Friday, January 14, 2011

Defying Gravity

Having a child with Learning Disabilities is...hard.  It just is. The world is pulling him down while he is trying to reach for Broadway stars!  His name in lights on Broadway or just being in a local production, dancing, singing and, oh boy...acting!  This kid amazes me. He is so strong, so determined and fights through his learning disabilities the best way he can. 

Casey is our amazingly talented, right-brained learner.  It's not that this is the best way for him to learn, it's the only way for him to learn.  Casey was diagnosed as having a Left-Brain Cognitive Disorder. His testing showed scores that were on the level of someone who had a Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.  Because he didn't suffer from an accident, they could not diagnose him with TBI, so instead they gave him the LBCD diagnosis.  It was hard when he was diagnosed because I didn't know how he would manage.  My first thoughts were years away from that day....What would his life be like?  Could he get a job in the real world?   Would he ever be able to support a family?  Then I began to wonder how kids would treat him at school? Would his innocence be destroyed by bullies?  Would he ever feel like he could succeed or would he always feel behind, dumb, lazy?

For years the schools would pass him off. They dismissed my worries and brushed off my requests to have him tested.  I remember going to every teacher from 1st grade to 5th grade and each one would dismiss me.  It wasn't until we moved to a new district and I demanded that he be tested that we found out he would require an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Luckily, a couple months before he was tested at the school, I had notified our family doctor of my worries and he referred me to a NeuroPsychologist to have him tested.  We received a very detailed diagnosis and this helped us when we finally had our first IEP meeting with the school at the end of his 6th grade year.  Yes, the end.  How convenient for them.  Thus, the IEP was not solidified until his 7th grade year.  Very frustrating. 

Casey is currently a Freshman in High School. I put in him a local Jr. High in 7th grade and pulled him out to part time home school him because they could not meet his needs.  It truly was better for him to be at home, despite my lack of homeschooling ability, however, we made the decision to put him into a local charter school that was more hands on for his 8th grade year.  He did okay in the school even though the Special Ed department was wishy-washy and almost non-existant at times.  Because it was an expeditionary learning school, it suited his right-brained needs more often than the local Jr. High did.  Last year we had to make a decision, and it was hard.  Do we keep our fourteen year old boy close to home, but in a school that would not meet his needs and one that would shove him out into the High School world (completely unprepared) at 10th grade, or do we let him open his dramatic wings and commute to a performing arts school in our state? 

Casey is a natural performer and, after much debate,  we felt enrolling him into a local Performing Arts High School would be best for him.  My mother is amazing and takes Casey to school in the mornings and then he rides the bus and Trax system home each day.  He is learning lots of wonderful skills and spreading his wings with this opportunity, yet it isn't without issues.  The performing arts school is a charter school on the East side of the valley (we live on the West) and it is located right inside a public High School that offers 9-12 (most of our schools here only offer 10-12).  So, he's duel enrolled in both schools.  He gets his academics from the public school and his electives (performing arts) in his Charter school.  It's been difficult, to put it mildly, to deal with both schools regarding Casey's IEP, but the counselor has been great and very helpful.  This is where he is today and with a few minor changes to this next term, we feel he will succeed and things will get better....for this year. One never knows what will change in the next few months, what issues he will have and/or what issues his new teachers will have. I'm just crossing my fingers.

Casey is not dyslexic, but has significant trouble reading and comprehension. He has recently increased his reading fluency from 3-4 grade to a 6th grade level, however his comprehension of what he reads has dropped from a 4th grade level to a low 3rd grade level.  He can sound out more words and read faster, but that's it.

Casey spells phonetically.  He writes at a 2nd grade level and has a rudimentary pencil grasp which tires out his hand very quickly.  It's hard to read what he has written most times, but this kid is amazingly creative and if given an opportunity to write what he wants, in his format, in his way, he'll shine! 

Casey does not suffer from expressive communication delays, though he does lack confidence in his ability to communicate effectively and that has become very noticeable this year.  Casey has an extremely difficult time with receptive communication.  He does not understand/comprehend at times.  You can see his brain trying to process what you've said into an easier format that he can understand and for home use that is okay, but he gets so lost and so behind in classes where he is supposed to follow instructions or long lists.  It's best to use simple speech and instructions.  

His favorite class is Theatre Foundations I.  His teacher loves him, has high hopes for him and, according to her, Casey is "socially accepted and the class enjoys having him".  Due to his growing academic needs, Casey, just yesterday, had to drop another performing arts class (thankfully not the one above) to add in a class that will give him time each day to get work done.  He only had two classes! I feel horrible about this and not even knowing "it's for the best." helps.  Okay, it does a little when I think about it rationally, but this kid should be having at least 3 performing arts classes, not just 1.  It's just hard, hard, HARD!  Hard to see him lose more opportunities to do what he loves because he has to be in a special reading class and Language Art's class or because he needs a study skills class and because he needs to have Computer Tech and Health and blah,blah,blah.  

I'm just a frustrated mama, guys.  I'll process it and be okay, eventually.  All I have to do is look at my fourteen year old son and see his smile.  Despite his struggles and all of our worries...this young man is definitely Defying Gravity!!

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