Learning has always been a path laced with hurdles for Leo. It's something he has struggled with, it is something that I have struggled helping him with. It's a topic I have shared in my little piece of cyber space over the years, because it hasn't been easy, when your child falls behind you blame yourself. You take everything that people say to you as a personal criticism. It's as though they are telling you that you have failed your child, that you are failing as a parent.
Of course that is not what they are saying, but when people speak about your child, it's about as personal as it gets. Leo was a late talker, he has been behind his peers since 18 months old so it's not really any surprise to me, that he is now behind at school. He spent last year behind, and the main concern at that point was that his speech would not be up to scratch for school, but you should hear him now!
Something clicked and all the words just came to him, and today he is a complete chatter box, and to everyone's surprise it's not Leo's speech that is holding him back.
Within the first couple of weeks of school, the first concerns were raised. I went along to the parent/teacher meeting and I wasn't shocked or taken a back by what was said. I know my boy, I know his capabilities and I know his traits. I know when he doesn't want to do something and I know when he can't do something. He will use all the excuses under the sun 'im tired, im poorly' if it's something that doesn't tickle his fancy, and if he can't do something he will sit there and go silent.
Let me tell you a little something about my blue eyed boy. Leo is funny, cheeky, mischievious and curious, he cracks jokes that make me laugh so hard I cry. He's innocent and long may that continue, but Leo is lazy too, and it materialises in things that he doesn't want to do. For instance when Leo dresses himself, he would quite happily lie there and let you get him dressed, but now he's at school and P.E. happens on a weekly basis he has no choice but to conform. You always know it's been P.E. at school when he rocks out at 3:15pm with his polo shirt on inside out, and his trousers so high that his boxers have ridden up around his waist.
He has tried though, and that's all I can ask.
Last week I attended parent's evening and although on a whole it was a positive experience, again it highlighted that Leo is not where the other children are, not where he should be. Leo is a good boy, he doesn't disrupt the class, he tries. They said that he tries, but he does struggle, He struggles with reading, he struggles with writing, he struggles with patterns. He forgets things meaning that they have to go back over old ground with Leo to make sure that it has sunk in, they can feel like he has grasped something and move on to something different, only for them to re-visit the previous topic and find out that he can no longer remember how to do it.
It's funny though, because Leo's memory is so sharp. He can remember things about places we visited years ago, and aspects that I have long since forgotten, The school can see that Leo is learning, they can see him developing, but despite this he is struggling. He is behind.
The conversation with Leo's teacher continued and although I cannot re-call the exact way the sentence was presented, it was something along the lines of 'Leo fits in with reception but whether this is the right place for him long term I don't know.' That to me highlights that they feel there is an underlying problem that needs addressing. Nothing has been mentioned or hinted at, but it's something I have been thinking about ever since. There has to be a reason that Leo struggles the way that he does. He's a smart boy, other things just click, but then school and academically something holds him back.
I turned to google and just started having a read about learning difficulties, I started to read more into Dyslexia, and straight away I started ticking the indicator boxes that related to Leo which I have shared below:
- Your child is not picking up the pre- reading and writing skills as expected
Leo is behind in his reading and his writing. He recognises his name, he can spell it out and he can at times write it down for you. He goes forward but then he goes backwards again.
- Your child's speech development has/is been delayed
Leo had speech therapy spanning over last year, and slowly but surely his vocabulary has exploded. Today they boy I see before me speaks about anything and everything, some of the words he comes out with just astound me.
- Your child shows no interest in print - Leo likes to have stories read to them, we have just started reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and he is loving it, but when it comes to Leo reading to me, he is not interested and ever day is a constant battle.
- Your child seems especially tired after a day at school
Leo is exhausted after a day at school, and I am not just talking a little bit sleepy, he is so tired and it doesn't take long for his mood to deteriorate. A typical afternoon following the school day will see Leo come home and cuddle up with his much loved blanket on the sofa, He just needs time to sit there in silence and not do anything. I get him into bed for 6:30pm on a school night where I read to him for half an hour before he goes to bed at 7pm. School comment on a regular basis how tired Leo is during the day. Leo blinks heavily and this was another cause for their concern, but I have had Leo's eyes tested and he's absolutely fine. I can't realistically get Leo to bed any earlier than I do at the moment, and the demand of the school day is certainly taking it's toll.
- Poor concentration and is easily distracted
This is something I have always noticed with Leo, unless it is something he wants to be doing, you will never get all of his attention. You can sit and do something with him and he will turn off, you can see his eyes glaze over in front of you. His interest is easily lead astray and it's a mission to keep him at the table let alone co-operating with what you are doing. 9 times out of 10 Leo will completely shut down and refuse to even try with me, and not only is this hindering his learning, it's incredibly frustrating for me.
- Your child cannot remember a sequence of instructions and they have a poor sense of direction
- Has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability.
- Is persistently confused by letters which look similar, particularly b/d
- Fails to recognise familiar words.
- Late to establish a dominant hand
This is something that has been mentioned to me for a long time. 'Leo is still switching hands regularly'. At one point everyone was convinced that he was going to be a lefty, but then he switched back to his Right hand. The school have said that he still doesn't have a dominant hand today.
- Sequencing problems.
I know I am grasping at straws and that 4 years old is too early for a diagnosis, but if there is something underlying that is holding Leo back for any reason what so ever. I want measures in place to help him achieve his potential. In a way having an actual reason for Leo learning differently, at a slower pace than other children would be a relief. At times I feel like I have to justify the way Leo learns to people that I shouldn't even think twice about, but when you just want the best for your child, you do it anyway because your his Mum and you want to protect him from anything and anyone that you feel causes a threat.
I myself struggled as a child. I attended the very school Leo is at today. I struggled primarily with Mathematics, and to this day I am completely rubbish, I was told as a child I had Dyscalculia, a learning difficulty that affects arithmetical calculations, and although it was never documented, and I never received any additional support through my later school years, I came out the other end.
As I think back to my worst subject at school, Maths... I remember the humiliation that I used to endure every single lesson. I sat in fear of being picked on the spot with a problem that I knew I was either going to take ages to think about, or not even be able to answer. My hate for Maths never went away, at Middle School I would feign illness just before or during that lesson just so I could escape and go home to avoid embarrassment. I hated it, and it was soon picked up by my Mother who called a meeting with my Mathematics teacher and my little sickness stunt was rumbled, resulting in me having to attend every class.
It wasn't that I was stupid, it was just something I struggled with. It's something to this very day that I struggle with. Give me a calculator and i'm fine, I use a calculator for everything because I don't trust my mental arithmetic. I hid it away from everyone because I didn't want them to think I was different to them, I didn't want them to think I was stupid, that I wasn't capable. I didn't want them not to like me. I didn't want the teachers to send in support for me because I was embarrassed, the thought of having some sort of teaching aid coming with me to class filled me with dread. Looking back I know that sounds silly, but even as a child you think about how people perceive you, and we all know that children can be harsh at times.
I never want Leo to feel embarrassed or scared of going to school. I want him to continue to enjoy it. I don't want him to worry about what the other children will think if he can't answer a question. I want to protect him, because I have been there, and I never want him to feel so scared of being picked out to answer a question that his tummy does cartwheels inside like he is in the throws of a game of Russian Roulette.
Leo is a bright, clever little boy. He just takes a little longer, he just takes his good sweet time. This is what he has always done. This is perhaps his chosen path, and it is my job to help him navigate his way along, bumps and all. I don't care how long it takes Leo to learn, as long as he IS learning, as long as he keeps going, no matter how much time he takes, as long as he is still going forward, as long as he is HAPPY.
That is ALL that matters.