Monday, August 12, 2013

The 3rd Day of 3rd Grade

Well.  Today was a good day.  Until this afternoon.  

As we finally began to figure out why Mason was struggling so to learn how to read, it also became obvious how God had prepared the path for us and how He had gone before us and continues to go before us.  It has not been an easy journey.  Quite the contrary honestly.  There were many, many days when it seemed like an impossible situation, like nothing was going right, like everything was against us.  There is no truth in that at all.  That's just where I was as a result of the fear that engulfed every fiber of my being.  But now that I look back, I see so clearly how God did what He did to get us where we are today.

What a difference a year makes!  Last year at this time, Mason was beginning 2nd grade.  And I was scared to death.  I knew there was a problem.  I didn't know what it was.  I didn't know how to figure out what it was.  I felt stuck.  I felt helpless.  Today was our 3rd day of 3rd grade.  Even though I don't necessarily look forward to the school year because I know that it's going to be a hard and bumpy ride (just keeping it real!), it's such a relief going into a school year knowing exactly what's going on and exactly what needs to be done about it.  And not only that, but we are even able at this point to do something about it.

Having said that . . . I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe in God ordained encounters.  I believe God directs every step of the way, if we will only follow Him, to get us to where He needs us to be.  To help us.  To bless us.

It was not a coincidence that my Bible study small group leader last year was the mother of a child with a learning disability.  She'd walked a road similar to mine for many years.  Her daughter was in 11th grade.  So she'd "been there done that," and her encouragement and advice was absolutely invaluable.  I know that doesn't seem like a big deal.  But here's the thing.  Last year was my second year in that Bible study.  I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I would be placed in a new group with a new leader my second year.  I'd grown close to the girls in my group the first year, and I didn't particularly want to change.  But they had this rule of sorts, and they reassign the groups each year.  So I was put in a new group with a new leader.  And now I'm so thankful for this rule (okay, so honestly I'm not going to be so thankful for this rule in a few weeks when we start Bible study again and I'm in yet another group!).

My group leader called me every Tuesday morning.  I was very open and honest with my group from the very beginning regarding our situation.  It was, at the time, the only "safe" place for me.  So they knew.  Imagine my shock when my group leader told me about her daughter who has a learning disability.  And she began to share with me the struggles of their journey, much like my own.  Not only that, but she gave me the best advice, something that I have to remind myself of each day.  She told me one day, "Julie, this is not a race.  This is a marathon.  It will be long.  It will be hard.  But right now, today, you just need to focus on today.  You have to take this thing one stride, one step at a time.  What do you need to do today?  What needs to be done today?  Do not worry about the test that isn't today.  Do not worry about the grades that aren't today.  Do not worry about what MIGHT happen because it hasn't even happened yet.  Focus on today and what you need to do today to help Mason today."

That's hard for me.  I'm a big picture kind of girl, a planner and a thinker.  I'm always moving forward, thinking forward.  All I could think about was WHAT IF . . . what if he fails another test?  What if he fails 2nd grade?  What if he can't go back to his school?  What if I have to home school?  What if I have to go back to work?  What if what if what if.  All day long.  Worry.  Fear.  Borrowing trouble.

So instead of thinking about Mason's first reading test in 3rd grade, I just need to think about what is required to complete homework today.  Instead of worrying about the book report that's due in nine weeks, I just need to think about the ten minutes of reading we had for homework today.  Today we had to go to speech and educational therapies.  That's what we had to do today.  I do not need to spend time dreading the carpool line tomorrow or Wednesday or the trip to Baton Rouge for more therapy on Wednesday.  That's not today.

Week after week, phone call after phone call, prayer after prayer, she always knew exactly what to say.  And, at that point, she was the only mom I knew that was in the midst of schooling and parenting a child with a learning disability.

But one of my favorite non-coincidences was how we ended up in therapy at McMain's.  They were not on my list.  When I began to pursue private therapy providers in mid-February, I knew of only one place to call.  The lady I spoke to was so kind and compassionate.  I quickly found out they didn't accept our insurance.  I also found out that they had a waiting list and couldn't immediately accept us.  That seemed to be a dead end.

I remembered a friend of mine had, many months before, mentioned a place where her son's friend received therapy services.  I couldn't remember the name of it, but I remembered the location and was able to google it.  Again, I found them to be so kind and compassionate.  They accepted our insurance, but they, too, had a waiting list for therapy so we couldn't immediately be accepted.  The occupational therapist there even went so far as to give me a list of five other places to call.  So I did, and the story was pretty much the same.  Waiting list.

At this point, I was getting super discouraged.  I was not interested in waiting.  I didn't feel like we had time to wait.  We were not getting any support at school, and things were going quickly downhill there.  We needed help.  Of the five places she told me about, there was one place I didn't even bother to call.  She told me she knew for a fact they had a long waiting list at this particular place.  And not only that, but I even found their website and just decided that it probably wasn't the place for us anyway.  The place I didn't bother to call was McMain's.

