This is a challenging blog to write since I generally focus on nutrition, prevention of disease, lifestyle improvements, and the benefits of exercise. But, as a mom, this is weighing heavily on my heart and mind, and I hope that it impacts those who read it.
There are many people with physical and mental disabilities. We recognize them and are understanding and sympathetic for the challenges that these unique individuals face daily. However, there are some disabilities that are not so apparent: learning disabilities. To the average person, someone with a learning disability does not show any signs or symptoms at all. Yet, learning challenges impact every aspect of an individual’s life: short term memory can be affected, processing of information, easily distracted when learning new concepts, application of what one learns, and many more.
As a mom of two children with a learning disability, I have experienced firsthand what my kids go through daily. They have been labeled disruptive, “bouncy”, impulsive, “too touchy”, “doesn’t apply himself”, lazy, and more. One teacher even told me that the reason my son misbehaved in class was because “He doesn’t fear God”! Wow!! I don’t think most adults fear God enough, let alone a developing 9 year old boy!
Because my sons are bright, friendly, athletic, musically inclined, and get good grades, many teachers see them as being completely normal and that they couldn’t possibly have a learning disability that affects their ability to grasp new concepts, apply them, retain information, and sit still in school. The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind every single day. What most teachers and adults don’t understand, is that for my sons to comprehend and learn new concepts, it requires 10x the effort for them over other children in the classroom.
Here are some of the things that I have experienced as the parent of children with a learning disability that is not openly apparent: my sons have been bullied, excluded from groups, excluded from parties, gossip by adults and leaders at school and church. We have been told that we are not parenting well, that we need to discipline them more. I have felt extremely isolated as a parent and many times, over the years, I have simply stayed home to protect them from others.
I don’t share with everyone about my sons’ challenges since I care about their dignity and anonymity. However, what I want people to understand is that their expectations for the way my children behave are simply their expectations. My children cannot live up to the expectations placed upon them by others. They are unique and need to be treated and understood as unique and wildly marvelous human beings!
I am challenging others to extend kindness, understanding, and GRACE…No one knows what other people are dealing with, the challenges of life, the pain they have endured, nor the suffering that continues. When you see a child or teenager that is behaving differently than the norm, consider that they might be struggling in life and simply need someone to extend them kindness.