“I think we need to put Ian in special education.” Ian’s teacher was saying something about the anomalies in his learning abilities, but my breath caught in my throat, and I only pieced together what I heard after “special education.”
Ian’s miracle status now has a black mark on it. He is no longer the boy who defied all odds. My fears over the last few years have been confirmed: Ian has learning disabilities.
And truthfully, how could Ian not have problems with learning? The surgery—the radiation—they created severe brain injuries for my son. Add to that the fact that Ian has an empty space where the tumor used to be; his brain hasn’t filled in that void yet. Of course learning issues are a reality for Ian. I just wanted the miracle of Ian’s recovery to encompass learning as well.
Even though I’ve noticed how he’s struggled with reading and math, I’ve been hopeful that Ian was just a struggling “normal” student. But now we know it is more than that. On a diagnostic test his class recently took, students who scored a 7 are considered struggling; most students have 9s or 10s as average students. Ian scored a 1.
His reading and writing are far below average. Ian is not making any significant advances, even though to talk to him, a person would never know anything was wrong. In conversations he communicates like a little man; yet he struggles with reading and writing basic words—words that he’s had since kindergarten. He can’t remember his math facts either. No amount of repetition is helping him retain the information.
I’ve been a mess. I cry every time I think about my sweet little boy struggling with reading and math, knowing that he sees his classmates easily accomplishing the tasks, while Ian stumbles over every concept and directive. I’ve been working with him, trying to get him caught up, but he takes just as many steps backwards as he does forwards. None of us can get things to stick in his brain.
We are now waiting to get an appointment for his neurological/psychological exam; the tests should tell us what exactly we are dealing with and how best to help Ian with his learning disabilities. In the meantime, his wonderful teachers are working with him one-on-one or in small group settings to support him the best they can. I am so thankful for these dedicated women who paid enough attention to Ian to realize that his struggles were anomalies. We can now move forward to get Ian the help he needs.
As sad as I am that Ian will have this label, I am thankful that I can add caring professionals to his village. As hopeful as I am that we will be able to remove the “special ed” label from his transcripts in the next few years, I am also painfully aware of the cruelty of other children—children who might laugh at his inadequacies.
How will this affect his self-confidence? Will this change his dreams? What if he stops dreaming because the world becomes an inaccessible, confusing place for him?
My fears have controlled me the last week, so much so that it’s been difficult to share Ian’s situation with family and friends. As soon as the thought of telling someone what Ian is going through comes up, my tears flow. I’m feeling better since talking to his teachers, but I know this is just the beginning of his journey. I need to focus on making the best case scenario for Ian; I know I need to stay positive for his sake.
As has become my habit when life throws me a curveball, I have decided to count my blessings with Ian:
I am thankful that Ian is alive.
I am thankful that Cancer is a distant (and quite faded) memory for him.
I am thankful that Ian can run and jump and play like a normal little boy and is not in a wheelchair like the doctors thought he would be.
I am thankful that Ian is a happy child with many things that bring him joy. Almost every day he says, “This is the best day ever!”
I am thankful that even though school is hard for him, his teachers say Ian is a hard worker and never gives up, no matter how many times he has to do something.
I am thankful for all the wonderful people and friends he has in his life that love him and will support him through every trial.
I am thankful that he was recently cleared of any possibility of hearing loss because of the radiation treatments.
And I am thankful that even now, Ian is special in every way possible.