Saturday, November 17, 2012

What A Learning Disorder Is


Today, boys & girls, I want to discuss what a learning disorder (LD) is.
If your kid doesn’t do well in school; if he can’t focus on a task; if he is always tapping his fingers or pencil; if he continually talks to other students in class during work time; if he never seems to be able to complete his homework; if he fails pretty much every test he takes, he may not be a Bad Kid. He may actually have a learning disorder.
LD is an umbrella term that can encompass many types of learning problems. It has NOTHING to do with INTELLIGENCE or MOTIVATION. In other words, if your child has a true LD there is no amount of punishment that will motivate him to “do better”. Taking away all his video games and all extra curricular activities just for the sake of punishment will not help. 
An LD is not just about reading or numbers. It can also cause problems with reasoning and speaking. Your son could be looking right at you when you’re explaining something to him but he can’t grasp what you’re saying. Not because he isn’t paying attention but because his brain is different from yours. A kid with an LD might love to read but can’t do simple math. He might grasp the entire periodic table and know how each element interacts with the other but cannot understand what you mean when you say, “You need to finish up before dinner time.”


I can remember times in elementary school where I just couldn’t get what I was being taught. 5th grade science was the worst. I just didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t be bothered to study it so needless to say, I didn’t score so well on the exams. But it wasn’t because I had a processing disorder or an LD. I just really hated science. A learning disorder is totally different. A kid with an LD isn’t dumb or lazy. They are wired differently which means they don’t take in information the same way as kids without an LD. You can’t be expected to follow a recipe if it’s written in Swahili (and you only know English) so how can you expect for your child with an LD to learn how to add or spell or to tell the difference between stratus clouds and cirrus clouds if you’re trying to teach him the same way kids without LD’s are taught?


Let’s try a little experiment, shall we? Think of something you enjoy. It can be anything.  Are you great at cooking? Math? Gardening? Super. Now go to a foreign country and sign up for a class in their language and see how well you do.  My guess is, not that great. How do you think it would be, to sit in a classroom with someone speaking at you in a foreign language & where everyone else in the class is getting it? Would you be anxious, trying to pick up on what they’re doing, what page they’re on, what they’re writing and reading? Would you be bored, not being able to understand the words that are coming out of the instructor’s mouth, so you start daydreaming or gazing out the window? Would you be irritated, trying to figure out what the hell is going on, your fellow students getting obviously annoyed that you keep looking over their shoulders or asking questions?
And that’s in a class that’s on a topic that you ENJOY.
Imagine how it might be for a kid who deals with these emotions on a daily basis, in a place they have come to hate and feel uncomfortable in because it’s all a foreign language; a place where they have become hated because they don’t follow along easily or are disruptive in a class that teaches them nothing.


OK, so you’re not sure if your kid has a learning disorder. Here are some signs at different ages that may clear it up for you: (the following chart was found at
Preschool signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Problems pronouncing words
§  Trouble finding the right word
§  Difficulty rhyming
§  Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week
§  Difficulty following directions or learning routines
§  Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or coloring within the lines
§  Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes
Grades K-4 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds
§  Unable to blend sounds to make words
§  Confuses basic words when reading
§  Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors
§  Trouble learning basic math concepts
§  Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences
§  Slow to learn new skills
Grades 5-8 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
§  Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
§  Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud
§  Spells the same word differently in a single document
§  Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized)
§  Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
§  Poor handwriting


If you think your kid has a learning disorder, please get help for him NOW. It’s important to note that people with LD’s are usually just as smart as anyone without an LD. Don’t let your personal feelings on what it will mean to YOU if your son or daughter is diagnosed with a learning disorder. Denying that there is a greater issue (like a disability) at hand because you're afraid of how you will look to other people is selfish and wrong. Give your kid a chance to learn and to grow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Does A Person Have A Right To Die?

A fellow blogger wrote about physician-assisted suicide and it got me thinking. 


Should a person have a right to choose death when faced with a terminal illness that will kill them slowly and painfully?
Imagine this scenario: Your doctor diagnoses you with a terminal case of cancer that would have you under the ground within 6 months without treatment. You're offered a treatment that may extend your life by another 6 months but it produces nasty side effects. So, technically, you will be alive but will you be living? What will your quality of life be like? You can say, “Thanks, but no thanks” and let the cancer kill you slowly. This refusal of treatment would be AMA - against medical advice - but you can "choose to refuse".
What if there was another option? Why do you have to suffer as you die?


