Last fall, I began a more formal homeschool attempt with my eldest daughter, Sophia, who was newly 6 years old.
It was a disaster.
There were meltdowns galore. Her attempts were fraught with anxiety; she couldn’t seem to remember to hold her pencil correctly for more than 5 seconds; she couldn’t follow a simple two or three-step set of directions. I was completely blindsided by my bright, creative, articulate little girl’s apparent inability to do the simplest of Kindergarten type academic work.
I was also desperately exhausted and nauseated by morning sickness with my third baby. So we put schooling on hold indefinitely and went back to just sitting on the couch and reading library books for hours at a time. That was about all I had the energy for, given the resistance I was facing, and even then I often awoke with a book on my face and a blanket tenderly tucked around me by my sweet girls!
Instead of homeschool in the fall, I did research. The big fail with the academics, combined with other behavioral issues we’d been dealing with for years, raised some particular red flags. I read and resonated soundly with Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, and then got ahold of a copy of The Out-of-Sync Child. I met with a learning specialist in town, who referred me to a child psychiatrist, who referred me to a clinical psychologist, and we set up a half-day of testing for Sophia.
The results were eye-opening.
On the Wechsler Intelligence Test for Children (WISC-IV), she - unsurprisingly for anyone who’s ever held a conversation with our precociously articulate child - scored in the 97th percentile for Verbal Comprehension. However, she bombed the Working Memory section with a score in the 18th percentile. She also tested in the 19th percentile for visual-motor integration (VMI - on the Beery test).
People who have such large gaps between their abilities and disabilities are at risk for a whole slew of other problems, including Anxiety (check), Depression (check), ADD/ADHD (we’ll see), and more. Kids who score as intellectually “gifted” but also are disabled in another are called “Twice Exceptional” or 2e. (That wikipedia link, by the way, almost perfectly describes Sophia.)
It was a bit overwhelming at first to have the test results back. On the one hand, it was a relief to have some labels to apply to what we’d been experiencing with Sophia. On the other hand, there was this desperate feeling of, “Oh my God, my child is broken!”
So, I HLWed myself.
Whenever I get overwhelmed, my first instinct is to arm myself with knowledge. I made a bookmark folder called “Sophia’s Brain” and filled it with all kinds of links and information. It’s definitely a work in progress, and I’m not going to go into all of it here. I’m sure I’ll write more about our journey (in fact, I have one post in the queue already). My husband, Leslie, already wrote a poignant blog post about our meeting with the psychologist at the end of an already difficult week, here. It’s good. He’s good. You should read his blog, too. I love him.
Anyway, this fall, I’m going to start again, but slowly. Very, very slowly. I highly suspect that Sophia has dyslexia (this checklist is about 95% her) and possibly handwriting dysgraphia, although her attempts at writing are still too rudimentary to tell. I discovered this flavor of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) called: Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and was dumbfounded. I didn’t know there was a term for what I’ve always described as “She just gets on a different radio frequency than us and doesn’t hear what we are actually saying. Somewhere in the ether between my mouth and her ears, my words get twisted into something entirely different!”
My main goal this fall is to have Sophia be able to recognize all her letters (and their sounds) and numbers, and be able write them well. That’s it. I’m also going to get her some additional testing - I’d like to at least get her tested for an official SPD diagnosis so that we can get her into Occupational Therapy for it. She has some fine and gross motor control issues that definitely need to be addressed, plus potentially the auditory thing. Since she’s not reading/writing, I think it will be hard to catch the dyslexia/dysgraphia, but it’s something I want to ask about.
This post is getting very rambly, and I’m sorry! I think my website has been mostly silent this year because of all this stuff going on behind the scenes (not just Sophia’s assessment, but Leslie going through a huge career transition, my getting ever so slightly unexpectedly pregnant, not knowing where we were going to be living/moving, surviving a looooong period of disequilibrium from Sophia, where all her symptoms were heightened to a nearly unlivable level) and I haven’t been able to write about it until now. But now I’m looking toward the new school year and finding my feet as a mommy of three (wow, is it hard!), and realizing that I process so much better in writing.
And as always, I want to help. Hopefully as I write down bits of my journey, it will click with someone out there. I have been immensely helped by the writings of others online, and this little site is my offering back to the world wide web. :)