This post today is brought to you by Naturalist, who is starting to find her voice when it comes to having Learning Differences. She’s always been a very self aware girl, and at 12 is able to reflect even deeper on what it means to be ‘her’. Even though many things that she is starting to talk about happened when she was in school from K-3rd, this is the first time she’s expressed her feelings about them.
For a very long time, I felt like avoiding any labels for her was the best bet, so I didn’t address her frustrations and challenges as ‘disabilities’ or ‘differences’, I just talked about them like they were part of the wonderful reasons that made her, her. In a way, I celebrated the differences as things that made her “Unique!” and “Wonderful!”
I’ll tell you what, though. I don’t think this was the best thing to do in her case. This is a somewhat prickly and controversial subject, so I’m trying to choose my words carefully about it. But for her, it wasn’t being honest, and it wasn’t giving her the right tools and self talk to deal with the incredible challenges that come with being bright AND LD.
The truth about learning differences is that more often than not, they are brutal to a gifted mind that knows what it wants to do, what it should do, what it is trying desperately to do…and what it fails at doing. Not being able to spell, not being able to read, not being able to remember things that you KNEW only minutes before–there is no sugarcoating the high level of frustration that causes.
MY way of dealing with that in Naturalist was to give her pep talks, like, “you just think differently than other kids, but it’s good to be different and unique!” or “These are all things that make you who you are! I wouldn’t want you any other way!”. It was me, being Pollyanna. Being a cheerleader. Putting on my happy pants and rooting her on.
But sometimes, you’ve got to call a spade a spade. For me, that moment came after 2 1/2 years of hard core homeschooling…spelling every day, math every day, reading every day…and realizing that she couldn’t spell, read, or do math any better than she could 2 1/2 years before. She knew it, I was trying to run from it. I was hiding under my Polyanna blanket while she trudged along knowing something was stopping her from doing all this stuff but not knowing what it was. It was at that point that I started looking up and using ‘labels’ like dyslexia and dyscalculia. I thought it would make her upset and feel like something was ‘wrong’ with her. Turns out, she already felt that way. When I gave her a term for it, all of a sudden she had a reason for it. An answer. An explaination.
I bought her The Survival Guide for Kids With Ld: Learning Differences, which is a fantastic balance of being a cheerful book about Learning Differences while at the same time not sugarcoating the struggles or avoiding the issues. She devoured it in a week and from then on has found her ‘voice’ in the matter…something that had been missing until this point.
She has words to explain what isn’t working in her brain and strategies for how to deal with that frustration. She has determination to go ahead and do things, even if they’ll be 10 times harder for her than someone else. Most importantly, she understands that she’s not the only one dealing with it. It’s her goal to talk to other people ‘like her’, and help other kids who may not understand what is wrong.
She wrote a few sentences out about what it’s like to have Learning Differences, as well as came up with some graphics. I’ll share them here, even though it kind of makes me cringe inside. I happen to share many of Naturalist’s struggles, but her inability to punctuate or spell words is not one of them. I have an almost photographic memory for how words are spelled, even if I’ve never seen them. Every misspelled word is like a scream in my head, so when I read this I get kind of twitchy. But bless her heart, if I made her correct every mistake she makes, she would quickly stop writing altogether. I’d rather she express herself confidently and hire an editor than censor herself because she’s worried about mistakes. And that’s a life lesson I hope she’s got down cold.
Here is Naturalists explanation of being a 2e kid:
gifted means creativety, but schools dont let me create but thats how i lern, i lern thro doing, not siting and tests. then since we cant create we shut down cuz we dont know what there talking about and we get teazed for being “stuped”. we wont to get away from people cuz you trusted them, and then they tern around and sit and chant with the kids that chant “stuped stuped your so stuped” and you lern that if you open your mouth people are going to laph and if you trust you are going to get your heart torn out and if you live your going to sit with no friends and no familie cuz they think your a failyer.
an a makes 2 sounds, rite? not to someone with simbols LD! like me, it was very hard to atach meaning to symbols! sometimes i can read something over and over agen but not get what it ses!
writeing LD is when you spell the way things should be spelled, in school we would have spelling tests 10 words! the best i ever got… 3 words, 3 WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but normaly i got 0.
LD means lerning disorder, but now lets think of it as lerning difrence! i have reading LD i read things beter up side down backwerds and colorful! but when im reading normal things disupear, i skip lines, the leters and words dance on the page!