There are some who believe we should not have to suffer; that we should have the choice of a doctor-assisted suicide. I am one of those people.
Of course there have to be safeguards put in place. Massachusetts is voting on a bill today (November 6, 2012), Ballot Initiative (Number 2) which is referred to as "Death with Dignity."  Here’s some of what it states:

·         A licensed physician can prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill adult patient
·         This patient is an adult who has a prognosis of dying within the next 6 months
·         This patient must be deemed mentally competent
·         The request for the script must be made orally twice & witnessed in written form
·         15 days must fall between the two oral requests
·         The mental capacity of the patient & terminal diagnosis must be verified by a second physician

This does not cover every detail of the bill but it’s the meat of it. It makes sense.


Now imagine this scenario: an elderly man who is basically healthy but whose body is slowing down is becoming depressed. For one, he is unable to be independent as he has been for his entire life due to his advanced age. For another, he DOES have a medical condition that causes him to aspirate anything he eats and drinks. He has been complaining about feeling like food is getting stuck in his throat/chest area to his wife (who controls the money and whether or not he get to go see the doctor) and his children but everyone assumes he is faking it for attention or just being a pain in the ass.

He develops habits in attempts to clear his throat that have him in the bathroom, hacking & coughing for up to 2 hours at a time that leave him sweaty and weak. The family is annoyed by his eccentric behavior rather than taking him to see a specialist. This goes on and on; it progressively gets worse for years.
His quality of life suffers dramatically. He can’t eat or drink comfortably and nobody will listen to him. He becomes very depressed and angry. The family reacts with anger and annoyance. He reacts with more anger and crying spells. He regularly wishes he could just die. He states this out loud. The family begins to believe he should be allowed this right and when a feeding tube is recommended by a general physician, they don’t want to put one in because they want to “respect his wishes” of dying. A death that would be slow and painful; a death caused strictly by starvation.

Here is a case where a person should NOT be allowed to kill themselves. Isn’t it apparent that the old man’s wish for death is based on his severe depression? He is not terminally ill nor does he have a debilitating disease that requires extensive medical intervention. He was aspirating & his cries for help went ignored. This led to a piss-poor quality of life which led to depression which led to a desire to die.

Depression is not a valid reason in the 
"Right to Die" argument

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life and Death - Deciding Whether Or Not To Terminate A Pregnancy

I am no movie critic but I want to talk about a movie I fell into last night and ended up really enjoying.
It was called “Tiptoes”. This story follows a man and his girlfriend who are living together and very much in love. They talk about a future together, having children and are planning on getting married in the near future. Then she ends up getting pregnant and he starts to change. She doesn’t understand why since they had spoken about having a family and is confused by his ambivalence & distance. When he goes away for a training session she discovers why.
Although he is tall, his family is one of dwarves. He did not get the recessive gene but his twin did, and so did every other family member we meet of his. This is a tiny detail he neglected to tell his lover and when he is asked why, he didn’t really have an answer other than, “it never came up”, or something along those lines.
Of course the girlfriend was shocked. Her new relative brings her to his family, who all try to comfort her through her uncomfortable feelings and worries. She educates herself on the possibilities for her unborn child and decides to go ahead with the pregnancy. Her boyfriend is not so sure. He wrestles with his demons. He knows what it’s like for a dwarf; all the medical issues each individual can develop, how common it is that infants are in intense pain, the social aspects of being different.

What stood out to me was the reactions of each character as they realized they were about to enter a whole new world, a whole new level of existence with this baby. The girlfriend was initially shocked upon meeting her boyfriend’s twin – not only had she never heard of him but he was a little person! She was upset that he hadn’t told her he had a family of “midgets”. Part of their interaction is him correcting her. “If you keep using the word midget you’re gonna piss off a whole lotta people” is what he told her. She eventually did the right thing.
She also addressed her feelings of embarrassment that she would question whether or not to bring this baby into the world based on the fact that it may be a dwarf. She was sitting at a table with this family who had fed her, talked to her, comforted her and she was trying to decide whether she should terminate a pregnancy because it may be like them.
This is something that goes through the minds of parents-to-be if they discover that there is a genetic issue with their unborn: Intense fear over the difficulties that may lie ahead for them and for the baby and guilt over feeling this way. I know many of you reading this have had to make such a decision. And everyone has heard of a new story somewhere where parents had to make decisions and then were judged on their decision.

