Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How is Mason?

This is the question I get asked most often.  And lately it seems like someone is asking me everyday.  Today was no exception.  Some folks preface their question with, "It's been a long time since I asked . . ."  What that really means is, "The last time I asked you about Mason, you told me you couldn't talk about it and then you did the ugly cry."  That also tells me that other people want to ask the same question but are hesitant to do so.  Today after my Bible study leader asked me about him, I told her how much I appreciated her asking.  The reason for that is because I love to brag on my boy!

The answer to the question is GREAT!  Mason is doing great!  Not too long ago, I began to question whether or not all of this therapy and extra stuff and time and energy and money is "working."  I like to see immediate results.  Sometimes I'm patient but more times I am not.  I knew from the beginning that this was going to take time and lots of it.  It seemed like for the longest while we weren't really seeing any improvement.  But that all changed a couple of months ago.

Mason won 1st place in his category at school for his science fair project.  He then won 3rd place in his category in the district science fair.  This is a big deal for Mason because a big part of the project was his presentation to the judges.  Verbal expression - coherently verbalizing ideas in the appropriate order with supporting details - is a big challenge for Mason (this just goes back to the way the characteristics of dyslexia have manifested themselves).  We did not practice a speech for his project.  We did not even write a speech.  I just sent him to school with his board and his report, and he was on his own.  Obviously he handled his own just fine!

Mason continues to maintain As and Bs on his report card!  He still has a B in reading!  This is the first time ever he's made a B in reading on his report card, much less maintained a B through the duration of the school year.  This is the last week of February.  Every school year until now, January and February have been the worst.  Mason's grades plummeted.  But not this year!  He started 3rd grade on academic probation (Yes.  I know.  Let's not go there.  Somehow "3rd grade" and "academic probation" should not even be used in the same sentence!).  He is no longer on academic probation!  Besides the fact that he never should've been anyway, but that's a whole 'nother story.

For the first time ever since kindergarten, Mason benchmarked on DIBELS last month.  DIBELS is an acronym for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Learning Skills.  It's basically an assessment of literacy skills and is used to measure the development (or lack thereof) of early reading skills.  You start out in kindergarten naming letters and letter sounds.  You have one minute to name as many as you can.  By 1st grade, you read a paragraph or short story for one minute to see how many words per minute you can read.  And, of course, you are expected to read a certain number of this or retell a certain number of that.  You are tested at the beginning of the school year, the middle of the school year and the end of the school year.  The number of whatever you are expected to read goes up every time.  If you benchmark, that means you read the "right number" of words, blah blah blah.  That means you are well on your way to reading success, and you are where you need to be.  Supposedly.  Anything below that, and they mark your paper with yellow and red and use words like "strategic" and "intensive."  Mason receives no accommodations on this assessment.  He is expected to perform on this assessment just like his peers who do not have a learning disability.  He is held to the same standard.  To be totally honest with you, I hate DIBELS, and I could care less whether or not he benchmarks!  I don't expect him to benchmark!  BUT HE DID!  I know it seems so small.  Stupid, even.  But this was a huge accomplishment for him.

A few weeks ago, I overheard Mason and Hannah Kate talking about school.  Mason asked Hannah Kate if she liked school.  And, of course, her answer was an emphatic YES.  Then he said, "I do, too.  But this is the first year I ever liked school.  I didn't like it until 3rd grade."  There has never been a truer statement.  I've watched his self confidence soar this year.  I can't even begin to say enough about his therapists and his teacher.  The Lord blessed us with an incredible team to pick us up and help us through this year.  I knew from the beginning that it would be long and hard.  And I was not looking forward to it.  But here we are at the beginning of March (almost), and the end is drawing near.  It really is.  I can even see it now.

Exactly a year ago I sat in the psychologist's office as he told me that Mason was, in fact, dyslexic and explained the findings and results of the evaluation Mason had been given.  He told me to get ready for a long, hard fight.  He said it would not be easy.  And he was right.  The next eight months after that were a nightmare.

Exactly a year ago Mason's 2nd grade teacher told me she really didn't think he'd promote to 3rd grade.

Exactly a year ago I felt completely helpless to help my son.  I didn't even know where to start.  It seemed like everywhere I turned and everyone I called resulted in a dead end.

Exactly a year ago I never imagined that Mason would EVER win a science fair or make a B in reading or benchmark in DIBELS, much less do so just a year later.  What a difference a year (and lots of therapy and prayer and hard work!) makes!

