My daughter tested off the charts when she was in kindergarten. Her teacher told me she was reading at the first and second grade level. Everything was very easy for her. She didn’t talk much but she just “got” school.
After her older brother had some struggles in his early school years, I was relieved we would have an easier time with her.
Everything changed when she reached the third grade. She told me one day that school “used to be this hard” as she held her hands close together. “Now it’s this hard,” she explained as she held her arms as far apart as she could.
Her grades went from excellent to just passing, but with some extra help she was able to stay on top of things until middle school. That’s when she really checked out. It was so hard, she didn’t even try. She simply gave up.
At first, I wondered how she could have slipped so far, so fast. Could it really be as hard as she said it was, or was she just looking for an excuse?
It wasn’t a secret she hated school. She said it all the time. She didn’t like getting up early, she struggled with her friendships, and had a tumultuous relationship with a boy when she was in seventh grade. I honestly thought she was going through a stage. But it was more than that.
Her father and I decided to get her tested for a learning disability after trying tutoring, counseling, and watching her very closely. She had such a hard time doing math problems, even when someone explained each step and all of the problems were similar. She just couldn’t remember the process.
It wasn’t just math she was struggling with. When she had to read for an assignment, it was almost impossible for her to explain what she had read. Her teachers said she wasn’t disruptive in class, she didn’t have a lot of extra energy, and she wasn’t impulsive or too distracted. She just seemed like she wasn’t paying attention.
Testing revealed our daughter did have a learning disability, although her wonderful teachers couldn’t make a specific diagnosis. They didn’t think it was ADD or ADHD, but they knew she needed immediate support.
With an action plan in hand, we began to see improvements within a few weeks. Not only were her new classes and the supported study she got helpful, she was happier and felt more confident because she knew her struggles with school weren’t her fault.
Her love for school started to return. We no longer had to remind her about assignments. Her success in smaller classes, paced to accommodate her abilities, helped boost her self-esteem. Her teachers said she was participating and very focused and present in the classroom.
My daughter has come so far since she first told me how hard school was in elementary school. I wish I had listened and gotten her the accommodations she needed sooner.
Now a junior in high school, she got all A’s and B’s last quarter. She still has a supported study that she no longer needs but, along with her teacher, we’ve decided we will keep her in it so she doesn’t lose ground. It’s a great resource and she may need it later.
I wish someone had told me that having a teen with a learning disability doesn’t always look like ADD. It can present as anxiety, depression, laziness and simply not paying attention. I’ve also learned that not every learning disability falls into a specific category, either. Every kid learns in their own way and at their own pace, and some kids simply need more space and time to figure things out.
Getting my daughter the help she needed was best thing we could’ve done for her. It’s made a difference in her education and it’s brought back the happy, confident kid I remember. I will forever be grateful for her teachers, who took what she said to them seriously and helped us figure out what she needed to succeed academically.
And the cherry on top is that this experience has taught my daughter to speak up and ask for what she needs in life. That is such a gift for her—and for me.