Dear School Superintendent,
I am the mom of two daughters, who are now college graduates. I am sharing our story so that it may help future students.
My oldest struggled in school. My husband and I noticed this back in elementary school. While she wasn’t a failing student, it was extremely difficult for her to get Bs and Cs, and getting her homework done was an ordeal for her and the whole family.
We spoke to her teachers about this yearly, but the response was always the same. They did not feel that she had any learning or attention difficulties.
We trusted the educational professionals
As we had no experience, we trusted what they told us.
This became an even bigger issue when she reached fifth grade. Her teacher that year would call her out in front of the whole class for “not paying attention” and had no problem embarrassing her. I know from friends that other children noticed this as well.
My husband and I met with the teacher on more than one occasion for treatment we thought was unfair, and we also spoke with the principal on the subject. Nothing changed, and neither considered that she might have an attention disorder.
To this day, I believe the whole year affected her negatively as she moved forward.
Things just got worse in middle school and then high school
Things did not improve as she went through middle and high school. My oldest was made to feel “dumb” because she could not focus and struggled with her grades. She was getting Cs and an occasional B, but it was definitely “not good enough” in our town.
Sadly, their dad passed away when she was in 7th grade and her sister in 5th. To say that this made things more difficult is an understatement.
By the time she got to 9th grade, she fell into a deep depression and was riddled with anxiety over losing her father and low self-esteem regarding her intelligence. Not one teacher reached out to me. I noticed her distress and took her to therapy and a psychiatrist, where she was quickly diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder and severe ADD. By 10th grade, she was in treatment and on medication, and everything changed. Her grades improved, and she almost became a new person.
She graduated high school with decent grades and studied fashion merchandising at LIM College in New York City. She graduated with honors, which seemed impossible just a few years earlier. She now works in sales for a fashion brand and is a confident and happy young woman.
I look at her now, and she is an entirely different person than that insecure little girl I knew. Nothing makes me happier.
In contrast, my younger daughter was naturally “smart.” She was the kind of student who thrived in every class, and all her teachers adored her. She even won over the same 5th-grade teacher who initially looked at her with disdain when she realized who her sister was. My youngest had the best grades in the class, so why wouldn’t she be well-liked?
She graduated high school with honors and was in the top 10% of her class. My younger daughter is graduating from New York University, and I am so proud of her.
The difference in my girls’ school experiences made me feel as if they were in different school systems
The difference in my experience with my two girls was as if they went through an entirely different school system. I learned a lot through watching two very other girls grow up. I also now know that being “school smart” is not the only smart there is.
I understand the importance of not letting a child slip through the cracks. Sometimes it is not the child who is ultra-hyperactive and failing every class who isn’t given the help they need. I noticed that the super bright kids thrive, and the ones with severe learning disorders receive support. The ones in the middle sometimes get lost.
In our case, I was the one who invested a ton of time and heartache, not to mention money, to get her the help she needed. My daughter was lucky that I was able to do that. Some parents are not.
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