This week is special education week and this month is Autism and ADHA Awareness month. This week is especially close to my heart because my middle son has some special needs in the classroom. He has not been diagnosed with ADHD or Autism even though, here we go with the “mommy gut” again, I believe he is on the autism spectrum. My husband and I fought hard to get him the special help he needs to help him learn in a “normal” classroom. He is currently diagnosed with a “learning disability” which leaves it wide open to the special attention he needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that “The diagnosis requires persistent difficulties in reading, writing, arithmetic, or mathematical reasoning skills during formal years of schooling. Symptoms may include inaccurate or slow and effortful reading, poor written expression that lacks clarity, difficulties remembering number facts, or inaccurate mathematical reasoning.” Which in Landon’s case everything seemed especially difficult.
I’ll never forget the day when Landon had his first big meltdown. Landon was always a much laid back baby. The feed me, change me, let me sleep and I’m happy kind of baby. Even as a toddler he was very comfortable staying in his big brother’s shadow and just being anywhere Carson was. Once Carson had moved up in his Sunday school classroom Landon stayed behind in in the pre-k class for one more year. That was the year we really started to notice some of the delays in Landon. For many years, Carson being the older brother he always spoke for Landon so holding more than a one to two word conversation became difficult for him because he never had to do that with Carson being there.
Now let me back track just a moment here and say that we aren’t blind parents, especially me in the sense that I have an education in child development however from the moment Carson, at 23 months old met his younger brother they were inseparable. It was Batman and Robin, Scooby and Shaggy, Buzz and Woody, Carson and Landon the best of friends, to this day many people ask if they are twins not just because of their looks but just as their personalities they have a bond like no other. We are extremely proud of the boys’ bond and friendship which makes it even harder knowing education comes so easily for Carson to the point of boredom and so difficult for Landon to the point of tears.
Back to Sunday school and Landon’s first year without Carson, I was the class helper that day and the teacher was talking about Creation. She handed each of the kiddos a blank white paper and told them to draw the sky with clouds. As I watched Landon pick up his crayon staring at his paper, then looked around to all of his peers and back to his paper, I got down to his level and repeated the teacher’s directions. Immediate meltdown! “I can’t do it” he shouted, “I can’t do it!” And he wrapped his arms around his head and put his head on the table. That was a very defining moment in Landon’s life. From there on I kept a very close watch every time he was handed a blank sheet of paper. It was as if the nothingness of the paper scared him. As time went on I have several friends that work in special education and I invited them over to “evaluate” our situation describing the blank paper incidents as well as other behaviors I noticed, the lack of eye contact and the lack verbal communication skills, down to the way he holds a pencil and a fork. Everything pointed to Autism. We went through the motions after we gathered our own “investigation” into everything Landon and took it to his pediatrician who then referred us to our local IU-13 program where they did the official evaluation. Thankfully as we prepared on this journey the preschool we planned on sending Landon to is affiliated with the IU-13 and was able to aid him in getting the necessary specialists to meet his needs. In my opinion I feel relieved that we found Landon’s learning disability early and are able to get him the help that he needs so that learning can come more naturally for him and it can be fun.
Did you know that currently 2.4 million students are diagnosed with a specific learning disability and are receiving educational services?
As a mom, I struggle with Landon’s disability almost as much as he does. When we first started on this journey of trying to diagnose what Landon was struggling with there were many times I felt like I was a bad mom. Everyone and anyone can say you are doing everything right, you are a good mom, keep up the good work but until you believe that it doesn’t make a difference. Knowing your child struggles is half the battle, knowing what your child will face as they get older with bullying is the other half. Nearly every child that has a learning disability experiences bullying throughout their life. I think back to when we were first being evaluated and the questions I was being asked. I had to sit and really think does he really do this or that, how could I have missed that, why didn’t I see this sooner knowing what I know about child development. It makes you go to a dark place. Landon also has a mild social awkwardness about him and the first time he went on a play date of course it was a piggy back to Carson’s play date. I was dropping him off at my now best friend’s house (we became close after our oldest boys were in classes together) and I stood on her door step in tears saying I will be just down the street call me if he wants to come home and I walked back to my car. That was the longest playdate of my life! When I went back to pick up both of my boys at our arranged time not a minute sooner, neither of them wanted to leave a very reassuring feeling for this mom.
Sometimes I just sit and think about my relationship with each of my children. Carson is my conversationalist, Mr. Congeniality, he will debate you to the end and I promise he will run for a government official one day possibly the presidency. Addison is my fashionista, my diva, girly as they come but totally can run with the boys and thinks nothing about being a brut knowing she has everyone wrapped around her little finger. I don’t doubt Carson and Addison will be able to handle whatever life throws at them and will kill it! And then there is Landon, the middle child, he gives the biggest, warmest hugs ever (just like his daddy, his hugs melt my heart) and he’s the comedian in the family always smiling. He’s my special child, he needs constant reassurance and confidence boosters and I feel a sort of connection with him different than the other two that makes me more protective of him. Heck I started coaching soccer, a sport I never liked or played, to help him ease into playing with kids other than his siblings. I don’t label myself as being a helicopter mom but when it comes to Landon, I define hoovering!
As time has gone by we have learned more and more about how to help Landon and make learning more fun. He still gets to be in a regular classroom and then gets his own special classroom throughout the day. We are blessed that his learning disability isn’t more complicated, there are many other folks out there with children suffering with much more complicated and difficult disabilities than Landon’s but the thoughts and feelings of the mother don’t change. It will always be a constant overprotective struggle for us moms. We want what is best for our children to the best of our ability and resources. It’s a crazy love between a parent and a child, it’s almost indescribable.