We learned to follow our son’s lead when it came to what he could or would do or not. He has mild cerebral palsy, which is a hard diagnosis to wrap your head around. He can walk and talk and drive a car. But he can’t write or tie shoes or brush his teeth very well. His speech isn’t entirely clear.
He worked very hard to walk and learn to talk so everyone could understand him. When it came to school, it took a team to help figure out what worked for him. It wasn’t only the teachers. We also needed his therapists, and sometimes his Admissions, Review, Dismissal (ARD) team to get involved.
For example, we worked very hard to help him learn to write. Special pencil grips, fatter pencils, shorter pencils, anything that might help. By the end of 1st grade, he still had no concept of how to separate words in order for someone to read them. They were one long string of letters and his letters were still pretty hard to identify.
His occupational therapist commented about him having a lot to say. A polite way of saying he talked a lot. But she worried that his writing skills were never going to allow him to express himself. So we started down the path of finding another method.
I knew we would never get a computer (this was the early 1990s) for him but we did get a typewriter. He used it for spelling tests and writing assignments. His therapist continued to work on writing.
But, when introduced to cursive writing, he looked at us as if it was some big conspiracy. His look said, “You torture me with learning to print for 5 years and now you want me to learn cursive? Sorry, I’m done!” He had the same reaction when learning addition and then he had to learn subtraction. That one we pushed through, but he never embraced it like he did addition!
We moved on to a more permanent and portable device for writing – an AlphaSmart. He could take his spelling test or do a writing assignment and then print it out to turn it in. Spell check was turned off.
He used the AlphaSmart through high school. He used it for notes. There were 8 folders on it, so he could use one for each subject. He even wrote down assignments. Well, sometimes…
He had a story going that he worked on for years. From time to time he would add to it. We saved it before saying goodbye to the AlphaSmart. It was an excellent tool that served him well.
After making the difficult decision to medicate your child, with time and on occasions, old symptoms return or new ones appear. Once again, you’re faced with what felt like an already-made decision - to medicate higher or more, or not.