed if his education is suffering. Lenny is anti-medicine and is interested in changing Anthony’s diet. Anthony’s biological mother is anti medicating as well and has made no suggestions otherwise. So in the end, we have a child with severe focus issues and no solution- yet. Imagine the beauty of a blended family. Cynical, I know, but I always promise to keep it real here at Crystal and Company. Business policy. (Also known as C.C.B.P.)
After testing Anthony for dyslexia (which, might I add, is a very very long process- lists of check marks must be met before there is authorization to spend the money on testing) we found he absolutely is dyslexic.
And this is where I start to test my faith. My faith in my ability to make the best choices for him. My faith in correcting the issue. My faith in our education system.(No haters please, cause I am not hatin’ just putting it all out there. Please address complaints to the HR department per the C.C.B.P.)
allegiance to duty or a person
fidelity to one’s promises
sincerity of intentions
belief and trust in and loyalty to God
belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
firm belief in something for which there is no proof
something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
Are we labeling him?
Are we doing our best?
When he was diagnosed with dyslexia May 2009, it was suggested to us that he be held back and repeat 2nd grade. It was completely voluntary. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. Lenny and I developed a list of solutions with the assistance of the principal, school counselor, his teacher and the district test administrator.
These solutions and modifications include: intense, small group, dyslexic training four days a week, modified spelling tests, tests where reading is involved will be read to him, a buddy assigned in the classroom (a peer) to assist him as needed with things like remembering to pack him homework and reading things to Anthony he can not read, etc.
Then it occurs to me we are pretending.
Really, we are.
I’ve offended you haven’t I? I am coming across as disgruntled, hua? But really- think about it.
I could go into the details of the 504 referral and its process.
I could tell you all the reasons why the Scottish Rite Dyslexic philosophy, which is basically what is used in our school district, should work for Anthony.
And then, I can tell you all the reasons why I do not think it will.
For more information about Scottish Rite’s resources for dyslexia click here.
I can tell you that since he came to live with us two years ago, he has expressed a list as long as my arm of common dyslexic traits-from general, to speech related,
even motor skill issues, memory concerns even behavioral and developmental. You did not realize dyslexia was so involved did you? It is. It is a very disorienting condition.
My first ‘ah-ha moment’ was soon after school let out for summer. I attended an awesome dyslexia seminar. The speaker was the author of a book titled The Gift of Dyslexia– Ronald D. Davis. For more information about Ronald D. Davis and the Davis Dyslexia Correction Center click here.
It opened my eyes.
It helped me see what we are up against. Honestly, it left me mostly sad.
I purchased every book they had there on dyslexia, including two that Ronald D. Davis has authored.
He was offering a book signing at the end of his speaking and I waited in line for him to sign them.
When it was finally my turn he asked me who these books were for. I told him my step son and fought back the tears- I was ready to cry. Here is a man who is likely in his 70’s and has struggled most of his life with a condition that is so difficult for most of us to understand. Most of us see dyslexia simply as viewing and writing letters and numbers backwards. It is bigger than that. It affects so many aspects of your being.
Standing before me was Anthony in the form of a 70 year old man who had literally been completely tormented by his condition most of his school-age life. Self esteem completely crushed- by his father, by his teachers and by his peers. It was actually recommended they institutionalize him because ‘something was wrong with him’.
He said as a child when he would read words the letters just fell off the pages. These same exact words Anthony has said as we struggle to read at night. Mr. Davis’ story grabbed my attention and captivated me his entire lecture.
As he signed our books I could hardly speak clearly as I briefed up our story. His wife, who was there with him, looked at me and said ‘do not hold him back- this will bring you no solution’. Mr. Davis, signed our books, dedicating them to Anthony and me, and wished us the best of luck.
Now what do we do? Where is my faith?
As the weeks of summer passed, Lenny met with a few teachers outside of our district and shared our story with them. Each of them said, do not hold him back. You are his parent- you have a right to change your mind.
