I left the 6th grade (age 12) not reading.
I feel a lot of shame sharing that information about myself. I fear people thinking this means I still can’t read (I do prefer audiobooks based on how my brain functions best). I worry people will wonder what kind of home I came from, based off the testaments shared after my moms death I can assure you it was a good one. I worry people would think I’m not a hard worker or there is something “wrong” with me.
I think the last is what I fear most. I worry people will think there is something “wrong” with me. All this fear, shame and judgement has cast a shadow over my life for too many years When I was diagnosed with a learning disability at 16 (my mom had been pushing the school system to get a better understand of my challenges since I was 6) instead of providing an explanation for my challenges, in my mind it just provided proof that there was indeed something “wrong” with me and it was that I was stupid.
This is where I was so wrong, but I had struggled so much for so many years and had been given proof over and over again, that the negative the dialogue was cemented inside my head. I would occasionally say “I was stupid”, people would dismiss my statement and try to reassure me, but the negative self talk was louder, more consistent and more pronounced.
As I have raised my own four kids I have very clearly learned that no one gets through without struggle. Each struggle is different and unique, therefore solutions and help are varied. Different kids struggle at different phases. And for parents of multiple kids, I say thank goodness.
One of my kids didn’t sleep through the night until over two another was a dream sleeper. The one who gave me a run for my money with sleep has been an easy student. The dream sleeper has caused me more challenges with school. Every child is unique which is the joy and beauty of humans.
When I was in high school my mother introduced me to the concept of “learning to learn” when she bought me a course on tapes (yes I realize I am dating myself). I poured over those tapes with pen and paper in hand. These “learning to learn” or as I like to describe them life skills that I was learning about at the time were what are now known as executive function skills.
Executive function encompasses so many skills such as planning, organizing, prioritizing, focus, motivation, self awareness, decision making and emotional regulation. Sometimes kids have different neurodiversities or academic struggles which impact the development of these executive functions. Thankfully, there is no indication that these skills can’t be strengthened and develop. Unfortunately the development of these skills are not a significant focus in most schools this places more responsibility for these vital skills on the parent. Which can be challenging if parents don’t understand how critical and necessary it is to develop these skills.
I can remember getting so frustrated and angry when I had to do my reading at homework time, I was scream and shout I was totally dysregulated and therefore my brain was not in learning mode. My frustration only increased my learning challenges which then impacted my executive function. It was a vicious cycle. Learning differences don’t indicate a person capacity for IQ. I know personal stories of kids with exceptionally high IQ’s who struggle in school because of challenges with executive function skills. Executive function skills are life skills that our kids will rely on daily.
My challenges didn’t just impact my academic performance they also impacted how I related socially to the world. My worry of something being “wrong”’with me affected the way I showed up and related to others. I “knew” there was something different about me but I didn’t fully understand what, so it made me feel different and made me more self conscious. I didn’t believe that who I was, just how I was, was ok which complicated many of my relationships for years.
I believe that social connectedness is the fabric of our life, it is upon which everything else is built and created. How we feel about ourselves significantly influences how we relate to others. Helping our kids feel good in their own skin, challenges and all is one of the most important gifts we can give a child.
Helping parents support their elementary and middle school kids in developing these critical executive function and social awareness skills is my passion. Helping kids know themselves while learning to love, honor and cherish themselves is hands down the greatest gift we can give our kids.
I am excited to be on this learning journey with you. As I look forward to 2023 I would love to hear more from you on what your hoping to learn about in relation to executive function. It will help me make sure I am sharing relevant content. I’d appreciate if you would respond to this email with just one word letting me know what topic you are of most interested in or you find most challenging with/for your child.
With respect and gratitude.
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