"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind... We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith." -- Margaret D. Nadauld

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The First Born in Our Wilderness (The School Years)

Buttercup was happy as a little girl. She was born a pure blood princess and with that distinction came the ups and downs of royal life.

We lived in Portland for the first three years of her life and then moved to the Oregon Coast for the next three. She lived in dresses and altered prom dresses that I found at garage sales. She had multiple crowns and several pairs of dress-up high heels. She would rarely be seen wearing a pair of pants... only at my insistence when we were spending a bitterly cold day on the beach (which, on the Oregon Coast, happens frequently).

She met her handsome prince -- the man I still have hopes that she will marry in about 5 years (not before) .

We even had their engagement photo taken!

When Buttercup was 6 Max got a job in Florin and we moved just in time for her to start first grade.

Things started to change a little bit when she started school. She refused to try to read. She couldn't put a puzzle together. I just thought it was her personality. These were activities like that seemed to be beneath the princess' notice. With the help of a very patient teacher, she finally started reading in first grade but when it was time to move from picture story books to chapter books, she dug her heels in and fought me tooth and nail. She couldn't ride a bike without training wheels (she finally conqured that in 2nd grade). When she figured math problems they were twisty curvy all over the page instead of in columns.

I was working at her elementary school and discussed these issues with her teachers, but since I was employed there, these teachers were my friends... they gave her lots of extra attention and helped her muddle through. Her grades indicated that she was a top student.

When she started 4th grade, we moved from our rental into a home we purchased and she started attending a new school. I was still working at the old elementary school and didn't have a relationship with her new teacher. The new teacher seemed to despise both of us. Buttercup's grades and self esteem plummeted. My sweet princess was now getting in trouble for behavioral problems... throwing pencils at her friends in anger, yelling at kids, frequent bouts of crying spells. The teacher didn't help. Her dislike of Buttercup and her unwillingness to talk to me made me feel like this was the root of our problems. Hopefully, 5th grade (Middle School in Florin) would be better.

The beginning of 5th grade was life changing for Buttercup. She had been an only child for 10 long, lonely years. She had prayed for a sibling and had asked Santa Clause for a sibling for years. The week before school started, she finally had her new baby brother, Inigo. So... she started a new grade; a new school; a new type of school; and had a new brother. That's a lot to take in. And that's what we thought was the problem when she started doing badly in school again.

This teacher seemed more concerned and more willing to help. But there were no answers. It always came back to the thought that her problems were behavioral due to the changes in her life.

Finally, in 6th grade, I had had enough. I knew that she wasn't lazy. I knew she wasn't mean. I knew that she was SMART!!! I knew that there was something else at the root of the problem. So I took the matters into my own hands, and took her to see a child psychologist.

And there we found our answer!!!!

My beautiful daughter has a learning disability called Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NLD). I won't go into the details of the disorder here, but you can read a short synopsis of it here. Now that we finally had a diagnosis we were able to start looking for the correct kind of help. We got a speech therapist that worked with the spacial issues that kids with NLD have. We went to the school and got her on a 504 plan. She didn't qualify for an IEP because our wonderful (sarcasm) state doesn't recognize NLD as a true learning disability. (Don't get me started on THAT!)

In 7th grade, we pulled her out of public school. She had gone undiagnosed for so long that she was several grades behind in her abilities. She was doing math on a 3rd grade level, reading and social studies were only slightly higher. If we wanted our daughter to succeed and find happiness in life, we had to take immediate action.

That was a tough year for her. She wanted to be at school with her friends, but we knew that she would never catch up without extra help that the school/state wouldn't offer, so we insisted that she do a year of home school -- more if she needed it. We made a compromise.... she would ride the bus to school every day for her orchestra class; then I would come pick her up and she could come home and do school work; THEN I would drive her back to the school so she could eat lunch with her friends; THEN I would come back and pick her up so she could do more school at home. That was a lot of driving, but we felt like it was worth it. Kids with NLD suffer socially just as much as they do academically and she needed that interaction just as much as she needed to improve her math skills.

Academically that year was exactly what Buttercup needed!!! When she started 8th grade (now in Jr. High) she was right on with the rest of her classmates, and had even passed them in some areas. We allowed her to go back to public school.

(Yea for you if you have stuck with me in telling Buttercup's story. It's longer than I thought it would be, but I'm so proud of her and all that she's overcome that I want to make sure I tell her story the right way. My next post will be my final entry of this story.)


Kristi said...

Wow Smelli! You are an amazing mom! I always knew that, but this just reiterates it.

Yvonne said...

That is amazing. She is so blessed to have such a wonderful mom who knew of her potential. Way to go.

I'm looking forward to the next chapter.