In the meantime, I decided that I just needed to get our name on a waiting list somewhere.  And for some reason, I decided on the place that my friend's son's friend went.  Just for extra measure, I called her "just to be sure."  At this point, she knew nothing about the chaos that was going on and why we were where we were and why we needed therapy.  Even then, I didn't share a whole lot.  Our conversation happened on a Thursday.  The following Saturday, she called me rather late.  She told me she couldn't really talk because she was chaperoning her son on a date with his girlfriend.  She then told me to get a pen and paper to write down a phone number she was going to give me.  Her son's girlfriend's mother was a social worker at McMain's.  My sweet friend told her our story while their kids were on their date, and this social worker shared that she'd just had an unexpected opening for educational therapy at McMain's.  She also explained to my friend that what many people didn't know about McMain's is that they serve all kinds of children with all kinds of disabilities and that they are one of the only therapy providers that, in addition to occupational, speech and physical therapies, offer educational therapy, meaning they can remediate learning disabilities.  She told my friend to tell me to call her the following Tuesday morning and that she would hold the spot for me.

So you can imagine that I called her early that Tuesday morning.  Within a week, our insurance was verified and all of the necessary paperwork was completed.  In less than two weeks, Mason began educational therapy at McMain's two days a week after school.  We were on the waiting list for speech and occupational, but at least we were able to begin educational.  And, of course, we began speech and occupational in May.

When I met our social worker at McMain's in person for the very first time, I told her to tell her daughter (whom I'd already met one night when she was going to a homecoming dance with my friend's son) that if anything ever happened to her and R and if they ever broke up that she shouldn't be sad about that because she was the one who ultimately made it possible for a 2nd grader to really learn how to read and to get his confidence back . . . and so, if anything, she dated R so we could meet her mom.  Guess what?  The very next week, she and R broke up!  Seriously.  And I did apologize to her mom about that!

So all along the way, God has put us exactly where we needed to be.  I can look back and thank Him for the way that things worked out, the way things continue to work out.  Not a day goes by that I don't remind myself of the people along the way who have helped us, the words of advice from my Bible study leader, the way God has provided for every single step in our journey.  When the fear and the doubt and the worry start to find their way in again (because this still happens pretty much everyday), I just remind myself of God's faithfulness.  He has never left us, He has never let us down.  And He will not.  Ever.

But today.  It started out a good day.  It really did.  But I'm going on day three with no return phone call from the school board office after I called last week and left a message.  So that's just . . . well, I won't say what that is.  I went to pick Mason up in the carpool line so we could go to Baton Rouge for speech and educational therapies today.  This year we don't have to be there until 4:30 instead of 4:15 so I was excited about the extra 15 minutes to "get over the bridge."  But I ended up losing that 15 minutes because Mason's school dismisses 15 minutes later this year than they did last year.  I was still pretty confident that we'd make it in time so I'd already decided not to worry about that.  But after I picked up Mason, and we were on our way to Baton Rouge, the police for some reason had the highway blocked and would not let us go.  Even now I don't know why.  After two minutes or so of just sitting there, I knew I had to do something.  So I made a u-turn and tried to find my way along the side streets.  I thought I had it made until I came to another road block.  I was beginning to think the entire highway to Baton Rouge was closed.  And I almost called McMain's to tell them we wouldn't be able to make it for therapy today.

But I decided to try to keep going.  I was eventually able to get out of the mess and bypass whatever the problem was.  But by that time, I was running really late, and traffic on the bridge was just horrible, barely moving.  I was really frustrated.  But we did make it in time.  Mason had two great therapy sessions.  His speech therapist made it a point today to tell me how well Mason was doing and how proud she was of him.  So that was encouraging.  Mason was even encouraged today.  It's only the third day, but he's really liking 3rd grade so far.  He's had a really positive attitude about it and has told me more than once how much better 3rd grade is than 2nd grade.  But after homework tonight, he's probably changed his mind.

By the time we got home, ate supper and got baths, it was 7:15 before we were able to start on homework.  I wasn't concerned because it really wasn't that much at all.  But the reading.  He has to read a chapter book for 10 minutes each night and then write three sentences about what he just read, what he thinks about it, how it makes him feel.  We will have to do this everyday.  I knew as soon as I saw it how hard it was going to be for him.  Not the reading.  But the comprehension, the thinking, the writing.  These are the things he's working on in speech therapy.  Auditory processing.  The information goes in, but then it just gets jumbled up, and he doesn't know how to express it orally.  He can't quite get it out.

For example, this was part of our conversation tonight:
Me: How do you feel about what happened to the boy in the story?
Mason: Sad.
Me: Why?
Mason: Because it was sad.
Me: Why was it sad?
Mason: What happened was sad.
Me: Can you tell me why what happened was sad?
Mason: I don't know.

He's right.  It was sad.  And he knew that.  But he couldn't tell me why.  He couldn't express it with his words.  So I tried several other questions, several other angles.  But when he reads something, that's just it.  He reads.  He doesn't put himself in the story, he doesn't apply the story, he doesn't identify with the story, he doesn't think about the story.  He just reads.  This is especially true with fiction.  He doesn't particularly care for fiction.  He'd much rather be reading non-fiction.

So we got our 10 minutes of reading done, but it took nearly 30 minutes for him to come up with and write his own sentences.  I was helping him as much as I possibly could, but I eventually ran out of questions to ask.  I couldn't think of any other way.  And, of course, by the end of the 30 minutes, he was already in tears, already telling me it was too hard and that he couldn't do it.  By the end of the 30 minutes, I was ready to throw the book and all of 3rd grade out of the window and just forget about ever having to read again.  Oh.  Did I mention this is only our 3rd day?

At this point, I just remind myself that today's homework is finished.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  We'll do it all over again.  But it will be okay.  One way or another, it will be okay.  I just feel so badly that he was already in tears.  It's hard.  It hurts.  There are still days and moments and times that I just hate this whole thing.

I have to go back to what I know is true.

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you."  ~Deuteronomy 31:6     

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