You won't find the word "flexabilities" in the dictionary, but if you parent or teach children with learning disabilities, you likely find it in your life, every day.
Today started out like any other day. I arrived at the office thirty minutes early. In the silence of an empty office, I prepared to meet a young boy (we’ll call him Nick) that I would be assessing. I laid out all my testing materials and paperwork and looked around. Satisfied with my preparations, I started on the mountain of paperwork that seemed to regenerate whenever I slept.
Sometime later, Nick’s mother walked into my office. From the look on her face, I knew my well laid plans were about to change. She was upset and frustrated and told me that Nick had decided not to come. She went on to tell me that he has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) along with the learning disabilities I already knew about. It got the best of him this morning and he wasn’t able to pull himself together to come in for his assessment.
These are the types of unexpected challenges that often come along with being the parent of a child with learning disabilities. Behaviour and performance can vary widely from day to day, leaving parents, family and teachers wondering, “He could do it yesterday. What happened? ”
I often speak with teachers about setting realistic goals for students with learning disabilities. Bottom line? Have your expectations based on what they can accomplish on any given day. However, be ready to radically change those expectations when the need arises. I often hear “But I can’t give up on the rest of their day!” Absolutely don’t give up on the day. Always provide opportunities for the day to turn around and surprise you. Just know that if the normal expectation is a full math sheet, that today, a half sheet may be more reasonable.
So what about Nick? As always, flexibility is the name of the game. Instead of doing the assessment in one time slot, we’ll spread it out. This week he’s going to swing by with his mother for a tour of our offices. (He’ll be very excited by our games room with its shelves and shelves of games!) Then he’s scheduled to meet me later for a 15 minute meet and greet, during which we’ll play a fun game of his choice. Finally we’ll do the actual assessment over two time slots, and Nick will already have been to Breakthroughs twice for short, fun and non-threatening meetings. This will help him adjust and cope better when we make our second approach to assessing him.
It may sound a bit cliché, but when it comes to parenting (or working with) children with learning disabilities, every day is a new day. Carpe Diem!
As a child who struggled to overcome learning disabilities himself Matthew always knew he wanted to help other children know they weren’t dumb. Having now logged over 15,000 hours working with children and adults with learning disabilities he shares his experience of what it’s like on both sides of learning disabilities. Matthew’s not quite sure what free time is, but when he finds it he enjoys spending time with his wife and two year old son and playing soccer.