Cars are different (and so are kids!)

I've been offline because I've been out of town having my youngest son tested at Atlanta Speech School‘s learning evaluation clinic. They are the best testing service that I am aware of and they have completely changed the lives of my extended family! (They have found things others did not!)

I come from a family of extremely gifted (the tests prove it) but almost all of us have significant learning challenges (most people would call them learning disabilities.)

My first cousin is almost a 100% auditory learner. It makes it difficult if she has to extract material from the written word, but she has learned how. If she takes notes during lecture, her learning actually goes down.

I, however, learn very little in an auditory fashion. I take prolific notes because I know that within moments I will forget what the person has said unless I write it down. I guess I've sort of accommodated myself in that way.

My son, sister, and now youngest son have processing challeges of varying types. I'm really too drained to talk about it right now.

If someone doesn't know a person who has a learning challenge (the world calls it Learning disability or LD), they cannot really understand what it is like. The misconception is that the person with this is somehow below average or “dumb.” What they don't know is that a significant portion of gifted students are actually “wired differently” and have learning disabilities. (My sister is gifted certified and educates me about this.)

What it feels like to have your child “tested”

As a parent, you go through the whole gamut of emotions. What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me genetically? Why didn't I take my vitamins every day? Why was I so stressed out when I was pregnant? You name it, when you go through this, you question it.

I know so many parents who refuse to “test” their children because of their own pride. They want to say that it is OK for their child to make poor grades and deny the fact that their bright child is performing below their ability!

We all just want your child to be “normal” and not have difficulties if that is possible. But then, I ask myself, what really is normal?

What is a “normal” car?

We have so many cars on the road and offroad and they are all made for a different purpose. A Landrover is perfect for the African outback but doesn't really do well in Japan, where the roads are more narrow. You wouldn't drag race a Landrover but instead a dragster. SUV's do not get good fuel economy for that you might look at a hybrid vehicle. Compact cars don't do well when you have seven kids to haul around.

The point is that we do not expect one car to fit every task that a car can do… they are simply made for different purposes.

Children are made for different purposes!

So are children! I believe in a Creator that makes each of us for a different purpose. We are simply wired for a different purpose.

My sister with a diagnosed weakness in short term memory actually has learned to accommodate herself and has a stronger short term memory than almost anyone! My cousin with the reading disabilities has acute auditory ABILITIES. She can hear a song twice and memorize it. She is going into the recording industry and has amazing memory and abilities with music and audio. It is absolutely incredible what she can do and the sounds she can hear. She is wired to work with music.

My son went from struggling in third grade and is a strong A student in sixth grade. He has excellent study skills and works on organization. It is a struggle but he is learning independence and a work ethic that will benefit him through life.

The disservice of not testing!

The disservice would have been if we hadn't taken the steps to get the best testing available. My youngest son would have assuredly been diagnosed with ADHD (the psychologist said so), however, we determined that his agitation was in direct response to his difficulty with language processing. He has a language processing disability but amazing visual Ability!

In Conclusion

I'll share more later when I'm not so exhausted. Today, I just want to convey to those in the classroom to understand that every child is different. Do not expect every child to be the same! They are made for different purposes. If a child has a behavioral problem, it is often a signal of something more!

If you are a parent, go with your gut. If you think that there is something “there” then there is! Do not think your child is obstinant and hard headed (as I did with my firstborn), they may instead have a learning disability and you are punishing them for what is not their fault!

This world is full of beautiful, wonderful children. They are made to be musicians, doctors, authors, artists, teachers, scholars and more! We can't all be great at everything because then we wouldn't be human!

We have a lot of work to do, for indeed diagnosis is just the beginning but it is the beginning of something great! It is the beginning of a story of someone who overcame to reach their full potential and beyond.

For indeed, it is the stories of the underdog.. the person who overcame much to become much that we love. The easy road earns no respect. And although we'd love to tread the easy road, it is one that is not my path. When we tread the difficult road, it is often that we are using our machete to cut a path for those to walk behind us a little more easily.

I shall not give up. I will sacrifice anything. I will do anything to reach both my children who are Learning Challenged and those children in my classroom who are wired differently than that we expect in an academic environment.

Indeed, this life is about overcoming. Those are the stories we remember! And it is my path to trod. If it is yours, pick up the torch and do not quit and consider that yours will be the story worth retelling as you overcome much to be much!

Keep the faith!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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JenW September 13, 2006 - 4:03 am

You know that you and your family are always on my prayer list — and now even more so. I won’t go into details now — but know that you don’t walk alone on an unknown course.

Thank you for the reminder to look at surroundings and not trying to fit our kids into 1 “perfect answer”. Each of us has a unique and God-Placed position and opportunity on this earth.

I will be excited to continue to hear of your families opportunities as the year progresses.

thank you for being so open and visible on your blog. you teach us and you touch us. thank you.

anitanita September 13, 2006 - 7:04 am

You really made me think. It is indeed SO important to find sb’s strong sides and encourage their development. We all need our success and we all can achieve one, in one field or another. Thanks for sharing it.

