“Clara just doesn’t read as fast as her classmates.” That was the first thing my daughter’s first grade teacher said to me that evening at her school’s parent/teacher conference. It was quite a shock to hear that, I must say. I had always heard about the successes of elementary school conferences. It’s where parents would come to hear how marvelously gifted their child was at one thing or another. My friends and co-workers would boast about how their children had already been assigned Shakespeare in third grade or can already calculate quantum physics by middle school (if that is even possible). However, I sat there at my precious six year old’s school desk with her name cutely, and might I say, well-written just broken over those words. I went home, cried, denied, and repeated the process. It was like mourning for me. Coincidentally, Clara had a check up at her pediatrician’s office. Long story short, I bravely voiced my concerns (and the concerns of the teacher). Thus, the paperwork began, and my daughter was officially diagnosed/labeled as learning disabled. However, I chose not to medicate her.
504’s….testing accommodations…..IEP!!!! These acronyms haunted me. They embarrassed me. Sadly, I had much experience with teaching learning disabled students. I would review their IEP’s (Individualized Lesson Plans), give them testing accommodations, etc. But in the end it was never personal. This time it was. The next IEP meeting I would attend wasn’t going to be that of a random student, but my own daughter. Still, I kept to my guns about medication.
Apart from her struggle at school were her struggles at home. Fights over homework (which took her hours to finish) became part of our nightly ritual. I was frustrated. She was more frustrated. Then we wouldn’t speak until the next afternoon. When report cards were sent home, I didn’t get to brag about my straight ‘A’ student. I was just secretly happy she didn’t pull a ‘D’ in reading or math. At family functions her grandparents would ask, “How’s school?” Clara’s little cheeks would glow red with embarrassment, and then she would turn to me to answer the questions. “It’s going great!” I lied.
It was my husband who helped me to realize what and who was most important in this situation. He said, “Your daughter is hurting. She doesn’t show you because she knows you hurt too. She’s tired of being the one behind.” I boohooed like a little girl. I was embarrassed, only this time by my own actions. I was so consumed with how others would view our situation that I let that take over the real issues. Once I was able to realize that, I was truly able to get passed my insecurities as a parent. After all, it was never really her I was frustrated with. It was never her teachers or even her pediatrician. I was angry with myself because I believed that her disability was my fault.
We finally agreed to medicate Clara. It was the best decision for our family (maybe not for all families). She still struggled with ADHD and Dyslexia every now and then, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what makes Clara, well, Clara.