Looking Back at the Year

By Maryann Vitale


For parents of kids with learning challenges, getting through another school year may be enough But as this parent experienced, digging deeper to look at overall progress proved rewarding

As the school year came to a close I heard a lot of parents talking about their child’s growth and progress over the past few months. I realized I rarely do that. As a parent of a child with learning disabilities, am I simply relieved to have made it through another year? Or better yet, am I grateful just to have completed the year with minimal conflict? Either way, it’s clear that with all the difficulties associated with educating my child with LD, I rarely stop to look at the progress he’s made. So here goes…

Taking Stock

At the end of this school year, my son with dyslexia completed his third year in a private school for children with LD. It has been a long road of remediation, compensation, and acceptance. When we enrolled him in this school we felt it would “fix” the problem and give him the tools necessary to return to public school. But we were in for a surprise when, after two years, we were called in for a preliminary transition meeting to discuss the next step in the remediation process.

He’s Doing Fine, But…

Academically my son had made great strides, achieving at or above grade level in most areas of study—a wonderful report any parent would be pleased to hear. But in the world of learning disabilities there’s always a catch. Apparently his personal growth, maturity, and confidence hadn’t quite caught up. Another year in the school was recommended.

Of course I was relieved to know he’d be protected from the challenges of regular school for a while longer, but what did they mean when, referring to his acquired knowledge, they said he “didn’t own it yet?” Evidently he wasn’t “fixed” once he could read and write.

That meeting opened my eyes to another aspect of raising this special boy: his learning differences impacted far more than his academic performance; they touched all areas of his life to one degree or another.

It’s the whole package that requires special education. The organization, independence, confidence, and security that may naturally evolve with another child need to be taught to a child with LD.

Beyond the Classroom

So this past year—his third at this school—in addition to academics, we focused on personal growth and all the skills needed to be successful in school and life. This included increased independence and responsibility. It hasn’t been easy, but for the first time in his schooling I see some progress.

Along with increased maturity has come great success—particularly in sports. Success on the track and in the rink has been a great confidence booster. He won awards in his cross-country division, a second-place finish in our town road race and the sportsmanship award for his travel hockey team. In addition, his interest in hands-on learning has transferred to a love of carpentry. Academic and extracurricular achievement all in one year!

Taking the time to look at all aspects of my son’s development, I realized my child with LD has made tremendous progress in more ways than one, and this is what they meant by “own it.” I just needed to stop and notice.

Of course, what lurks in the back of my mind is, “What about next year?” But I’ve decided for now I will take a moment simply to enjoy watching him grow, mature and celebrate the successes this year has brought.

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