Lenny then spoke to a doctor who said, do not hold him back.
We prayed about it.
Anthony was sad for school to start. This was taking a toll on his self esteem.
You start to grow mad.
Anthony would tell us how he did not want the summer to end because all of his friends would now be in 3rd grade and would make fun of him. It broke our hearts.
We knew we could not shatter his self esteem to appease a recommendation. Especially when we are really just pretending.
A friend soon called and told us about a charter school that was opening in the area-a very sought after college preparation charter school, might I add. It is what I would consider an ‘ivy-league’ school. It is science, engineering, and mathematics based. Exactly up Anthony’s ally. Their focus met Anthony’s needs. Was this the answer to our prayers?
We applied for both boys. Why not? They both excel with hands on learning- Garrett is strongest in math and Anthony is strongest in science (not surprising). We went for it.
It is a lottery process. Over 2,500 children applied in the area and only 350 were going to be accepted. So the waiting game began. And, there is not a sibling grandfathering either- to each their own. We would not know if they were accepted until early August.
In the mean time, in order to hold our spots at our current elementary school (where we have been since Garrett was in kindergarten), we had to also register there to ensure a spot if they were not accepted at the charter school.
At the end of July, we went and registered at our elementary school. While there, we knew we needed to discuss with the principal our desire to have Anthony placed in 3rd grade. We had officially decided it was in Anthony’s best interest to press forward. What would he learn the second time around in 2nd grade that he did not learn the first time? The dyslexic training would still be offered, his spelling list accommodations would still be met, his tests could still be read to him, his buddy would still be available to help him remember homework, etc. No matter the grade, we would still be pretending.
We expressed our desire to the principal face to face at registration. She was unable to discuss our situation at the time and requested that we meet before school started.
In the coming days I received an email from her stating it was no longer an option, it was now the administration’s, district’s and group’s decision. Now there is a loop hole as there is a district policy that apparently states anyone with a failing grade on their report card shall not be passed on to the next grade. Anthony has passing final averages for all classes but did receive a 68 the 5th six weeks in reading and a 69 the 6th six weeks. Suddenly there is a district concern. No common courtesy. No concern for his spirit or his self esteem. No desire to even discuss it. Suddenly it is all business.
Seriously? How has this happened? We are dedicated parents. Very involved at that. Giving every ounce of our passion to the betterment of this school.
Not a phone call. Not a meeting? I was so insulted and disgusted I could not even gather my thoughts to respond. This is not a stranger. I have sat across her desk for two years planning enriching events for the students of this school and all I get is a lousy email? This affects his future for the rest of his life.
Is this where school gets ugly?
Is this where children are left behind?
How loud is my voice? Is anyone listening to us, better yet, listening to Anthony?
Am I wrong to be overwhelmed with feelings of a coincidence that 3rd grade is where TAKS testing begins and Anthony just might affect their scores… or better yet, their goals? Are scores really more important than self esteem and spirit when really we are pretending anyway?
Unfortunately, I do not get to write the ending. The first week of August we found out that Anthony and Garrett were both on the waiting list for the charter school as they were not drawn in the lottery. Garrett was at number 6 and Anthony at number 34on the waiting list.
Within a week they called to tell us Garrett now had a spot. Anthony had now moved to number 27.
As the first day of school approached, Anthony only moved to spot 14. Now what do we do?
How do we remove all emotion and make choices based simply on facts?
How quickly could we move up the list from spot 14 to a classroom seat? Should we look at other options- private school, etc.
For now, Garrett accepted the spot in 5th grade at the charter school. We are waiting for Anthony to get in. I check his spot every week on the list. We are still waiting. In the mean time, Anthony is in 2nd grade at our original elementary school. Lenny and I are still sorting through this for the best decision.
I share this with you because it is real.
I am not big on change and all of this is a leap of faith for me. For Garrett and for Anthony.
I think parents struggle with these hurdles and roadblocks every day.
But, we owe it to Anthony to persevere. We are his voice. Someone must be listening.