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Parent Stories: "After Years of Failure ... a Miracle"

One mom's struggle to identify her son's learning disability and get him the services he needs.

By GreatSchools Staff

"Elaine" is the mom of three children with special needs. She lives in California with her family. We've changed her name and that of her son

because of a confidential legal settlement she reached with the school district.

Elaine's oldest child, "Luke," is now 16 and has speech and learning disabilities. Her second son is 14 and has been diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. Her daughter, 7, was a late talker and received special education services in pre-kindergarten. Elaine spends a lot of her time dealing with her children's disabilities and trying to be sure they are getting the help they need. "My children's disabilities are my volunteer work!" she said.

This is the story of Elaine's journey to get Luke the services he needs. It was a journey that took careful research, persistence and forceful advocacy. But her son is succeeding today. "After years of failure at school, it was nothing short of a miracle," she says.

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Learn more about how to help your child with special needs.

First Signs of Difficulty

Elaine suspected early on that Luke might have a learning difficulty. Her youngest brother was dyslexic, so she had some experience with learning disabilities. When Luke was a pre-schooler, Elaine noticed that his language and fine motor skills were delayed. She said, "He was very sweet, but his writing and drawing were delayed, he didn't like to color and he didn't want to read books with me." Elaine knew that language delays are often the first indicator of learning disabilities and decided to have Luke evaluated.

