Yesterday morning the third graders at my son's school had an awards ceremony. Unbeknownst to me, P won an award for his hard work and improvement in writing. That afternoon P's teacher, the school OT, the school psychologist, and I sat down and found him eligible for a Section 504 plan for fine motor delay with dysgraphia traits. The meeting was largely to quantify his impairment and formalize the many accommodations his awesome teacher was doing, but still. The contrast between the way the day started and ended stuns me.
P has had sloppy handwriting for awhile. It's what brought us to OT originally (although our wonderful OT soon found a host of other issues to work on). It's what made his second grade teacher give his writing assignments "Basic" grades because she couldn't read them, and therefore felt she couldn't grade them. When I confronted her with the fact that his OT said that his handwriting is sloppy because his muscles are weak, she replied that she "knew" he wasn't trying and that he could write well "if he wanted to." His sloppy handwriting made me gasp when I saw his work portfolio in March during parent-teacher conferences. And when I asked him about it, he started telling me that he was embarrassed of his handwriting and didn't want other people to see it. He said that his teacher corrected his papers since his classmates couldn't read his sentences or spelling tests. The production of his handwriting, which was nearly illegible and couldn't manage to stay on a line or maintain a margin, was finally to the point of becoming a disabling condition.
Fun fact, occupational therapists can't diagnose dysgraphia. Only a neuropsychologist can do that. But now, at this point, three OTs have looked at P and said, "Well, I can't OFFICIALLY diagnose dysgraphia, but this sure seems like it..." So on paper P's official diagnosis is "fine motor delay with dysgraphia traits." But in reality, I truly believe that he has dysgraphia. And to be honest, it freaks me out that his problems don't just involve the fine motor act of writing. It involves organization, visual perception, coherence...it seems more like a learning disability than just not being able to hold a pencil. It scares me because the answer to his problems don't lie simply in giving him a computer and teaching him to type...it involves something more, and I'm not sure what will fix it.
I'm also feeling sad because he can now call himself "twice exceptional"...a child who is both gifted and has a disability. Kids who are 2e are a rare breed, and can often fall through the cracks in a system that can barely deal with gifted kids or kids in special ed...when you need both, they don't know what to do with you.
I'm giving myself the rest of the day today to feel depressed, afraid, and teary. Tomorrow I'm drafting an email to the school's principal advocating for a specific teacher to be his homeroom teacher next year. I've already found an app that I know will help him, and I'm going to start researching tablets that he could take to school to supplement the laptop the school will let him use.
I had said that when I retire, I wanted to be an advocate for exceptional kids...both kids with disabilities, and kids with gifts. I guess I'm getting my practice in with my son, who is both.