When my eight-year-old son, Luke, was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in November 2008, I was devastated. At first, I couldn’t imagine how we’d get through it. It was truly altering. Today, I would accept ADHD willingly if it promised to come into our lives alone — no co-morbidities or learning disabilities allowed.
|Luke does his homework on the computer to accommodate for his learning disability.|
But ADHD didn’t enter our lives alone. We thought it was Luke’s only difference at first — he was wild and distracted but super smart and super sweet. His handwriting was notably atrocious but Who cares? Maybe he’d become a doctor. Right?
As time passes, other differences continue to reveal themselves. His altered sensory responses become more apparent the more knowledgeable I become about sensory integration and sensory processing disorder (SPD). I see anxiety rear it’s ugly head fairly often too. These issues can be difficult at times, but I find them manageable.
A learning disability is a whole other animal though. You can’t learn skills or medicate for it, you can only construct a life that compensates.
Luke has Written Expression/Output Disorder and Dysgraphia. I was asked recently if I have a formal diagnosis for his learning disability. Nope. I’ve read for hours about each (some professionals consider them the same thing, others do not). I know as much about them as any lay person can. I have the descriptions of these disorders and they read like a description of Luke in school. I see his struggle with thought planning, organization and sequencing, the key symptoms of Written Expression Disorder. I’ve tried to get a professional diagnosis but I’m finding it difficult to locate someone who diagnoses these learning disabilities in our town. While the school doesn’t “diagnose” learning differences, they have finally agreed that he has a disability in writing and are providing services and and IEP to try to help him. Their acknowledgement may have to serve as validation of these specific learning disabilities for now.
Handling learning disabilities is so much more complex and difficult than ADHD. So…much…more! In all of these hours reading and researching learning disabilities, I still can’t figure out how to help my son. Just as with dyslexia (reading disorder), a writing disorder affects all academics. Not only is his learning disability making success in the subject of writing impossible, it is also inhibiting his performance in math, social studies and science, all subjects he would normally excel in. And, worst of all, it makes him feel “stupid,” making for one sad momma.
I never imagined this moment two years ago, but I now wish it was just ADHD.
Do your children also have learning disabilities?