Sorry I’ve been AFK for awhile. We’ve had a lot on the go.
Most specifically, as That Girl has turned 7, we had arranged for a psychoeducational evaluation to be done. This means that she gets official word, based on the analysis of the results a series of tests, about what learning disabilities or disabilities or whatever she might have. It gives her teachers a milestone from which they can develop education plans or ask for assistance or whatever might be needed, and it gives us a basis from which to look for therapies or apply for assistance or go merrily on our way.
It’s an important test, but a bit daunting.
Depending on the results, if you talk to various parents, your world can completely change. There can be a “before” and an “after” and it can be upsetting. One mom told me about her son’s diagnosis day, where he went from her “son with developmental issues” to her “autistic son”. She says she cried for weeks.
It’s not easy having your child labelled, even though there can be positive outcomes to doing so. It’s hard to go from talking about your child in terms of developmental issues — “developmental” being a word loaded with possibility and growth — to talking about disabilities. You go from talking about what your child can do in the future to what they can’t do. You go from thinking your child will soar to being told they will never leave the ground.
For me, it was that kind of a day. Our diagnosis left me stunned and upset. And I cried for a couple of days.
We were told that our funny, bright, social little girl has “Mild Intellectual Delay”.
Which, on the surface of things, does not sound too bad, right? Well, take my advice, don’t take this diagnosis and then go asking Dr. Google, as I did when I get home. Because what you will find is that some sites use this term as the new phrase for what we used to many years ago call “mild mental retardation” or “mentally handicapped”.
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Having lived with family members in the social work field who dealt with child disabilities, I began to reel a little bit. My child does not have a low IQ! She does not need help with basic life skills! She will be able to live on her own, hold a job, get married…!
The next morning, I briefed a couple of her therapists on the whole issue. They want to see the report in detail, obviously, but one thing I was told is that this term, “mild intellectual delay” is used in a different way here in Canada than elsewhere. The sites I had seen were in the US and Australia, whereas here we have different levels of disability beyond what are called “MID” kids.
Here, MID kids are what you might call “slow learners”.
When I heard this, I felt suddenly better. THIS I could understand. THIS sounded more appropriate.
“Slow learner” means that a child can learn, but learns differently. They won’t be able to keep pace with their peers. They may not be able to do the complex tasks or struggle with organization. They will do better with concrete tasks than higher concepts.
Okay, I can cope with that. But what was really hard was how they suddenly talk in limitations. What your child will never do. How they can’t do X, Y or Z. How they will never catch up. How they will never do or be or go. Can’t. Won’t. Don’t.
I try to be realistic. I do. I try to be open and accepting and positive. But this… I struggle between accepting it as truth, and fighting against it with everything in me. I look at my child and think SHE’S SEVEN, FOR THE LOVE OF DOG. WHO SAYS SHE CAN’T DO THESE THINGS? WHO ARE YOU TO LIMIT HER?
YOU DON’T KNOW MY CHILD LIKE I DO. THERE IS MORE TO HER THAN THIS.
I was sad. I was heartbroken. And I was PISSED.
I cried. I got angry. I cried some more.
I talked with my sister-in-law. I talked with teachers. I talked with therapists. And I felt a little better.
Some, like me, still see the potential. Some, like me, are still hopeful that there are hurdles that will be overcome, and that there is still lots of growth ahead for That Girl. And one of her therapists, who does her visual processing work, who retrains the brain to develop visual memory and make the brain more agile and believes that some learning disabilities are actually due to visual processing… well, I will be very interested in what he has to say.
I like to think of That Girl the way that Deb, one of her therapists, once described her: She is a garden. There’s a little bit of this problem happening here and a little bit of that over there and some of this issue right here. But if we get enough of the weeds cleared out of the way and the sun begins to shine in… she will bloom into something beautiful. Something magnificent.
It’s not that I am unaware that she has some challenges, or that I am in denial. But.
I also see what she can do, too. And I think that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to be done and discovered than some testing can reveal.
I see her learning by ear all the words to pop songs we listen to on Youtube and then singing along just as I used to do. I listen to her making jokes about stuff, and being really funny. I see her reading signs and books and random words out in the street. I see her wanting to learn languages, and picking up the Japanese words they use in her karate class faster than almost any other kid.
I have to believe that enough work on the garden will allow the sunlight in, and she will bloom and grow. I have to believe in her potential and her dreams and her future against all odds. I have to. I am her mom.