Elaine arranged for a private evaluation for Luke, and he was diagnosed as having inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a speech disorder called oral and motor apraxia. Children with oral (or speech) apraxia have trouble planning and producing the precise movements of the mouth necessary for intelligible speech. Motor apraxia affects coordination and balance in gross and fine motor movements. For example, a child with motor apraxia might have difficulty with writing or tying shoelaces. Apraxia can affect success in school and social development.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/18/2009:
"Hello everyone! I have a 18 daughter with MR(mild mental retardation), emotional problems & LD. She also has audio & visual hallucinations. I'm writing this because I feel as though there isn't nearly enough schools, help or knowledge about MR & how to tell when your child has it at an early age. Any ideas about this? anyone could answer. "
07/7/2009:
"I just want to suggest all that teach your kids yoga and pranayam for concentration. search on you tube .Ask them to do it for 30 min morning plus give them Mineral suppiliment."
06/1/2009:
"I recommend The reading Clinic in Bay Area. When my son entered third grade he was reading at a first grade level. After just six weeks at The Reading Clinic, he was up to grade level. I couldn't believe how easy it was for him to get, and how much he enjoyed the whole process. www.thereadingclinic.com"
05/30/2008:
"We are an American family living in South America. I have a 10 year old boy who goes to an american school, he is in 4th grade and he has been diagnosed ADHD. He takes hours to do homework and he does so only when is supervised. In class, the teacher reports many distractions, and he rarely completes his class work. He forgets his school supplies in school or at home, falling behind. He also refuses to excersise and is gainig waight quickly. Please, any advise or suggestions are welcome. Also, is there any federal funding from the US Governmente to US citizens living overseas, to find him especial help and physicla therapy? MANY THANKS. Michael"
04/22/2008:
"You know what I noticed ? We all have the same promblem and nobody is helping us help our kids !!!! It makes me soooooooooooooooooooo mad I could scream !!!! I am so frustrated with the school system , they think they know everything and they know squat !!! As you can tell I am not happy . Noone is helping me not only does my son have visual impairment from a premature birth but he developmentlly delayed and has other issues that we haven't diagnosed yet . Still WAITING to see the child study center . I am also dealing with my own physical problems with dialysis while I wait for a transplant . Dear God , I can't take anymore !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
03/5/2008:
"i need help i have a 17 yr that was diagnosed at the age of 5 with ADHD and slightly mr. he has so many behavioral issues and the district does't seem to care that he has these and is not learning. i am afraid for him he doesn't seem to like school,has been fined for truancy by the jp, $1000.00. i am seeking someone from the legal profesion that may be willing to assist me. i am a single mom of two, and have limited resources, but i am desperately trying to help my son. he hit by a door last week and they say it was an accident, he received 6 stitches, the nurse called me and said he would need 1. nothing was done to the other student because it was an accident. pleas help me. i appreciate any advise."
01/28/2008:
"For those in New York, Sp Ed attorney Andrew Cuddy has a great reputation. He has a book out called the special education battlefield. Maybe he can get the help your child needs. Many times schools wait so long to help kids that they need lots of expensive tutoring and/or specialized schools in order to get an education equal to their neurotypical peers. Otherwise, the drop out rate and the incarceration rate for these kids is very high. "
01/2/2008:
"Hi Everyone. This is Elaine. I just wanted to thank you for all your kind words. It is so difficult to deal learning issues. Both dealing with the child's issues, finding methods that work and dealing with a school district that can quickly turn adversarial when money starts entering the picture. It is worth the fight. The school just wants to pass your child along, but YOU will have them forever and it is up to you alone to make sure they can be self supporting members of society. These kids have a much higher probablity of becoming incarcerated and it is up to us to make sure they are educated properly. It is important to know that most special education masters programs dosn't teach the teachers the proper reading methologies available that work with dyslexic kids. Yet we rely on those special ed teachers in public schools to KNOW how to teach the kids. It is a really sad and unfair situation of all involved. "
11/12/2007:
"Hi my name is Joi. I am having a hard time finding a school that will that teaches the Lindamood Bell here in Tallahassee. He is attending public school(a school that has yet to make the grade over C)The last two years the made a failing grade.My son has a current IEP. My son has a speech impediment. I don't feel that my son is receiving the attention that he needs to excel. I feel there are too many students to one teacher. The teacher keeps telling me what I need to do. I am doing the absolute best that I can with teaching my son. I don't know what to do. I don't want my son to fail. My so id below grade level in basically all his academic classes. I can't find a private school to accept him right now because it is so late after the begin of school. The Woodland Academy seems to be a great school where i feel my son will learn I do not have the money to pay the rest of tuition that the McKay Scholarship will pay for. I also do not have the money to travel the distance eve! ryday for my son to attend that school. Right now I am facing that my son will be repeating the same grade again. Please help me? What do I do to help my son get the education he needs to excel in school. "
10/31/2007:
"I read this story and have one similar except my son, who at age 6 was diagnosed with ADHD, ended up having a severe developmental vision problems which has all the same symptoms as ADHD. Having fought for years in my school district in NY, I took him outside the district for evaluation. After 26 weeks of vision therapy (which by the way, a developmental vision problem is considered a learning disability), my son is back on track at school after struggling for years in school and fighting with the district every step of the way. Now it is just a matter of getting him caught up to speed with focusing, paying attention and getting his work done in a timely manner that we are working on now. What a difference your vison makes. Vision is the muscle and how they relate to how your eyes work. Sight is what you see out of. There are alot of school district who are not aware or are aware but do not want to let on that they are so they do not have to pay for the therapy. It m! akes a difference in a child educational world."
