A good friend of mine called me, from overseas. Desperately weeping, she said, “I don’t know what to do. I feel hopeless!” Her oldest son-of two boys- had given up, and had decided that he no longer wanted to attend school. Though extremely bright, her two sons had been performing proficiently low academically, in school. Both of them had trouble reading, and if that wasn’t enough, passing an exam was nearly impossible. They were suffering emotionally, and yet nobody around them could fathom the perplexity of their inability to make sense of what they read.
My good friend, aware of her sons’ academic difficulties, was beside herself. She had tried to find out more information about her children from the teachers. She reached out to the school administrators for assistance, but received no support from either the teachers or the administrators. Instead, she was patronizingly told that her children had no learning issues, other than the fact that they were lazy troublemakers with behavior problems, and who lacked motivation. With feelings of bewilderment, she felt she had nobody she could console with. Her boys, at that time were eleven and sixteen, were frustrated. Their self-confidence was in ill repair, and they thought they were incapable of ever achieving academic success.
At one point in time she was told about a center that tested children for learning disorders. Delighted with the news she arranged to have her children tested. The assessments at the center were costly, but for her it was worth the money, if she could find answers to help her boys. Both of her children were diagnosed to have extreme dyslexia.
She felt an odd sense of relief and resolve with the outcome of the testing. Excited, she took the results of tests to the school administrators. They threw them back at her and told her that the assessment results were not worthy of the paper that they had been printed on, and could not be accepted. She was stunned. There would be no accommodations for her boys, and no intervention to help them through their difficulty in learning at school.
Now, her oldest son falters. My friend was called to a meeting at his school. “His teachers told me that he is useless, a failure, and a trouble-maker,” she uttered bitterly. My friend tried to explain to his teachers that her son is a good boy, who has a learning disability, and needs some accommodations in order to learn. Uncaring, his teachers told her that they were not psychologists trained to deal with the psychological learning problems of students, but in fact they said, “We are just teachers. If we were psychologists, then we would get paid more.” Apathetic and undiscerning, they turned their back on her.
Dejected, my friend left her parent/teacher conference with a heavy heart. Confused and anguished, her thoughts were on her child-she felt fearful for her son’s outcome. As she cried I tried to comfort her through her tears. I felt her agony, and maternal pain while she spoke, “My beautiful son.” So deeply worried, she began to blame herself. She told me that her son hates her now. I wanted to take my friend away from her space of consciousness and put my arm around her. She needed to hear that it would all be okay, and that this would soon pass, but I know that this is just the surface of what may come to be.
There are many parents around the world that have children who have some type of learning disability, and who may feel as my friend does-hopeless.
I say this: Unless education systems around the world unite, and develop an understanding about learning disabilities, children such as my friend’s son will be lost in the shuffle, left to wonder; and parents such as my friend will have feelings of despair.
School systems need to create positive intervention programs to help children with special needs. Our special needs students need to be brought to an emotional state of understanding that they are worthy, and capable of accomplishing goals and of becoming successful.
Teachers worldwide need to become educated in the areas of special education, in order to understand how to better teach, accommodate, and positively appeal to children with learning disabilities. Alternative approaches in teaching must be developed in order to help students with learning disabilities feel successful in school, as well as for their lives. We must keep in mind that the children of today represent our future on many levels.