Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When knowledge doesn't feel like power

"When your body grows bigger, your mind grows flowers, its great to learn, 'cuz knowledge is power".

Remember that? I remember ... very vividly, School house rock was a marker for my childhood learning and the songs and jingles have stuck with me.

However, with the happenings of the last few weeks of my life I am feeling rather 'stunned' by this knowledge, and almost wish that I could rewind, change something, somehow alter the time I stand in right now.

Perhaps I should start at what I could notice as the beginning, and please understand, this free flowing though will likely not be edited...spare the comments on the grammatical errors :)

Madison, my now 9 year old beautiful daughter seemed to start to struggle in math in First grade. She understand the concepts, but could never seem to remember the basic addition facts. She struggled to retain the knowledge, and myself, and the teachers who observed (for lack of a better word) my teaching of my daughter through the charter school we used to affiliate with just thought it was developmental. you see, I work hard not to place unnecessary pressure on my children based on the societal ideals that others may have. Developmentally, perhaps she wasn't 'ready' to memorize those math facts. No big deal, when Madison 'decided' to read, she jumped from beginning reading to reading at the level of a third grader in 1 school year!!

Second grade came, and once again, math was the source of contention, she would cry, sulk, complain and all and all just hated math. I told her new teacher of my concerns, and once again it was developmental, and, of course, I as her mother should do MORE flash cards, more drills, and subsequently cause MORE friction and perpetuate her hatred of math.

Third grade came, we moved to a new area, had a new teacher and Quinny started Kinder. Madison was still struggling, trying to teach her to tell time or count money was akin to torture. She simply could not get it, and was so disappointed in herself. Especially when her 5 year old brother was answering her math questions. Sure, Quinn has shown he is gifted in math, but boy did that crush my precious girl. I had to separate the math lessons, spend extra time trying to teach madison, and deal with daily meltdowns as a result. BUT I thought she might be getting it. We did online games, fun stuff .. anything to get her interest to increase. She could finally tell me the pieces of money (quarter, dime, etc. etc.) but still struggled to remember their value, she could tell me 'about' what time it was, but could not say, 4:29. Still the teacher agrees she will learn, it will click.

At this point, I knew, I just knew something was wrong. No one listened, but I knew. I was able to introduce the concept of multiplication to her. She understood that 4 x 6 was the same as four groups of six. But she couldn't solve it without a white board and a pencil, and making four boxes that each had six dots in each then counting the entire thing. She couldn't 'count-on' when doing math. (ie. when adding 6 and 9, one should say the number 9 in their head, and count up 6). Instead, she had to count the first number, then the second, and often by the time she solved it and gathered her pencil to write the answer, she'd forgotten it.

I.just.knew. Why didn't they listen?

I decided that I would remove my children from my charter, feeling that my concerns were not being addressed (and other aspects I shall not go into at this moment, but inquire if you must). I spend the rest of her fourth grade year trying diligently to work on making her foundation in math stronger, blaming myself for her difficulties, it must be that we didn't spend enough time on addition, I rushed her in the belief that she was choosing not to do it, or that it was a developmentally appropriate. 5 whole months passed by with little improvement. It was then that I started researching about math disabilities, what they entailed and what could be done. I made the decision to contact the local school district at the end of her 3rd grade year.

Fast forward to this September.

The school psychologist contacts me, and we discuss my concerns, he agrees that something sounds 'off'. The gamete of testing began.

School psychologist administered dang near 4 hours of testing, and before I left he affirmed that there was definitely something going on. He believed she had Dyscalculia, but was much more concerned about the 'visual spacial' difficulties she had. What ... what is a visual spacial difficulty and wth does it mean?! Before I answer that, let me tell you my annotated bersio of what Dyscalculia is. It is essentially dyslexia with numbers. Individual's with this learning disability struggle to understand math, and its concepts.

"Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in mathematics. Dyscalculia is a word you use to describe when people have significant problems with numbers - but still have a normal or above normal IQ. It seems that no dyscalculic has problems with math alone, but also struggle with problems being able to learn to tell time, left/right orientation, rules in games and much more. See the list of symptoms. Also, there are more types of dyscalculia, and all types demand specific learning methods aimed at the specific problem." (1)

Ok ... this fit her, this was what I thought she had prior tp testing, I felt relieved, I WASNT CRAZY ... but that still left this whole visual spacial disability spinning in my head ...

google it, I dare you. You'll get a fountain of information ... most point that this is in fact a 'nvld' or (non-verbal learning disability). Which is where the psychologist is leaning, but as he is a school psy. he cannot diagnose it exactly. I am currently searching for the next step.

visio spacial disabilities I am still working on understanding. Let me just tell you the 'quirky' things I just thought were part of my daughter ... till now.

She learned to ride a bike at 7, AFTER her 4 year old brother ... he motivated her, if not for him, i'm not sure she'd be doing it. She struggles with the coordination of things like that. She just learned to tie her shoes tightly. She has been able to do it for a year but it was soo loose it wouldn't stay, but she FINALLY has it (so proud). The list goes on and on of these little 'things' she does.

The psychologist said a few things that resonate, and define her.
1. if you place her hands behind her back and ask her to touch her middle finger to her thumb, she cannot do it.
*This is because she cannot visual her hands and the positions of her fingers.
2. Her struggle to remember an answer long enough to write it down
3. Her struggles in following multiple step directions
*this is because she has issues with her working memory. She cannot hold but a few thoughts in her head at a time ... the psy gave the example of juggling. she can only juggle two, maybe three, balls. She cannot manipulate thoughts in her mind.

She cannot close her eyes and imagine herself in a room. She cannot picture things when she closes her eyes as others do, she has 'verbal' scripts' that do for her what visualizing does for us.

confused yet ... So am I.

Everything I have ever scolded her for is due to some disability I knew nothing about. I did NOT expect to walk out of these meetings with this information.

I have a special needs daughter.

I have a daughter who will be affected the rest of her life by this disability ... she will not be able to follow maps well, she cannot do math in her head, her handwriting, which while I have seen worse, is very labored, why? Because she struggles to visualize what she has to write, plus she has issues with 'fluid' writing.

Really I could type and type and still not convey the complexity that is this disability...

But, you know what hurts me more then anything? the fact that my daughter is not seen as I see her. I look at my daughter, that smile, those eyes, I see compassion, caring, intelligence, I see kindness love, and honestly, I see the first person in the whole world who truly loved me as me. the person who is reason I breathe, She saved my life. She's the most amazing little girl a mother could ask for. She's perfect to me. What kills me is that other's won't see that. That someone is going to see her disability. and that is going to be her definition to another person. That she won't be 'that outgoing blonde girl with great manners', and she'll be 'that girl with that disability.' (part of this comes from the fact that from my understanding it's not too common).

As I write this, I vow to my daughter to NOT let that define her. to NOT let her disability be her trade mark .. but to let her make her own mark .. despite it all.

So here I sit, suddenly a mother of special needs daughter, with one that is uncommon to boot.

THIS is why knowledge doesn't feel like power .... today at least.

1 - www.dyscalculiaforum.com


Britbabeincanada said...

Mysti you are a wonderful mum and mothers gut feelings are always right even if other people around us don't always understand or can see why we are worried but you got there in the end and now have a understanding of what she goes through as well as a diagnosis.

I would think that as her disability as you are using the word lol, is not out there to see outright that anyone will look at her as the girl with the disability, I do not think of her having a disability and most people wouldnt know about it to say oh theres that girl with the disability.

In my experience of Amy and her issues people don't tend to label her as they just don't know about it unless we tell them and the ones who do know are either good friends and family who wouldn't look at her like that of professionals like teachers etc who shouldn't be looking at her like that.

It is hard when our children are given a diagnosis as we worry about them and how it will affect their lives and the way people treat them and look at them but really I wouldn't worry, she is a very sweet girl and you will help her to gain control and deal with this diagnosis and for her to work around it and use her different strengths to help with this.2

Rebeldream said...

Wow, Mysti. What a head-spinning situation! I can imagine how helpless and stunned you must feel.

I have no doubts, however, that you will give that precious girl all the options and tools to work her way through and around this obstacle; there's no better person for the job!

Hang in there, Mama. It'll all be alright. Hugs!