10/24/2007:
"This story truly touched me and gives me hope that there is help out there somewhere. I have been struggling to find some help for my 12 year old son. He was diagnosed LD and Dyslexic. He is in 7th grade and hates school. I will continue to pursue getting the right help. Thank you!"
10/2/2007:
"I would like to point out that it was not until Luke's evaluation with a neuropsychologist that the family got an accurate and complete picture of Luke as a learner. If the school has been unsuccessful in identifying your child's needs or remedying his/her problems (ie progress), please see a neuropsychologist for an evaluation. They look at the child's entire cognitive profile: language, perceptual skills, motor speed, executive skills, and attention. "
10/1/2007:
"after 2 1/2 of going from one specalist to another my daughter was diagnosed with ADHS. She is on the proper meds now and is doing wonderful. For the teachers she is still a target. She always has been a very good child, tried hard, high I.Q. yet couldn't keep up until recently. We have been threatened by the school board, the state and everyone in between that she was going to be sent away and I was going to jail. This trama was unnecessary and has my child afraid of poilice that actually took my sleeping child from her bed when she was sick. They told her I was going to jail and she would lose her mom, her home and her brothers. I sought the help of a physicatist who put her on anti- depressants and she became worse. She was then hospital home bound. By a fluke of dicussing all the doctors we had been through and how exhausted we were her pediatrician recommended meds for ADHD. She is the same sweet little angle she was before and getting good grades. She is a ! success in the eyes of her doctor but still a failure in the eyes of the school board because they had to hold her back a year. We were always going to see specialists. Is there anyway to prevent someone from having to go through what we had to go throuh? I know it is not over yet. If my child is sick a day she has to have a doctors excuse. Other children who stay home with a cold or flu are allowed to run its course. How do we educate the educated?"
09/27/2007:
"My daughter who is almost 11 and in 4th grade has many learning disabilities and has been on an IEP since preschool. She gets all the services from her school, but progress is very slow. A neuropsychologist recommended a specific program, Stevenson reading program, for her. Even though her intervention teacher has adopted the program, it is very slow going because there are many other kids in the class. My daughter needs some one on one time with this program. The problem I face is that her IQ is 70 and all the programs in the area will not accept a child with a low IQ even though her comprehension skills are at or above grade level. I really don't know what to do. I have tried to teach the program myself, but she needs intensive training."
08/6/2007:
"My son is now 10 years old. He had attended Inglewood Elementary in Nashville, TN. Of the years there all I received was phone calls that my son had behaviroal problems and dropping grades. They would call and harass me while I was at work. I attended a S Team meeting and was told that my child had Bipolar but no observation was being made in the classroom. They made no attempt to help my child. I took him to a Psychologist over the summer and had a IQ testing on him. He is diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, and a below average IQ with A learning disability. The school would not help him because it took too much time. I even had a doctor statement for them to do a complete psycho testing on him and they did nothing except call and complain everyday. I now have enrolled him in Dan Mills, and I hope that we will have a better year. My family needs help from God and the faculty of Dan Mills so that my child will have a better year. He was teased so much by other children a! nd it really hurt him and his attitude and self esteem"
06/20/2007:
"I experienced many of the same things this parent experienced with my son, who is now 13. After 3 years of IEP's, lawyers and battles I decided to home-school my son. He is diagnosed with expressive/receptive language disorder. When we left the school district 3 years ago, he was in fourth grade, producing pre-K work, extremely stressed about his learning environment and had no friends. He now works at and above grade level, is a competitive swimmer, performs in community theatre and is very social. Sadly,this parent's situation is the norm, rather than the exception. What I would add to her comments is run, don't walk, to the nearest remediation program or home-school program with your child. The public school system is not learner friendly to those with learning differences. I started home-schooling my son and grew to home-schooling other children with learning disabilities. All of my students have come from Special Day Classes(SDC) in our school district. Without exception, they amaze me, themselves and educators at the schools they transition to when they leave me. The level of learning that takes place in a very short period of time is astounding. For most of my students, it is the first time in years they have experienced success in the academic setting. As the parent in the article pointed out, independent evaluations can be expensive; I offer the parents of my students affordable (less than one visit to a psychologist), private evaluations that assesses for cause, not qualification. My students learn from state standard curriculum that is not watered-down. They are bright, inquisitve, motivated, learners. Until the schools start using licensed psychologists qualified to call the disability what it is, and remediating that specific area, children will continue to stagnate in the system, and schools will continue to serve up standardized Ind! ividual Education Plans(IEPs) to children of parents who don't know any better. I applaude this parent for not giving up and for advocating for her child."
06/20/2007:
"What a story. Where do I start with a 15 year old who is underperforming, has an IEP, but services do not improve his grades. He is bored, frustrated and wandering the hallways. We live in Queens, NY. Reading is at 4-5th grade level. School wants to send him to a specialized school, but the reputation of that school almost assures his defeat. "
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