Thursday, September 14, 2006

Homeschooling A Child With Special Needs

The sun slants lazily through the window etching the room in gold. On the desk sits the complete works of Mark Twain, a handsome gilded set of books. A recorder lies on the footstool, carelessly tossed there by nine year old hands. The piano sits under the window it's keys dusty from lack of use.

The room appears to be a schoolroom, for children's books and pencils are everywhere along with puzzles and piles of paper. Bright colored tanagrams are lying in haphazard fashion on the table. Playdoh made by some mama's own hands sits in covered bowls at the tables edge. Rolling pins and dough cutters are tossed about like pick up sticks.

A beautiful oak bookshelf stands at the far left it's shelves loaded with books, children's magazines and crafts. A partially opened drawer in a child's chest reveals bag after bag of foam art. There are bags for every season but none of them seem to have been played with. A peek inside another drawer divulges rows upon rows of tempera paints and every size of brush a young artist could wish for.

Three different art sets sit on top of the chest. They're filled with charcoals, chalks and paints. The paints are cracked and chipped, falling out of their casings, broken by impatient hands.

In the middle of the room is a huge floor puzzle depicting long necked dinosaurs. A child's mosaic lies half finished on a side table. A big comfy leather couch lounges under a painting byMary Cassett. On the arm of the couch appears to be a biography of the artist.

The entire room is a child's dream; a room for learning and crafting, for reading and painting.

I stand in the middle of the room careful not to step on a dinosaur tail. The room is hushed in the late afternoon stillness, but I can still hear the voices of the school day within its walls. I can hear a child screaming and a mother pleading. I can hear pencils breaking and pages being torn. I can hear a little girl mumbling through her reading and shrieking when she misses a word. I can hear her cries as she labors over her sums. A chair is thrown backward as she hurriedly gets up, pounding her fists into her table and loudly declaring that she cannot study.

I see her latest art project torn to shreds in the midst of her frustration. What comes next is soft uncontrollable crying and rocking. I see myself as I hold her and let her cry over her lost art work.

The little girl who's schoolroom this is, is my little girl. The great learning I had anticipated would happen within this room has never taken place. You see my little girl does not process the world around her like other children. She was born with a sensory processing disorder that leaves her world topsy turvy.

People tell me she needs more discipline. Some say she is weird while still others tell me I need to spend more time with her. I try not to say anything. But people know something's not right. The children know. The children say she is cuckoo and stupid.

My child lives in a world where her senses are not integrated enough to tell her what the rest of her body is doing. Can you imagine how it would feel if you...

"could see obstacles in your way, but you could not make your body move the direction you wanted it to to avoid them or your clothes felt like they were made of fiberglass.

You tried to drink a cup of water from a paper cup, only you couldn't tell how hard to squeeze it to hold onto it. So, you squeezed it too hard and the water spilled all over you. The next time you didn't squeeze it hard enough and it fell right through your hands and onto the floor.

Every time you tried to write with your pencil, it broke because you pushed too hard.

The different smells in this room made you utterly nauseous.

The humming of the lights sounded louder than my voice.

You couldn't focus your eyes on me because everything and everyone in the room catches your attention and your eyes just go there instead.

The lights are so bright you have to squint, then you get a pounding headache half way through the presentation

Every time someone touches you, it feels like they are rubbing sandpaper on your skin.

You could only sit here for 15 minutes and then you had to take a run around the building or do 20 jumping jacks so you could sit for another 10 minutes before your muscles felt like they were going to jump out of your skin.

People's whispers sounded like they were yelling.

The tag in the back of your shirt makes you feel as uncomfortable as you would if a spider was crawling on you and you couldn't get him off.

You wanted to write something down but it took you at least 5 seconds to form each letter. You can see the letter in your head, but your hand will not go in the right direction to write it.

You had to pull the car over 3 times on the way to the store because the motion makes you sick."(Through the Eyes of Disfunction)

I had dreams of my daughter becoming a great artist. But my daughter cannot paint. Instead she leaves her brushstrokes on the canvas of her mamas heart. She is painting over the dreams I had for her and in there place a beautiful picture is evolving.

I had dreams of her becoming a famous musician but instead her life is filled with discordant notes in a minor key. I take each note and carefully weave it into the music of our days trying to find a harmony we can live with.

I had dreams of my daughter reclining on the couch devouring great literature and reciting large portions of poetry. But my daughter cannot read past a first grade level. She can not memorize poetry because her short term memory circuits are broken. So although she may never write a book for worldly acclaim every day she is writing a script of love; in rhythms of uneven lines she leaves her print in our hearts and in our home.

When I began to homeschool I thought that I would teach her all I know. Instead she has taught me all that I don't know. Thank you God for this beautiful child you have entrusted to us.

This article has been submitted to The Carnival of Homeschooling.

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