Friday, July 02, 2010

I wrote the middle section of this post a couple of weeks ago, when we had not yet gotten the full report from the psychologist. When we received the report a week ago I was somewhat surprised to see that the diagnosis also included "Reading Disability". At our parents' interview the psychologist suggested tutoring as Ella was behind for grade level, but I didn't seem to connect that with dyslexia. Perhaps she came to the final conclusion after our interview, we discussed our reading habits with Ella at home. Perhaps I was a little bit in shock and didn't really hear much of anything after the first 5 minutes!

I've been debating about writing about this topic, because in some ways it seems an invasion of Ella's privacy. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't hesitate to write about a sprained ankle or another bout of pneumonia, and this shouldn't really be any different. But for the same reason I don't often write about depression, because I don't think of myself as "depressed person", I struggle to write about ELla and ADHD - because she is not just ADHD.
We learned of her diagnosis on Monday, and somehow, even though the testing was my idea, I made the appointments with the psychologist, I filled out the behavior surveys and pregnancy, birth, whole entire life histories...I was still surprised when she said "I feel that ADHD would be an appropriate diagnosis for Ella." I'm not sure what I was hoping for - I told Tom that there were two apparent outcomes: Either there is something "wrong" with my child, or there is something "wrong" with our parenting of our child. In reality it is much more complicated than that, but at the end of the day, nobody wins.
Lots of people seemed surprised that we would have her tested, no one at school had requested it, she was doing alright academically, but those nagging little things just wouldn't go away. Her apparent lack of understanding of personal space, the attacking displays of affection, the seeming disregard for other people, the stair step pattern that her reading ability seemed to follow. She is one of the youngest kids in her grade, and it was really hard to distinguish between age-related immaturity and actual problematic issues (For example, would her attention span seem short if she were in kindergarten instead of first grade? Would she be a better student?)
She is starting a new school next year, and I am worried about how it will go. She made good progress last year, with behavior cue cards on her desk and simple reminders. One of the most frightening things the psycholigist said had nothing to do with Ella, but rather the Iowa City schools: "Our kindergartens are not functionally appropriate for kindergarten aged children."


There is a such a push to get as many kids as possible doing "well enough" that kids who struggle have to fail spectacularly to get help. It has been recommended that Ella be tested again for dyslexia by her school district (as only their testing can be used for qualification of special ed. help, etc.). Unless she tests below the 40th percentile for her grade, she won't be deemed in need of assistance. But reading is really only taught for a few years, and success in every other subject flows from being able to read both competently and quickly. Buy the time her reading struggles have compounded to the point that she qualifies for extra help, she is likely to be in an vortex of academic decline. I am so thankful that Ella's grandma is an early elementary teacher with an emphasis on reading and special ed - I can't help but feel optimistic that even though we have a lot of work to do around here we are surrounded by a bevy of qualified caring people to help us along the way.

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