The Dyslexic Frustration Game

As parents we’re pretty vigilant that our kids do their homework, give more than their best to their school work, keep their grades up and reach for more than just getting by.

We’re probably more attentive to our son’s educational career than our daughters right now for many reasons, all of which are wrapped up tight with the Dyslexia bow tie.

Ace is a well adjusted kid with above average intelligence yet his test grades give the impression that he doesn’t study, that he doesn’t put in any effort and that he doesn’t care.

This is a frustrating issue for him. When he sees test after test come back with less than stellar grades, he gets annoyed and frustrated that no matter how hard he studies, how many times he stays after school for extra help, he’ll never achieve the grades that seem to come so easy to his sister. This frustration then dampens his enthusiasm for school and the class, or classes, he struggles with the most.

What’s frustrating for us, as parents, is seeing this in our son, despite knowing what he can accomplish and searching for ways to help him over look test scores and focus on putting in effort, giving that extra above your best. Not to mention the constant pitched battle of getting an active teenage boy to spend more hours studying, despite the success he has had in other classes after extra study time.

We have high expectations of our kids when it comes to school. We expect them to put in more than the average effort and time, demand that their homework be done before entertainment and that if grades fall extra –curricular activities such as sports, video game time and friend time, will be limited. It’s what parents should be doing. Isn’t this part of the job description?

The frustrating reality is that in high school, test grades do matter, especially when it comes to getting into college.

As Ace got headed into freshman year, we pushed him harder to overcome some of his biggest challenges. As a kid with Dyslexia, literacy has always been the hardest subject; all the reading, summarizing, writing and analysis is a daunting prospect. Over the teacher’s objections and the administrations hesitancy, Ace took an Honors English class as a high school freshman. The teacher was informed of Ace’s Dyslexia and, after voicing her concerns about him being placed in her class, agreed to see how he progressed. To help him with the reading assignments, we made sure he had the Audiobook version of all his books as well, so he could listen to the cadence of the book, reinforce the rhythm of the language and further absorb the content of the book, all of which can be very difficult for him when he reads. He spent time after school with the teacher, he wrote and rewrote and rewrote essays before the final version made it to the teacher. He didn’t do all that well on his tests, but at the end of the class he got a B and the teacher’s opinion had done a complete reversal. She complimented him on his work ethic, on how involved he was in class, she told him, and us, that she wished she could have given him more one on one time because he was clearly a good student and wanted to learn. All of this positive reinforcement, recognition of the effort and what he learned in that class uplifted him. He read more after being in that class, dove into new books, and felt that he could master his dyslexia. This was a huge success for him.

He had the same experience in an Honors History class his first semester as a sophomore. The teacher worked with him, understood some of the struggles Ace encountered and made sure to give him the opportunities he needed to succeed, but didn’t go out of his way to make it easy for Ace. The expectations were the same, read the material, do the homework, participate in class. There were no allowances made, just an understanding of the issues and the offer of time and assistance when needed. Ace did well in the class, he learned the material, he liked and trusted the teacher, but again his test scores weren’t great. He would come home with a C on a test, pissed off because he’d spent hours studying his history book, reviewing his class notes (not without considerable nagging from us that he study more because hey, Teenage Boy here who wants to eat and be out with his friends.) but he sees these grades as failures of effort. We try to remind him that these are far from failures. If a kid with an auditory processing disorder and dyslexia can get B’s in an honors class, well, I’d say he’s doing more than okay. He’s having trouble acknowledging that fact.

We try to reinforce the positive, to keep his eye on the successes, to remember that the classes he’s taking are harder, demand more of his him and effort. Not an easy thing to get from him because he’s an active kid who would rather be out playing baseball or playing Xbox.

And then there was Honors Geometry this semester.

Once again, the teacher was clear that she didn’t think Ace’s grades were strong enough to be in her class. As Ace began the semester, he immediately struggled. The material was hard and new, the class moved fast and there was little time to absorb unfamiliar material. Ace was frustrated and began to pull back on his efforts to work more. He didn’t want to stay after with the teacher, was quietly resistant to getting extra help and was clearly unhappy. The teacher suggested to him that he transfer out of Honors Geometry.

This path of frustration, of low homework grades continued and then he did poorly on another test. This time the teacher wrote on his test that maybe he should transfer out of Honors Geometry.

He was angry, sad and hurt. He asked if we would transfer him out so he didn’t fail this class.

Sometimes it’s better to step back and reevaluate. That very day he was transferred to another Geometry class.

There was fault on both sides, a circular failing that went round and round for a few weeks.

The teacher didn’t want Ace in her class and Ace knew that. When he didn’t do well, the teacher wouldn’t help him beyond the basics. When further help was not forthcoming and grades dipped, Ace didn’t dig in and put more effort into succeeding, he pulled back and took the “why bother” approach. The teacher viewed this as another reason he did not belong in her class.

Maybe, if the teacher had given him a little support, more help and been open, Ace might have responded and put more effort into the material, because when he wants to learn something, nothing stops him.

This was a missed opportunity for both teacher and student. Who knows, maybe if they had given each other more of a chance, they would have found the key to the problem, but instead, they both gave up.

I’m a little disappointed in my son, and told him the reasons why I feel that way, but having seen him succeed in similar situations, I know what he is capable of, and frankly this will be a blip on the trajectory of the person he’s becoming.

I’m more disappointed in the teacher, because it’s her job to lift up students like my son, to nurture the curious minds that might struggle, but instead she chose to push him out and focus on the students that she felt deserved her attention.

I sometimes wonder if we’re pushing too hard, urging him to reach for more with Honors classes. Maybe we should just let him take the standard grade appropriate classes and get good solid grades. But, as I even think that, I know as he gets older, goes to college and enters the workforce, he’s going to need to work just a little harder, put in a little more effort, in areas of life that his dyslexia impacts.

Isn’t teaching him now that the extra effort is worth the reward preparing him for that life?

Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?

Wouldn’t it be failing my son if I let him coast and expect that he’ll just get by?

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.