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When Teachers Dismissed My Concerns About My Son's Development

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My son’s teacher was a bully; there is no other way to explain it.

It’s difficult to hear that your child has learning difficulties. Being dismissed is depressing when you have real concerns and a gut “mom instinct” at play.

I’m sharing the heartache and decisions we made to help our son. Granted, this was a few years ago, but having taught special education for years, I know things are very slow to change.

First, we heard, “He’s a boy, they’re slower to develop.”

Then we heard, “Why don’t you give him the gift of time and hold him back?”

The most offensive and shocking comment was, “Maybe you aren’t helping him enough at home. Read to him more instead of letting him watch TV.”

This didn’t go well.

Every time I heard a shallow remark made by an ill-informed teacher, I just wanted to scream!

Being dismissed when I expressed my concern about my child’s lack of progress in reading makes me cringe, and frankly, angry.

“Don’t worry; this skill isn’t necessary.”

Learning the ABC’s isn’t necessary? That just added insult to injury, after all it was the end of first-grade.

It is an important skill and a huge red flag indicating possible short-term memory loss.

Unfortunately, the teachers at my son’s school were incompetent and naïve. Did I mention I was furious?

That’s putting it mildly. I felt like screaming, because teachers should be inspiring and problem solvers. And most are! I’m a teacher, and I know many amazing, caring, energetic teachers. Unfortunately, my son didn’t have one during one of the most critical stages in his school career.

The end of my son’s public education came at the beginning of second-grade. My husband and I took his training into our hands after our parent-teacher conference early in the school year.

I will never forget her words, “Not everyone is college material, lots of men are happy with truck driving jobs or being a sanitation worker.”

It. Was. Second. Grade!

Can you imagine sitting across from your son’s teacher and hearing such a bizarre comment about your 8-year-old son? She was severely writing him off in second-grade!

We felt sick, bullied and betrayed by the system. We walked out of the conference and straight to the principal’s office only to be told he was too young for testing.

“Just wait, your sense of urgency is misplaced.”

“Let Mrs. H. work her magic.”

We withdrew Joseph from school the very same day.

Joseph was tested at the University of Denver and diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. One day, I ran into his old teacher and principal while picking up Joseph’s brother who still attended the school. I shared the results of the testing and immediately heard:

“We don’t recognize dyslexia in our district.”
“It’s a catch-all phrase.”
“I wish you luck teaching Joseph to read.”

Has this ever happened to you?

The road we traveled from that point on was tough and challenging on my son and his siblings. Suddenly, I found myself with a new job, working the role of an advocate, locating the school setting that would support his learning needs, finding a tutor who was skilled in explicit, systematic instruction, deflecting the undercurrent of family members who didn’t want to accept the diagnosis, being called out as a helicopter parent.

The worst was watching my son while his neighborhood peers shunned him because he was no longer a member of their peer group.

I knew of many red flags Joseph demonstrated, and I had my radar set on monitoring benchmarks. I’m fortunate, because I have a degree in SPED, but what about the other moms out there who believe their child’s development is typically progressing?

Do you know what to look for in early literacy development?

Listen to your gut, is it telling you one thing and teachers and friends say another?

It may sound redundant, but you know your child best!

The following are a few red flags to be aware of when it comes to early literacy development.

Early intervention is critical. Be aware of a few early red flags.

Is your child having difficulty:

-Learning to speak?
-Struggles with making rhymes?
-Can’t seem to follow directions?
-Learning letters and their sounds?
-Mixed up the order of letters?
-Difficulty organizing their spoken language?
-Memorizing numbers or facts?

My goal is that others little boys or girls won’t have to go through the trauma that can accompany an ill-informed teacher. Sadly, this can have lasting long-term effects, and it’s why it’s so important as a mom to follow your intuition and your hunches. I promise you; you won’t be sorry that you did.

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Originally published: January 18, 2018
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