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By Diane Swonk, M.A.E. , Linda Broatch, M.A.
Q: Has your experience of overcoming a learning disability affected the way that you parent your own children?
A: There is just no question that having a learning disability is already influencing the way I raise my daughter. One thing we affirm as a family is that no one is perfect, and perfection is not a goal in our house. What we try to stress is that she is unique and special in the world, but that has nothing to do with perfection. We have to accept all of the things we are, if we're going to deal with who we are - get over our weaknesses and embrace our strengths. Our strengths may be our weaknesses in disguise. We don't always know. That's what I've learned.
My daughter has a really hard time with numbers and flipping numbers, and subtraction has kind of thrown her. One of the things I have to emphasize to her because she didn't realize it, is that things aren't easy for Mommy all the time. Having overachievers in the household, sometimes your kids forget that things are hard. And it's okay that it's hard. Just because your teacher says there's one way to do it, that doesn't mean you can't figure what's best for you. Let's figure out what's best for you.
I pushed her school on the issue of dyslexia, because the reading program they're using I would have been terrified at. And the program they're using to spell would have terrified me. It's just amazing to me that in this day and age there is still such an enormous gap in educators' understanding of learning disabilities. In fact, someone who had suspected that my daughter might have a learning issue, said to me, "Well, I didn't realize she was in accelerated math, she's in accelerated reading, she's performing above her grade level in almost every way." And I said, "That doesn't matter." Her teacher didn't get it because she doesn't understand the difference between intelligence and learning [ability].
In first grade, my daughter had to complete an assignment that she'd worked on all weekend long. And the assignment was: What makes you special in this world? She hemmed and hawed and wanted help. I said, "No, no, no. You have to do it yourself." She handed me these four simple words when she was done on Monday morning, and I had tears in my eyes - [it had been a challenging week for many reasons] - because her words were: "I don't give up."
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