A few weeks ago I told you about my struggles in school when I was a kid. I talked about a well funded system that missed an important diagnosis. if you missed that newsletter you can read it here
My parents were born in Europe so they were unfamiliar with the American school system. Yet, they had total faith in the system and believed the system was able to support the educational needs of all kids.
This was a critical mistake. My parents belief in the system overrode their intuition (particularly my mothers) of understanding me and my brothers needs.
Both my parents worked but they were attuned and attentive to our learning needs. My mother in particularly was actively involved in our education. She advocated for our needs but was met with resistance. In my case she was told I was an average children doing average work. Let’s not forget at age 12 I was not reading anywhere close to grade level.
This dismal of my mothers intuition impacted me and my learning for years. For years after leaving the system I often spoke with my mom about the negligence of the system because it impacted me so deeply.
The impacts went well beyond my education they also impacted my self worth and sense of being. One of the reasons why kids mental health issue are so important to me. My “disability” impacted my learning but it did not impact my cognitive ability. I was never able to enjoy the academic environment of learning (event though I have a Masters) due to this broken system.
My disability impacted my learning but does not reflect a lack of intelligence. This is one of the challenges parents face, sometimes they avoid a label because they think it reflects intelligence, but what has been clearly shown in the data, certain diagnoses are not reflective of intelligence, but they do impact learning.
Parents sometimes worry that labeling a child or getting a “diagnosis” can be harmful. I can’t say in all cases this is not true but I am of the full belief that the more you know yourself, particularly the ways you learn best and your particular strengths and weaknesses, the better one will be. Knowing more about oneself builds self awareness (one component of executive function) which I believe allows you to know and understand others better.
There are many things that impact kids learning and I believe one of the most detrimental is undiagnosed neurodiversities. If a child is in a system that doesn’t have the understanding of or the capacity to support learning differences, this can be highly detrimental, not just to learning but to self worth.
In case you are unaware, neurodevelopment disorders (neurodiversities) most effectively diagnosed in early school aged-children but may not be recognized until adult hood. Often characterized by a persistent impairment in at least one of the major area: reading, written expression and/or math.
Neruodiversites are so much better understood (and accepted) now than they were when I was a kid. Thank to the ability to take MRI’s of the brain. Because of this “new” technology there has been so much progress on understanding brain development and functioning, particularly over the last 20 years.
It might sound like I am putting down schools. I am definitely not. School are wonderful places, full of wonderful and dedicated educators, that support our children’s growth and development in importance and fundamental ways. Unfortunately many educational systems are designed using an old model that has not integrated all the new understanding.
Expat parents need to pay particular attention because moves disrupt a child progress educationally making it easy for a school system to attribute challenges to a transition. This is a topic for another week.
Specific learning disorders such as mine are typically diagnosed in school-aged kids. When discovered and diagnosed early there is more capacity for successful intervention and support available to remediate challenges.
In my case, even in a well funded and knowledgable system, with continuity (I spent my elementary school years in one school) and a parent who was present and asking the school system for support the school missed finding a proper diagnosis until I was much older.
Parents need to trust their intuition. I encourage all parents to ask questions of their schools and help your child discover their unique learning style. We all have important gifts to share with the world. If we continue to try and fit everyone into the same box we are going to miss out on uncovering unique gifts and talents.
With respect and gratitude.