The Essay that Rocked my world: The Personal side of LD

a simulpost with TechLearning

Yesterday at the Rotary Club I sat there with tears in my eyes listening to my sixth grader win an essay contest. Only I and a few others knew that only three years earlier he could barely compose a legible paragraph.

It was third grade and my son suddenly went from a high achieving, well behaved child to one who was struggling emotionally and mentally with the tasks at hand. I knew something was wrong. Children don't just change behavior like that. I have a sister with a learning challenge (we don't call them disabilities in our family) and knew that he was coming up against something that he could not overcome.

The public school said his test scores were too high for them to test so we eliminated our family vacation between his third and fourth grade year and went to the incredible icon of testing in our area, the Atlanta Speech School.

While I won't go into all of the details, I'll generalize that a non-verbal processing issue was overflowing into his handwriting which made it illegible when he had to work on challenging tasks (with too much processing going on.) Additionally, grammar and spelling were diagnosed areas of issue and unless it was a grammar assignment he was not to be counted off for punctuation and spelling. (A battle which is a hard one to fight.)

We were told that it was imperative that he learn to type and use a computer for spelling and grammar as soon as possible.

We had him ready and responsible and purchased him a laptop halfway through his fifth grade year. In my role at the school, we worked to raise the money and put in wireless to cover our school. Now, he is able to type all written assignments and spell check.

The bright, intelligent child who shines in so many areas, can now write beautifully. I am so very proud of him because I know that I did not write the following essay, HE DID!

So, today, I will share with you today the power of what happens when you accommodate and use technology to help children. And to challenge you to realize that gifted children have LD too. We all have learning differences. These learning differences must be understood and accommodated!

And if you are a parent, do whatever it takes to find out how your child learns. Sacrifice, give up family vacations and never, ever give up!

This was the winning essay from our Middle School for the Rotary Club Character Counts Essay contest from my sixth grade son:

Why Character Counts

Honesty, perseverance, and responsibility are character traits that the community, the business world, and the whole world need more. There are many definitions for honesty. Not lying, cheating, nor stealing are examples of honesty. Being fair and upright are also part of being honest. If all the people in the world were honest, there would be no fighting, no wars, no crimes, and no lying. Give other people credit, don't take more than your fair share, and don't lie are only some of the many things honesty can teach us.

Perseverance, not giving up when times are hard, is another part of having good character. Never, ever stop until the job is done. It is like when my grandma tells me the story of the frog and the butter churn. He fell in and had to keep kicking until there was enough butter to stand on so he could jump out. He almost quit and drowned, but no, he kept on kicking, and he lived. If the world had perseverance, there would be no divorce, no suicide, and no quitters.

Responsibility is accepting the blame for our own actions…not blaming others for our own faults. We are all human, and we all have flaws, but we need to still take responsibility for our mistakes.

When I think of these three traits, I think of my Poppa who is a farmer. Poppa is honest, and when he tells people something, they believe him because he has never lied to them before. He perseveres as a farmer when it doesn't rain or when there is too much rain. He never quits, and people around the world know he's a great farmer. Poppa has to be responsible to make sure he properly disposes of waste on the farm like the dead chickens so that the environment stays safe. I use him as my living example of good character and someone who is honest, perseveres, and is responsible.

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Vicki Davis

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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Mechelle May 11, 2007 - 4:54 pm

Hi Vicki,

Thank you for sharing this inspirational story. Your son wrote a beautiful essay. He is an excellent writer and one can tell that it is so heartfelt. Thank you again for sharing. I will share it with my fellow teachers and my students. Congratulations and God Bless.

Best Wishes,
Mechelle : )

Karoli May 11, 2007 - 7:15 pm


My son (who graduates next month with a full scholarship to college), had similar problems. In second grade we went through a year where he had to dictate to me (including spelling and grammar) and I typed exactly what he dictated. That summer I decided he would learn to type, and he did. I got him a laptop and it completely turned him around.

Your son’s essay is wonderful! It gave me chills knowing that a sixth-grader wrote such insightful and wise words. Congratulations to you for doing what needed to be done for him to succeed. I know that was our goal and we fought for it hard through those elementary/middle school years. It’s so gratifying to see technology make a difference!

