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 comes to a close I hear a lot of parents taking a moment to look back and acknowledge their child’s growth and progress. As a parent of a child with learning disabilities, I realize I rarely take the opportunity to do this. With all the challenges associated with educating our son with LD, I rarely stop to take a look at the overall progress he’s making.

At the end of this school year, my son with dyslexia will complete his third year in a private school for children with learning disabilities. 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 Derek 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 going to be “fixed” once he could read and write.

This meeting opened my eyes to another aspect of raising this special boy: his learning differences impact far more than his academic performance; they touch 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 evolve naturally with another child need to be taught to a child with LD.

Beyond the Classroom

So this past year—Derek’s third at the school—in addition to academics, the focus has been on personal growth including the development of life skills, increased independence and responsibility. It hasn’t been easy, but as I look back I’m pleased to note he’s made great strides in this area.

Before the pandemic he also had a banner year in sports. He won awards in cross-country, a second-place finish in our town road race, and the sportsmanship award for his travel hockey team, all of which have boosted his confidence. In addition, his interest in hands-on learning has found a new outlet: carpentry, which he’s passionate about, at least for now.

Taking the time to look at all aspects of our son’s development, I realize now it’s been a year marked by personal growth and academic and extracurricular achievements. Our son with LD has made tremendous progress across the board. That’s what they meant by “owning it.”

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 of this past school year.

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