Aggressive Acceptance

I’m bookending Kathy’s post this week with a few additional thoughts on homeschooling a 2e child; where she did more of the why and what, I’m going to talk a little about the how of the decision. Specifically, there were three processes that I felt like, if we went back and could do them over again, we might have handled differently. The first was our speed to acknowledgment; the second was our boldness of decision; and the third was the shift in our educational strategy. All three are probably easier to define in their inverse, which is exactly what we did: we were slow to figure out what H was struggling with, tentative in the steps we took initially to work on it, and corrective – rather than pragmatic – in our approach to dyscalculia.

Learning disabilities can be notoriously difficult to spot in gifted kids, simply because there’s so much horsepower on tap that kids can often find a different route to managing tasks that might just be impossible for other children. Both H and A, for example, got the same math facts sheet for every number group – the 6’s started with 6×9, then 6×4, then 6×6, every day – so they just memorized their way through the sheet. (Crafty devils). A  – who runs toward the unmotivated side in reading, although we’re not 100% sure there’s not something else at work with him – could literally memorize, and read back, any book he’d ever had read aloud to him. We finally had to tell teachers to test his reading specifically on books not included in the read-aloud portion of the class. H had so much raw processing power available to her down other channels that she managed to get through a great deal of formal ‘math’ without learning any of it – so by the time we really started seeing cracks appear in her math skills, she’d been struggling with dyscalculia for years. If we’d done more detective work beneath her math grades, and investigated issues like analog clock reading more closely, we might have gotten to it before we did.

Similarly, once we did know what we were contending with, we edged toward a solution rather than making a bold leap. Tutors, manipulatives, pullout sessions with aides – they were band-aids on a gaping wound. We would probably have been better served to pull H out for a year and work intensively with her on building up both mathematical confidence and basic skills. Instead, we took advantage of what’s often served up to parents with 504s – a host of half-measures that mitigate, and manage, a situation that needs more. We were changing tires and oil on a car that needed an engine overhaul – and once we finally stopped frittering around the fringe of H’s disability, and got to work with her full-time last year, we saw real results and demonstrable progress.

Finally, there’s the issue of whether we’re trying to whittle a child into form or prepare her for the world she’s going to live in. I could likely sit with H for the better part of a year just on a concept like long division by hand – but what am I telling her by doing so? Do I believe she should be doing manual long division as a primary mathematical tool in her adult life? (Do I believe anyone should be doing manual long division as a primary mathematical tool, let alone someone with dyscalculia?) The reality is that H will come of age in an era that will feature unprecedented access to arithmetic and financial management tools, and I’d be far better off teaching her to run with a knee brace than insist on a thousand fruitless leg lunges a day. Add to which, by teaching her to use the tools that will be available to her – calculators, spreadsheets, Mathematica, etc – I can leave more room in her day to explore areas in which she has some genuine and often-dazzling mathematical gifts, such as algebra. There is so much focus in the popular press on educating children with learning disabilities to move children stubbornly toward normalcy that it’s possible to lose sight of the advantages of embracing the condition and teaching for a practical future of managing its challenges.

I wouldn’t call any of these a regret, in the long-run view of things; we got H into an environment that’s working fantastically well for her. But for other parents contending with the educational strategy for a 2e child, I’d certainly call them factors I wish I had been – at the same time – more aggressive about and more accepting of.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Dyscalculia Story and Aggressive Acceptance – Chasing […]

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