In this blog entry of Aspergers Syndrome Corner 3, Dawn talks about raising a child with Aspergers. This particular entry deals with Kelsea's K-3rd grade experiences.
Dawn is an avid advocate for Aspergers and after 20 years of living with a child that has Aspergers she agreed to write these blog entries for me so that she could help other families that have an Aspergers child at home.
Raising a special needs child is surely one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced in my life. It took many years before I realized that you need to take just one day at a time. Before I figured that out, I would collapse into bed at night (often in tears), trying not to dread the next morning when we would have to start all over again.
At times my life seemed like it was going in circles, accomplishing nothing with Kelsea and I was a bit hopeless about it all. I was also feeling sorry for myself, as I had grown up in a very difficult home with a violent, alcoholic father. Now I was dealing with an emotionally violent daughter.
I just didn't see how this was fair. But then life isn't always fair, is it. And there is always someone else that is dealing with issues more trying than your own. I heard once that if it was possible to throw everyone's problems in a big pile and you could choose one, you would most likely just pick the one you already had.
When Kelsea started Kindergarten I was honestly quite thrilled to have the daytime hours back to myself where I could regain my sanity! But Kelsea's struggles in the primary grades were just beginning. I learned very quickly that I had to stay on top of everything or she would fall even farther behind than she was. I had to supplement a lot of what she was learning at school with activities at home.
Her first major struggle was reading. All the other students had already figured it out and had moved on to books, but she just couldn't grasp how to put the letters together to make the words. So I scoured the stores to find "Bob" books that were designed to teach reading. We went over and over those little books until one day, in almost miraculous fashion, the proverbial light bulb came on!
As I had said in my introductory blog, it would take her forever to learn something, but once she got it, SHE GOT IT! Once she learned to read, she read everything she could get her hands on. She even won the reading award at her Kindergarten graduation! If you had seen her struggling to put letters together just months earlier, you wouldn't have believed she could have achieved that.
We knew that Kelsea was of above level intelligence, yet her struggle to learn anything had us baffled. You had to do repetition till you wanted to puke just to get enough of it into her brain till it clicked. I know they have much better ways of teaching those with learning disabilities now, but at that time I just worked with the minimal information that I had.
The whole process of attempting to teach her was teaching me as well. I couldn't just sit back and let the schools do everything, I had to be 100% actively involved or she would have failed everything.
However, when she hit 2nd grade, it became obvious that her learning disabilities were more profound than previously thought, and we needed professional help. We had to make some choices.
Our choices were to continue the private school or switch to public school. If we picked private tutoring it would costs use hundreds of dollars more a month on private tutoring (on top of the private school tuition.
If we chose the public school choice we could take advantage of the free help we would get there. That was kind of a financial no-brainer for us.
So, mid-way through 2nd grade we withdrew her from the private school. She started in the public school just down the street from our home. Thus began a couple years of life that I would call "relief" for me and MY brain!
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