Posted by: minnow | June 2, 2011

Summer Vacation

School’s out for summer!!! Oh yeah!  The joy of that fact lasts for about a week.  Then boredom and the need to become the entertainment center kicks in.  In many cases it might not take that long except toward the end of school all the programs have performances and banquets and awards assemblies and by the time the last two weeks of school are finished one has the sensation of having been spit out.  In that case one is so glad to have made it through the monotony factor does not kick in until week two.

For other parents, however, the “burden” of summer vacation begins on the first Monday school no longer occupies the largest block of their child’s day.  These are the parents of children with “special needs”–ADD, autism, ADHD, Aspergers.  Their school routine has been broken and now mom and dad (and sisters and brothers and other care givers) must establish a new routine. This challenge often feels overwhelming and sometimes causes parents to put their children in (expensive) year round programs rather than deal with the broken routine factor of public school.

I do not know much about living with kids who have any of the challenges I just mentioned.  The little I do know I have learned from talking with other parents and watching NBC’s show Parenthood online.  (I could write a whole other blog about how wonderful it is to watch certain shows online when I actually have time to myself but the point here is that I recommend Parenthood as a tiny glimpse into what living with Asperger’s is like).  And just in case you want more information the online connection has expert links to other resources.

The learning issue I, as a parent, deal with in spades is Dyslexia.  At times I think every learning issue not labeled some form of autism or ADD is put in the pot called Dyslexia.  At other times even ADD is associated with it.  Thus defining Dyslexia can be difficult.  Ironically Wikipedia offers the most satisfactory definition I have found and I will pass that on to you:

Dyslexia is a broad term defining a learning disability that impairs a person’s fluency or comprehension accuracy in being able to read, and spell, and which can manifest itself as a difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, and or rapid naming.   Dyslexia is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or from poor or inadequate reading instruction.  It is believed that dyslexia can affect between 5 to 10 percent of a given population although there have been no studies to indicate an accurate percentage.

There are three proposed cognitive subtypes of dyslexia: auditory, visual and attentional. Although dyslexia is not an intellectual disability, it is considered both a learning disability and a reading disability. Dyslexia and IQ are not interrelated, since reading and cognition develop independently in individuals who have dyslexia.

That may be the definition of a condition but it does not adequately portray what daily life, especially daily life in an academic setting, looks like.  While many parents dread summer vacation’s homecoming I am not among them.  For me summer means freedom, the opportunity to watch my children guide their own learning, be creative, laugh, and have fun.  I delight in watching their imaginations take flight, their bodies meet the challenge of scaling a rock wall, or their voices break into song while preparing a meal.  I am refreshed watching all their talents and intelligences find expression.  These were the joys of home schooling as well.

Public school, for my Dyslexic children, has been disheartening at best.  At other times it has felt impossible.  Prejudice toward specific teaching methods and learning strengths allowed “teachers” to label my sons and daughter slow, lazy, unfocused, less than.  I am frustrated every time I need to once again explain Dyslexia to an  educator, justify additional time for tests and assignments, or demand they not be taught less but rather be taught differently.  I am angered by a broken system I have little hope of changing.

Now that my Dyslexic children are in their teens and twenties they have become better self advocates.  This is a skill learned the earlier the better.  If you have any suspicion at all that your child may have learning/attention difficulties ask that he or she be tested immediately. Then figure out how to become their cheerleader, advocate, and sounding board.  Your encouragement as opposed to scolding will make a huge difference in how your child see himself or herself in the world.  Telling children when they face the brick walls of misunderstanding, condemnation, and unfair expectations “to try harder” is counter productive.  Too bad punching the educators in the nose who build these walls is equally counter productive. 

Young people want to learn.  Our job as their parents and educators is to keep those embers of curiosity burning.  I hope you have a joyous summer!  I am sure this will not be my last education related post.

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