by Lindsay Kronmiller, SPED Homeschool Community Member
As a mom of kids who learn differently, there have been moments I can look back on and pinpoint them as “Aha! moments”. Moments where I figured out what I was doing wrong and what my kids needed. Moments where all the struggle and wrestles finally made sense. Moments that now connect me with my kids on a deeper level. Moments where I look back and wish I trusted my instincts just a little sooner as the difficult days/weeks/months that led to these revelations were just plain hard.
Raising kids is a challenge. Raising kids who think and act outside the norm can be daunting. There are so many opinions, both professional and not. Many ways of doing things and most people are more than willing and ready to let you know what they would do and how you should do it. What I learned in all my Aha! moments were that they didn’t know my specific kids or my specific situation. While they had plenty of knowledge and even personal experience, only I knew my kids on the deepest level and that my instincts were right most of the time. Plenty of people have helped along the way, and I am so grateful for them, but trusting that I was made for and given these kids to care for was much harder for me.
My top three Aha! moments:
Aha! Moment #1—Beginning our 4th reading curriculum
After going through several reading programs, my daughter who was speaking full sentences by 2, just wasn’t understanding reading. She was frustrated and not happy, and I was just as frustrated and unhappy. This is the point where I decided to look for answers that didn’t involve finding the “magic curriculum”. I knew nothing about dyslexia or dysgraphia, but I started my research and dug around the rabbit hole. I knew she was smart, and that what we were doing wasn’t working. I knew there was a better way for her and for us, so we began the evaluation process. I very much debated going through this process: It’s expensive. What will the “Label” do to her self-esteem? How will this help me teach her or will they just tell me an expert needs to be her teacher?
First, my daughter loved the testing. She had so much fun with the educational psychologist answering all the questions on the intelligence portion of the testing. Second, it gave me concrete answers to what her strengths were and the specific things she needed to learn in order to read. I had papers to go back to and remind myself of everything she excels at. I can also work specifically on things she struggles with. It has been so much easier to teach her and learn with her now that I know all the details. And she is much happier knowing that her brain is unique, and she has so many strengths because of this. I wish I had trusted the instinct to find out why before we got to curriculum number four.
Aha Moment #2—Taking a break from our phonics program when everyone said not to
All the dyslexia experts and researchers tell you not to take a break, and to just keep going. Those kids who have dyslexia need systematic and repetitive learning in order to read. So when we started our Orton Gillingham curriculum, we just kept going. 4 days a week. We just did our lessons. I was afraid to take a break because “they” said it was bad. However, we were tired and my daughter was definitely tired, so we took a break. And the next week was so much better.
We now build breaks in for my daughter. We don’t just keep going; we stop and let her brain soak it all in. These breaks have worked wonders, in her reading ability, but also in how much she loves to learn and read and that it’s no longer something she dreads trying.
Aha! Moment #3—Getting a brain scan AND an official ASD diagnosis
My daughter’s neurodiversity was a given. We had already done the dyslexia and dysgraphia evaluations and were learning all we could about how her brain works. There were still many frustrations on both of our parts. I had suspected ASD for a while, but info on girls is so scarce and getting someone who was willing to evaluate felt like climbing a mountain. Then one week as I was contemplating how and why and if I should, several articles or posts by friends were sent to me. Every single one of them explained why they got diagnosed and the benefits of knowing why their brains worked the way they did.
In my gut, I knew she was on the spectrum and a diagnosis would help her understand herself more. I just needed to trust that and pursue the diagnosis. No one wanted to help. They all said she couldn’t possibly be as she didn’t fit the stereotypical profile. But I had to do something so she would understand there was nothing wrong with her and I would better be able to understand her and help her thrive.
It was so helpful to get the diagnosis. The brain scan also confirmed everything I had felt was real, but either couldn’t articulate or communicate to her or everyone else. It took years for this to happen, but it has been life giving for my relationship with her and her own self-confidence.
These moments and trials have brought us closer together, have made learning together more joyful, and given us a chance to relax into doing the things that work best for us. There is still plenty to learn and there are plenty of hard days, but each of these past moments reminds me we are learning and growing. That God is showing me the way, one step at a time, and I can trust the instincts and revelations He is giving me.
Lindsay Kronmiller is a homeschool mama of two elementary aged, neurodiverse kids from El Paso Texas. On top of homeschooling her kids, she works as a graphic designer, and volunteers with the local homeschool association to help others as they begin their home education journeys.