The Trials and Tribulations of Raising a Learning-Disabled Child


It’s not easy to be the parent of a learning disabled child.
I know because I am one.

My second eldest daughter was diagnosed at the age of seven with Auditory LD. This is not what it “sounds” like (no pun intended) but actually has to do with the processing of information gathered by the brain. Information can go in, but half the time only half of it gets computed. This held true for verbal and written information, which made learning difficult for my little girl.

Up until the testing (which I had to fight tooth and nail for with the school system) I knew something was wrong with my baby. We would study for spelling tests the night before and she would ace every word. By the next morning she would forget every single one. At school conferences the teacher would tell me how she would raise her hand to come to the desk with a question and by the time she walked to the teacher she would forget what she was going to ask. Top this off with the fact that she was flanked by two sisters, one older and one younger than she, who were both “A” students!

Then there was the bullying.

I didn’t learn about this until well after she was into adulthood, which made me feel really rotten as a parent. Why I didn’t see any of the signs I will never know. Maybe it was because I was working and raising four kids at the time, but I still feel really guilty about that. She never uttered a word about it and thank God her younger sister, who stood as tall as she was in grammar school, took up her defense on the playground of the elementary school.

There was a learning curve for me also!

A lot of children with learning disabilities tend to work on what is called “negative response.” This was really difficult for me as I am a reactionary person who was easily sucked into arguments with her. I had no idea that was exactly what she was looking for! The special Ed teachers taught me how to respond without getting into an all out screaming fight about stupid things that would trigger my responses as a mother… “You don’t love me as much as you love my sisters!” That was one that used to throw me into a tizzy! I calmly learned how to respond with, “You know that isn’t true,” and walked away to find a closet to scream in! I was taught not to react but to react to any little positive thing she could come up with.

And yes, it was a long haul.

 Early morning remedial classes at a different school before I even went to work. Patterning, redirecting processing, speech therapy, and other help methods were involved. Even through high school I would meet with her “team” of teachers in what were called “PPT’s” to map out her curriculum with aids to allow her to learn what she needed to learn. After she graduated she wanted to go on to college and that was when I learned about the CT Bureau of Rehabilitative Services (BRS).

The BRS was a great resource for adults who are looking to further their education. They helped me with funding to send my daughter to a college in Philadelphia where she was to be aided by the teachers at that facility. They paid the entire tuition, room and board and it was great, until my daughter couldn’t keep up with the course load. This was the result of no one being around to oversee that the school did not provide the necessary help she needed because no one was there to keep their feet to the fire. It was a sad day, but my daughter had to come back home to try a different course of action. She enrolled in a Community College where she got the support that she needed.

It took a few more years but she received her Associates Degree and went on to complete a Certificate as a Licensed Massage Therapist and Esthetician. She is now married and expecting a child of her own.

I would tell any parent of a learning-disabled child this one thing:

The system doesn’t care, the schools really don’t care, and maybe you’ll find a counselor (thank you Ms. Thibault) or teacher once in a while that does, but they are so busy with other kids in the classroom it is easy for your child to fall through the cracks. Keep on top of it! It is tiring, frustrating, and mentally exhausting at times, but the results are fruitful and love will get you through.

18 comments on “The Trials and Tribulations of Raising a Learning-Disabled Child”

  1. I’m sorry you all have had this experience. I do have to weigh in here for the school systems and teachers who are doing it right. We have been very fortunate our first two years in a CT public school system (not the case for the MA school we were in). My son has a team of people behind him advocating almost as much as me and my husband. His teacher fought for him to keep the in classroom and lunchroom support he needs, his special ed teacher from K hand picked his first grade teacher so it would be a good match and both his PE teacher and the school psychologist have added more support and services to his IEP. As a parent you do need to be informed and well versed in PPTs and IEPs, but there are good school systems and good teachers looking out for our kids as well…whether they have special needs or not.

    1. So happy to hear of the great support you are getting for your son. I can only hope that in the last 25-30 years (goes to show you how old I am!) the educators in the school systems honed their skills to help these children. Sounds like they have. I send you lots of love and hugs to share with your son.

  2. Go Chris. A good article to RT. Also, just had one of the most positive meetings in 4 years for my son with dyslexia and dysgraphia. I think the difference is that the school counselor in the new middle school has a daughter with dyslexia and knows that many educators just think you can outgrow it – especially when kids start to do well because parents, tutors, certain teachers and others help and support them to achieve their capacity and potential. Therefore, in this meeting, she validated everything my husband and I thought we needed to say to his teachers and the team. Very welcome interchange and a change of course in our public school experience so far. I’m an advocate — highly knowledgeable, educated and trained — and still have to be on the defense for my own child. It was a welcome discussion this time – focused on what he needs to be successful and how we were all going to support him to accomplish it. Whew, now we just need to keep him on track.. Parenting him is a joy and an ongoing exercise to anticipate what he’ll need next. Cheers to all!

    1. I am soooooo glad to hear that you have a counselor who actually can help you through this journey. I can only hope that all children who have these types of problems can find the caring, knowledgeable professionals they need to help them blossom into the wonderful and productive adults they can be. Best of luck.

  3. OMG, Chris! I know EXACTLY what you went through. My younger son has the same diagnosis — Auditory Processing Disorder. He also had an angel — Mrs. Coppola — she was an advocate, an empowerer, a huge source of information and support for me, and helped him learn so many helpful tactics in speech therapy.

    The years between age 9 and 14 were the worst. Getting the right diagnosis (he also has ADHD) and then battling the school system to get the right placement and remedial help was a full-time job, in addition to my full-time job.

    I don’t think my son was bullied, but he bullied HIMSELF. Trying to keep up his self-esteem was quite a challenge. And yes, the fighting — oh my. Unfortunately, we have exactly the same temperaments, which means volcanic eruptions followed by sunny skies and bluebirds an hour later. No one understands this (unless they are wired the same way). It was very dramatic.

    Like you, I found the school system/PPT experience to be a nightmare. I can’t imagine how parents who are not trained lawyers or who do not speak English ever get anything done. It’s a counter-intuitive process, because YOU are saying your kid is impaired, while the school is saying s/he is a genius and needs no help! What parent wants to have THAT argument? Ugh. I’m having flashbacks…..

    Congratulations to you and your daughter on the happy end to the story. You must be SO proud of her. My son is a manufacturing engineer and engaged to be married. Through it all, he kept his amazing zest for life and his contagious enthusiasm for EVERYTHING. He is a joy.

    1. OKay, now you made ME cry! The sisterhood is out there and we can succeed with this most tiring trek as both of us stand testimony to. I hope the younger moms can take heart with their journey. Thanks for sharing.

  4. You’re absolutely right and thanks for the validation. I just happen to be advocating for my son pretty heavily this week at school. It’s frustrating but worth every headache to help our kids be the best they can be! Thanks for sharing and reminding us to stay strong.

  5. My daughter is 5 and it feels like I’ve already been to 20 PPT’s, and this is Kindergarten! Okay, so they started back with Birth to 3 and preschool, but I appreciate your post. It is exhausting at times, and yet, we want to do right by her. Your reminder is energizing!

  6. I’m sorry the school systems you worked with sucked so badly. I wonder if Cora will weigh in on this post, I would love to hear her thoughts. You are so right – we have to be our children’s biggest advocate! Two of my siblings have learning disabilities so I enjoyed reading your perspective.

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