A few days ago, I was blessed with the oppertunity to sit down and talk with a substitute school teacher who is the sister of one of my mom's close friends. The reason I wanted to write a blog about this was because during this experience of talking to her I got to see what its like from the teacher view point in having to deal with children in their classrooms who have learning disabilities and the ones who have yet to be diagnosed.
This whole conversation began with me telling her all about my frustrations at MUN with the lack of services there and why I was going back to Fredericton to St Thomas. After I explained myself she was very interested to know what I struggled with in terms of my learning and wanted to know all about Auditory Processing Disorder and me being horrible at explaining things verbally by continuously loosing my train of thought and having difficulties sequncing what I wanted to say I did some how mannage to be able to educate her in some of my own areas of difficulty and what I have recently been reading on APD. As we were talking she was saying how there is a boy in her class that she fills in for sometimes has a lot of the same difficulties that I mentioned. She also mentioned that this kid is extremly bright and works hard and she can see that but its very clear that he struggles. When she told me this after I had told her about APD I felt so good knowing that I had helped educate a teacher about APD and hopefully have helped this little boy who is struggling to get some help as he is still only in elementary school and the earlier they find out the better.
Throughout the conversation I also mentioned how so many times APD gets misdiagnosed as ADD which got her on the topic of how there are student in her class that have been diagnosed and there are a few others that she thinks may have it. She also mentioned how she had brought it to the attention of some parents that she has deffinitly seen issues in and so many parents get so sensitive when they hear a teacher say that because for some reason some parents don't want their children burdened with a label. However, like this school teacher pointed out which I never thought of before was " If a kid is really struggling, they are already going to be looked at differently and teased by classmates, by diagnosing them it isn't giving them a label its giving them a reason as to why they act the way they do". I personally believe, that the major issue in our society is that people see it as a sign of weakness or a bad thing to have a learning disability but honestly, if our teachers, parents, and so on look at a learning disability as just something that some kids have that make them learn a little differently, and that was being taught to the next generation I don't think there would be so much stigma behind it. People make such a big deal about kids having this 'label' when really, without it they feel stupid because they don't understand why they are the way they are and THAT is the crime!
After further discussion with this teacher, I got to see more through her eyes what it is like to teach a room full of kids every day and how it is so hard for a teacher to give children attention. She also told me that for her, she can see the difference in a child who truly is trying but is struggling and a child who isn't trying and even she believes it isn't fair to write off a kid as a hard case because yeah they may be but there is a reason for it and instead of writing them off, people need to be dealing with the problem. She also told me how even though she can tell the difference, she admitted that she is not educated in the area of learning disabilities and wouldn't know what name to put on it or what kind of LD it would be and THAT reassures me that the issue is lack of education. Why is it when a teacher is in school being taught to teach a room of kids, they are not taught about learning disabilities and how to treat kids with them. I realize that all teachers can't be at the masters level of knowing the ins and out of LDs and knowing how to diagnose them which is fine that is what we have our speech language, our guidance counselors, psychologist and audiologist for HOWEVER they should be given basic knowledge of how to see it in children and how best to intervene.
This teacher also told me another major issue is once they see the issue is getting the child evaluated. Why is it there is such a long line of waiting for a child to get tested for anything? She told me how they have a wonderful guidance counselor who is very informative however with one guidance counselor and so many struggling kids how does everything get done? For one thing there is not enough people in the schools or wherever else to be testing. If a parent wants a diagnosis for their child often times they have to go and pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to get their child tested because there is too big of a wait in the schools and often times many parents can't afford to do that so in this case the child has to sit tight and suffer until a final diagnosis is made and even then so many times there is a misdiagnosis and the testing goes on for years.
So, in saying all this, I want to say that I admire the teachers who go out on a limb and try to make a difference in childrens lives because really isn't that what teaching is all about? I know throughout my school days and even so far in university I have had teachers like that who have went out on a limb for me many times however that was AFTER the diagnosis. For me, I was told I was lazy, not trying and so on until I was diagnosed. Can you imagine being a kid being told that for so long and trying so hard yet everyone telling you your not trying hard enough? The key to all of this is to educate our teachers. A classroom is like a shoe, there is no 'one size fits all' because every student is different and even are most caring teachers are not educated and so unless the parent notices, these kids continue to fall through the cracks.
In saying all this, it is not up to us to help and get the word out there. No one knows more than someone who lives with it, or a parent who has watched their child live with it so now we need to open to key to the box of our knowledge and continue telling people about APD until we are blue in the face and not just APD but all learning disabilities. It is my wish that in the future less and less kids go through the pain of not being diagnosed until years and years into the school system. I know personally of people who were not diagnosed as having LD until they were in grade 12. Can you imagine going through your whole school career struggling like that? So lets raise our voices and make a stand and make a difference.
There is a song I heard a few days ago and I am going to add it to the end here so you guys can listen! This song speaks to me because its what I wanna do. I know that with Gods strength and grace along with the support of my APD family I can help and spread the word! I know that I can help make a difference and set the world on fire!