Mrs. V. May 11, 2007 - 11:34 pm

I cried when I read your story. My son has issues with handwriting as a first grader, and the boy who used to love to write beautiful creative stories in his own invented spellings is suddenly hating everything about writing:( I realize this could be many things, but your story has made me realize that I can’t sit around and wait for the “process” to happen and figure it out- I need to do it myself. Thanks for sharing.

Paul Wilkinson May 12, 2007 - 4:42 am

Wow. Can I share this with my class on Monday? What a great essay. Thank you for sharing it.

Karyn Romeis May 12, 2007 - 4:37 pm

Oh, Vicki, this is wonderful. Not only has he overcome his difficulties and written brilliantly, but he has shown a depth of insight and character that does you proud. I’m not sure if his “Poppa” is his Dad or his grandfather – but he must be quite a man. Be proud of him, too!

Vicki A. Davis May 12, 2007 - 3:51 pm

Mechelle – you understand better than most! It means a lot coming from you!

You too understand the tears and trials with working through LD. With the many people in my family I know that often one comes through stronger and better.

Mrs V
Things don’t “just work out” and they don’t “just happen” kids get labeled and kids don’t know how to help themselves and just feel “stupid” — getting a prescription and getting tested is a vital important first step, even if you have to do as we did and sacrifice to do it!

Paul –
Sure, you are welcome to share this. Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you all for your kind encouraging remarks.

Durff May 12, 2007 - 7:51 pm

I had to look back to check that you said 6th grade. With such sentence construction too! I too have many challenges and I too was classified as gifted. This is not always a good thing, but with those writing skills, his communication skills must be dazzling! I applaud your 6th grader!!

Julie May 12, 2007 - 10:20 pm


Thanks so much for sharing your son’s essay and your ‘back story’. I teach Enrichment (Gifted education), and it’s so important for parents and teachers to understand the impact of learning difficulties on children, even those who are typically high achievers. I’d like to share your insight and your son’s essay with parents of my Enrichment students, and classroom teachers in my school . Please let your son know his writing shows tremendous maturity and insight.

Laura B. Fogle May 14, 2007 - 1:18 pm


Thanks for sharing your story. My third grade daughter has always struggled with handwriting. She qualifies for AIG at her elementary school and does very well academically, but her handwriting challenges have made some parts of school difficult for her. I talked to her teacher and to the occupational therapist. Her problems weren’t significant enough to warrant therapy and they recommended that I teach her to type.

So that will be our goal for the summer. I never thought about getting a laptop for her to use at school or maybe an AlphaSmart. Thanks for the encouragement to continue to advocate for my child and congratulations to you and your son!

Laura B. Fogle

Rob Jacklin May 14, 2007 - 5:40 pm

Thank you so very much for your post! Yet another powerful witness to what can be accomplished with these wonderful tools.

Isn’t it nice to cry over your kids…and not because they broke something! :-)

Thanks for sharing!

Betty May 14, 2007 - 10:00 pm

I taught sixth grade for 20 years and am very impressed with your son’s essay. He has some wonderful insights about life. Thanks for sharing.

Andrew Pass May 15, 2007 - 1:45 am


Your essay has taught me something very important. It’s important to say thank you to parents.

When I was a toddler my mother realized that I had significant speech difficulties. She had me tested and discovered that I had gross motor skills challenges. She and my father enrolled me in a special education preschool program and I continued in special education classes in kinergarten and first grade. At the end of first grade, my teachers discussed whether or not to keep me in special ed. I had (have) a horrible temper. One of my teachers said that I shouldn’t be kept in special ed because of a bad temper. She insisted that I be mainstreamed. Though I was mainstreamed I continued to go to the resource room, speech therapist and social worker throughout school. (The problems never went away I just learned how to accommodate for them.) I always thank special ed teachers because if this teacher had not spoken up for me I probably would not be doing what I do today.

But, it’s clearly not enough to thank special ed. teachers. It’s also important to thank parents. Vicki, I’m going to email my mother and ask her to read both your post and my comment. Vicki, on behalf of your son, and Mom, on behalf of me, thank you very much. Without you we would not be able to succeed. I really wish that I could put into words what I am feeling right now. Suffice it to say that I know I’m lucky because you are my Mom.

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