The day I was told my daughter Mia had a learning disability I was heart sore knowing that this condition will follow her throughout her school career and into adulthood. Knowing that she felt and still does feel not good enough, smart enough. I didn’t want her to struggle. I kept wondering what I had missed.
Mia was a very expressive little toddler, even though she didn’t like crawling (why should she fetch things when someone can bring them to her 🙂 and slow to walking, she could talk your head off way before a little one should talk. Yes, she was slower in riding a bicycle and tying her shoelaces, disliked puzzles and getting dirty but every child is different in reaching their milestones and have their own little quirks.
When Mia started Grade one, we noticed that she struggled with reading and grasping concepts. Her school performance was fair, could have been better but nothing to be too concerned about.
In Grade two, she often had to be reminded of what is expected of her in a task, as well as how to do it step by step. She was not able to cope independently with her work. She also struggled with copying from the board and frombooks, so we took her for an eye test which we found out she is far sighted and was prescribed glasses for schoolwork, homework and all near vision tasks. She also attended vision therapy to assist her in strengthening her eye movement skills.
By the middle of grade 3, we were becoming frustrated thinking at times that Mia was lazy or unmotivated. Her written output would not reflect her thoughts and knowledge and one day to the next she would not be able to complete or recall the same tasks/concepts. Mia too felt despondent as she was not reaping the benefits of her hard work.
We decided with the recommendation from Charene, the Principal, for Mia to have a Psycho-educational Assessment to determine why she was still underachieving academically and an explanation for her erratic scholastic performance. We knew Mia had potential, it just needed to be tapped into.
For the next 2 years, we prioritised and systematically worked through some of the recommendations received from this global assessment to enhance Mia’s learning and optimize her development. Mia had a full hearing assessment by an Audiologist which showed Mia had difficulty discriminating sound differences. This explained why Mia struggled following instructions in class as well as writing down work. Mia was also evaluated by a Speech and Language Therapist and had speech therapy to address vocabulary development, auditory memory and sequencing etc.
Mia was then assessed using the Stark-Griffin Dyslexia Determination Test (DDT) which revealed that Mia has Dysphoneidesia (Visual and auditory dyslexia).
My first instinct was to try ‘fix’ Mia and naturally focused on all the obstacles that lay ahead of her if I didn’t. I did have the misconception that dyslexics only see things backward which Mia did not, so I read up all I could about the type of Dyslexia Mia has, what it felt like to be in her shoes, received tips and encouragement from her Educational Psychologist who has continually guided us a long the way.
We sat with Mia and explored dyslexia success stories and we constantly let her know that this does not define who she is or limit what she can do and that she does not have a disability, nor is she less intelligent than her peers. She simply processes information in a different way.
Archers has walked this journey with us from the beginning. They supported us with implementing all the recommendations suggested to be done in the school environment – Mia to be seated in front row, in middle of the class where she would be able to see the teacher clearly and where distractions could be kept to a minimum. The teachers made sure Mia used the writing and test checklists I printed for her to use in class. They assisted her with study skills sessions, after school support classes to make sure Mia never fell behind. Mia’s test papers were read to her and her answers written down for her (full amanuenses), extra time given during tests and spelling concessions. The teachers were patient with Mia when they had to re-explain often. The list goes on and on. We did not have to place Mia in a remedial school because Archers had a small class environment with ‘hands-on’ learning activities.
By being Mia’s support team (Archers, her dad and I), we have seen the importance to keep close contact with Mia’s teachers constantly and our strong parental involvement was and still is essential. Even though school is so muchharder for her than for others, she has succeeded, and we celebrate all the victories, big or small.
Yes, it has been a costly journey with lots of tears and frustration along the way, BUT we are so happy we sought out to understand her and her challenges so we could get her the best help. We persisted, found the right accommodations and teaching strategies and focused on her strengths and abilities.
Mia is such a hard worker, resilient despite her barriers, creative as well as thoughtful and insightful. She is our fun-loving, artsy dreamer Mia Moo who never gives up… and can still talk your head off!
Written by – Amelia Sutherland