Often times people are quick to tell me what a wonderful job I'm doing or how lucky Mason is to have me for a mom.  Well, let me tell you something.  This has NOTHING to do with me.  Sure, I take him to therapy two days a week and sit with him at the homework table every night and make sure he is receiving the accommodations at school that he's entitled to.  But I did not present his science fair project.  I did not take all of his reading tests and maintain a B on his report card.  I did not take his DIBELS test for him.  Mason has done all of this!  He is smart and intelligent and full of energy and fun and a dynamic BIG personality.  Mason has done this, and I'm doggone proud of him!  So you can ask me about Mason anytime because I love to brag on my boy!

The Lord has continued to be so good and so tender to me throughout this journey.  Even today, one year later, He continues to encourage me and place people in my path who bless my socks off.

Our CPA relocated to North Carolina.  So I contacted my good friend Dave (Ramsey) to find a new CPA.  I wasn't necessarily excited about this because I really loved our CPA.  She did exactly what I wanted her to do, and I knew exactly what she wanted each year.  So I met with our new CPA last Thursday morning.  I'd even told his office manager on the phone that I "didn't have a whole lot of time" to meet with him and that I basically just wanted to "come drop my stuff off" and besides there wasn't really a need for him to meet with me anyway because I had everything super organized, dated, in order and with spreadsheets to match, and I was lacking nothing.  Okay, so I didn't say that last part, but it's true.  Anyway.  I took my expandable folder of documents with me and laid it on his desk.  I told him I had only one question.  I whipped out the spreadsheet and receipts and reports documenting all of our therapy expenses last year.  I explained that Mason had been "formally" diagnosed with dyslexia and that we'd spent a small fortune on therapy.  I knew where some of the expenses would go, but I wasn't sure about one portion in particular that was the most significant of the expenses.  But I wanted it to COUNT.

That's when he told me that he had four children, three of which are dyslexic.  And then he asked if I had a few minutes because he wanted to introduce me to his wife so she could talk to me about their experience.  Well, absolutely!  I listened while she documented their very painful journey through multiple schools and doctor's offices and even medications.  Their children are now ages 23 to 29.  All four of their children, including the three who are dyslexic, are college graduates!  One in particular was told when he was in 7th grade that he was stupid and that he would never graduate high school so he didn't even need to think about going to college.  Yes.  That happened (and, at that point, I am MAMA and hear me ROAR).  That was also his last year at that particular school.  And now he is not only a high school graduate but a college graduate as well!

I'll be honest.  There are still many days where I can not envision a time that I do not have to sit with Mason and help him with his homework.  And this is only 3rd grade.  This is not middle school.  Or high school.  I have no idea how we're going to do high school!  And college?!  I guess I'll have to enroll in dental school with him!  I don't know at what point, or if ever, Mason will be "independent" and able to manage this on his own.  His therapists tell me it will happen.  One day.  But I don't see that day.  

This was the very first time that I've been able to talk to a mom who saw that day.  She saw that day not only once but three times!  This was the first time I got to talk to a mom who saw her child(ren) overcome the challenges of living with a learning disability and truly soar!  I just can not even begin to tell you how encouraging that conversation was to me!  I guess I didn't think it was possible.  But now I know it is.  It is!


Harriette Connell said...

I am so very proud of Mason!!! Tears of joy are running down my cheek!!! You are absolutely right about this being Mason's accomplishments! You, Seth, his teacher and his therapists are the wind beneath his wings but he is spreading those wings and soaring with the eagles!!! I'm so happy, happy, happy!!! LOVE that boy!!!!!

Kori Page said...

I am sharing your joy with you, Julie. As aunt to a 9 year old who was abused as a baby and now suffers from ADHD/ODD I often struggle with questions about her future and independence. I seek comfort in God's promises and am sure she will lead a happy life. I am so excited for you and Mason! Isn't God great?!

The Poitevints said...

I can barely read through my tears! I do have to disagree with you on one point....Mason is lucky (blessed) to have you as a mom and that does have A LOT to do with his successes. All of those tears became prayers. Those prayers gave you the strength even on your weakest days to patiently work along side of him to help him see all that he was capable of accomplishing! God deserves ALL of the glory but right now I am praising HIM for a mama who prays for all of her children! Isn't God so gracious to give us hugs along the way...even in odd places like a CPA's office! I love you sweet friend!