When we were pregnant with my son, the 20-week sonogram showed an abnormality in his brain ventricles. They were larger than normal and on top of that, they were not even so one was larger than the other. I remember being hit with the same sensation one gets when they do a full belly-flop into the pool. My ears were ringing and I thought I would vomit through all the sobs. All I could think was “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” My husband is much calmer, at least on the outside. He refused to believe anything was wrong until they were definite because through the several sonograms and prenatal MRI, all the specialists saw something, felt it probably wasn’t anything to worry about, but couldn’t be definite.
Amongst all this, we went for genetic counseling. We were given information and then sent home to think about things. In the car ride home I could barely keep myself together. I kept thinking about how we were so happy to be pregnant. I thought about all the “firsts” I didn’t get with my daughter because of her disabilities and how I would get to have them now (those of you who have children who are disabled know about this). I thought about this adorable baby, bundled up in my arms in the hospital bed, not in the NICU with tubes coming out of every limb, including the head. Then I thought about all that happening again. All the specialists, doctor visits, therapy, equipment. 

My daughter was injured at birth and lives with cerebral palsy because of doctors' errors. I did NOT want that. I barely survived the first time around. The fact that I still walk this earth is a miracle. How could I possibly be expected to do it twice?? I knew that I couldn’t and I felt so guilty and like such an evil person for wishing I never had gotten pregnant in the first place. I couldn’t say it out loud at that moment but I knew I would probably terminate the pregnancy. I was counting in my head how many weeks I had left to decide. Then I would start bawling again at the thought of doing that with a child I so wanted just days ago. I was torn.
We ended up having the baby. And my son has been fulfilling his job of giving me all my firsts   =D
He DOES have a genetic mutation which has zapped half his immune system. My world is now doubled with specialists and doctor visits. It’s not how I imagined it would be, though. It’s not like my worst-case-scenario & it’s not my dream-come-true. I guess this time, instead of going to Holland I made it to Sicily; almost Italy but not quite. And that’s okay. I have discovered that Holland is quite beautiful and that Sicily is just more of that beauty.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I feel like I have been living in a post-apocalyptic world since being hit by Hurricane Sandy. We had no power, no heat, no hot water. We moved as much stuff from the fridge into coolers with ice to the garage & I cooked on the grill plate attached to my BBQ in the garage! That was pretty interesting - only being able to cook one thing at a time. I usually have a couple pots going at once. Then to do it with a flashlight because it gets dark pretty early and we can’t exactly have dinner at 4:30! I joked with the girl that I felt like we were camping. That’s a pretend game she often wants to play and she has asked to go camping many times. We have never gone and I never intended on going because I don’t find any appeal to sleeping on dirt, being crawled over by bugs. This experience has only strengthened my “NO WAY, JOSE” attitude toward “roughing it”.

And keeping occupied a kid with CP who can’t do anything for herself is unbelievably difficult. Think about it; you can pick up a book and read if you want, or play solitaire or even a board game with someone else, take a nap…but with the girl, I have to not only be HER body but my body as well. And a 14 year old (with delays) is not easily distracted, especially when she is trying to tell me what it is she wants and 1) I can’t figure it out because her communication device is dead and the game of 20 questions isn’t getting us anywhere or 2) she wants to do something on the computer or T.V. that requires power/internet and she doesn’t understand the concept of no power = no T.V./internet.
I knew I would be excited when the lights came back on but she was ecstatic! It was funny because she had already gone to bed about 15 minutes prior to the power coming back on. But as soon as she heard the “beep beep” from some of the electronics catching internet (that sounds like a new virus) and the voices from my T.V. set, she started to laugh and holler. She INSISTED I turn on her television so she can catch up on some of her shows! She was truly a happy kid.

P.S. – There are so many people still suffering through the after-effects of Sandy. The people living on Fire Island and other shore communities have lost so much. I haven’t seen the pictures but on the radio, the reporters were saying that each individual house looked like an island – all you could see were rooftops surrounded by water. This post reflects my joy at returning to normal without any major catastrophes save for some lost condiments that we couldn’t fit in the coolers but I don’t want to diminish the trauma being experienced by thousands. I do pray that those affected will find comfort and can return to their normal as quickly as possible, in Jesus name.