Once upon a time
Oh a long time ago, when I was spending all my money on black and white board books and Baby Einstein DVDs. I could have told you with some authority what my child’s life would look like. There would be books and art, sandcastles and nature walks, play dates with friends, and unconditional love. We did everything we were told to do, early learning opportunities, bed time stories, and visited the library twice a week like it was a place of worship.
About the time we came to Australia I discovered the treasure chest of ‘child centred learning’, I read up on the doctrines of Montessori, Steiner, Emilio Reggio, and Waldorf educations. I bought heavily into the philosophy, and a private school education, for my daughter. It came with a free sense of warm fuzziness, and a big dollop of back patting on my superior parenting choices. All was good for four years.
It’s all good, then it isn’t
Until the revelation that at 8, my beautiful, artistic, gentle daughter could not get through the alphabet from A-Z in the correct order to save her life. I say it was a revelation, but the warning signs were there. She would not read. Not for love nor money, any attempts to entice her to do so ended in disaster. There was screaming, tantrums, crying, and that was just me in the privacy of my own toilet. The advice was to ‘go gently’, rather than press her to read and reinforce her reading anxiety.
So, eventually, in her own time, she developed an organic natural love of books and reading. NO. That did not happen. She developed instead an iron clad argument on why she had no desire or necessity to read …EVER..in her life. I did what any normal parent would do. I panicked. I talked to the school, my GP, my friends, DR Google and boarded the most exciting ride of my life. The Diagnosis Train.
Woo Woo All Aboard
The Diagnosis Train. Accepts all takers, you are all welcome, every kind of special. Everyone has a different ride, with one thing in common, you will go up, you will go down, you will inevitably go round and round, and at the end, when your carriage stops, all the money will be shaken out of your pockets.
Our ride on the train chugged happily off from the GP, bound for Paediatrician station ($300). She pronounced ‘Speech Delay’ and waved us off us to the speech Therapist. We trundled round that carousel for 12 sessions ($1600), before she thought what we really needed was an Optometrist, ($130), who gave her eye glasses ($120), BUT WAIT, he suspected another problem, with her eye tracking. Down the roller coaster we dove, we needed a Behavioral Optometrist, ($180) but thankfully he had a friend who could squeeze us in.
Round and round we go
Boo! Her eye tracking was declared pants… but Huzzah! We were in luck! The Behavioral Optometrist had a programme to cure her tracking issues, and a bargain at only $900. BUT before we signed up, she needed a routine hearing assessment screening. She knew a colleague who could squeeze her in next week for just, $80.
We are winning in the lottery of life, as said audiologist detects a severe Auditory Processing Disorder, oh my, but again luckily there is a programme for that too, $2600. They notice my daughter has a few issues with ‘word blindness,’ “was she dyslexic?” perhaps we should get assessed by their friends at SPELD? ($900) They, rather helpfully provide tutors at $70 a shot for the newly diagnosed. Had we considered coloured lenses $280? A recommended reading rescue programme $500?
Into the Tunnel
For some strange reason, my daughters self-esteem was going a bit off track at this point. Anxiety was creeping in (no shit Sherlock)…had I had her assessed by a Psychologist? Well no, I hadn’t…but not to worry, I could see one. Hell, I could see as many as I liked, if I had the cash… but wait, we should get an OT assessment first $105 …just to tick all the boxes. In fairness, for the first time OT actually gave us the opportunity to have tangible products for our money. Seat pads, and weighted blankets, Pilates balls, silly putty and some nifty colourful gadgets. I look at that period with fondness, before the train turned into the final hall of mirrors at ‘Psychology Junction’.
The Psychs were very helpful, $3800 helpful. I got my money’s worth of diagnosis labels, a Speech and Language Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia … and other things I can’t even pronounce.. Also, “had we thought of coloured lenses $300???”..but to go any further we would need a new referral, our old one had run out ..could we go back to the original Pediatrician to get a new one? There we were, just like that, back at the start of the rabbit hole again.
End of the line
It was at this time the train lurched around the corner and derailed for me, for the last time. We were broke, exhausted, and no further along the track. Our daughter could still not get from A-Z and would not read a word. Why should she even try, when for 18 months all that was reinforced was how she didn’t work properly . It was a train wreck.
This was the moment I stepped away from the train someone else was driving, boarded my own little engine and took it in the direction I wanted it to go. It wasn’t easy. There were no shortcuts. I had to learn to be a good driver, I had to research how to scaffold this for my child. I had to show up every day, whether I wanted to or not, to be unpopular, to acknowledge this problem would not be fixed by osmosis, that it would require slog, faith and effort. I am here to tell you. No one will try harder for your child than you. No one will be more invested, and no one has more experience in your own specialist subject, the heart of your child. Trust yourself. Trust your child.
My daughters favourite thing to do is read. She consumes books on a daily basis, She is in love with Anne of Green Gables, Weeps at Little Women, relishes the unfortunate events of Lemony Snickett, but more valuable than this is her deep seated knowledge, that no matter how fricken broken people tell you, you are. No matter how you feel, obstacles are there to be overcome, and can be, if someone believes you are the little engine that could.