Karyn Romeis September 13, 2006 - 9:35 am

Isn’t it great that you can have your son tested and identify how it is that he will learn best? Isn’t it great that you can help him develop strategies to optimise his learning experience?

We do seem to have entered an age where everybody needs to have a label – he is dyslexic, she is dispraxic, he is discalculaic (sp?). I know that in many circles it is frowned upon. But I understand what drives a parent to find that label, so that they can know what it is they’re up against and find ways to support and assist their children.

My family, too, tends towards what is euphemistically called “superior abilities”. I find it odd that kids who need help to cope with the curriculum (and I don’t want to get involved in arguing about the pros and cons of curriculum at this point) are placed on the Special Education Needs (SEN) register, while kids who are bored by the curriculum are not. Surely they have SENs, too?

All the best with your son. I have absolutely no doubt that you will do exhaustive research on how to support him and provide him with an environment in which he can achieve his potential.

MrsC September 13, 2006 - 2:57 pm

It sounds like you have been on a speeding roller coaster. It is not that the roller coaster is bad, it is just that we want to enjoy the ride rather than endure it. It sounds like you have made such a great decision on your son’s behalf. As a Christian, mother, and teacher you always have other’s feelings on your mind. That is so admirable. Thanks for your blog and how open you are about things. God bless you and your family on the ride!

Karen Janowski September 13, 2006 - 11:18 pm

My son has a language based learning disability which was diagnosed in first grade. He is currently a junior in high school and his teachers still don’t get it. But we just keep reminding ourselves that we only have two more years and he will do great in life. He has great strengths and has taughts himself how to use different technologies to complete assignments in a hands-on way when the teachers allow it.
The technology tools available today remove the obstacles to learning for kids like my son – text-to-speech so that he can listen to the text read to him as he follows along. (His oral fluency has greatly improved since he converted everything to his IPod and read the book as he listened to it.) There are many other things that have helped him – we got him a laptop so that he can word process his work, use spell check, grammar check, synonym support, dictionary support (Alt + click), etc. Plus, he can listen to his work using text-to-speech and he catches errors during the editing process. But, I’m the one who taught him how to use the technology. They just don’t get it in the public schools. Their way of handling students like my son was to encourage us to have him take lower level courses in high school. Even yesterday, he told me that all the kids in the Learning Center take Level 3 courses (Level one is honors) so I explained to him that I was the one who insisted he be but in Level 2 (college prep) courses. There is too much “watering down” of the curriculum for kids with learning differences.
Have you read any of Mel Levine’s work? Highly recommend it!
Also, feel free to check out my blog which is actually my website at My passion is unleashing the potential in every student, often uses technology tools that remove the curriculum imposed barriers to learning and demonstrating what they have learned.

Laura Z September 13, 2006 - 11:42 pm

The fact that we have all been made with different gifts and abilities just astounds me. You are exactly right; each child is different-and made for a specific purpose! The gifts that have been given to a future doctor will most likely be completely different from the gifts that have been given to a future doctor or musician. Neither child is less important or valuable. They are just different…and praise God for that! How boring the world would be if we were all “normal”!

As an aspiring teacher, I believe that this principle you are discussing will be so important once I have a classroom of my own. I think that, if possible, it would be a great idea to evaluate each student’s learning abilities and challenges at the beginning of the year, so as to better approach that academic year. I recently took a Swassing-Barbe Modality Test, in which my learning style preferences were assessed. This test seems like it would be a great way to evaluate the strengths of each learner in your classroom.

On a personal level, I am impressed by your openness about your family affairs. I believe that it is important for individuals such as yourself to share experiences such as those you have shared today. In this way, you are helping to educate other teachers, parents, and the world in general. Thank you!

Dee September 14, 2006 - 3:13 am

I am so glad that you have a capable place to go for your learning the best way to help your son learn. It is also a reminder to me of the disservice we are doing our kids by trying to fit them all into the same categories academically. The nclb debacle pushes us more in that direction and I think in a larger way it is indicative of the general mood of this society. We don’t value an honest hard days work as much as we value a lot of money. We measure a person by their wealth, power, and possessions and it seems like education reflects that by not putting effort into educating kids to do the best at the things that they can succeed at in a way that will make them self-sufficient and productive and PROUD of themselves even if they don’t go to college. This world needs doctors and lawyers and engineers but it also needs bricklayers, electricians, and plumbers and if anyone doubts it let them go to a hospital with no lights or running water. I get so frustrated seeing kids try to wear shoes that are made to fit someone else. Thanks again for sharing with the us and my prayers are with your family.

teacher dude September 14, 2006 - 5:48 am

I, too was considered to be “different” in some way and went through all kinds of tests when I was young in order to find out why I wasn’t learning at the same time as everyone else.

I realise now that my learning style was very visual (something I confirmed when I taught myself to read and write in a foreign language with a different script)and out of tune with the teaching methodologies of the day.

Don’t forget that some of us our late bloomers, just as not everyone shots up in height at the same time, so not everyone “gets the lesson” at once.

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