A Daughter’s Triumph Fueled by a Mother’s Determination

At a recent taekwondo competition, my daughter won it all. She placed third in board breaking. Second in forms. First in sparring. To close, she was awarded the grand champion. Yes, sorry, I am bragging a bit, but you see, she’s come a long way.

In November, 2004, after a year of extreme anticipation, I found out I was pregnant. I first knew of my condition when familiar smells affected me in new ways. All throughout my pregnancy, I would notice my little one making untriggered jitters. There was no rhyme or reason for these whole body movements, other than she would make them from time to time, by no provocation on my part.

Delivery went as expected – three pushes and she was out. Now holding her in my arms, and as she grew, I noticed those jitters once again. She would tense up her body, then release. I would frequently mention them to her pediatrician; of course, she wouldn’t make these movements during any of those visits, so he just said that it must not be anything of concern.

Sorry…but my mother’s intuition was pushed beyond the normal range.

Naturally, my daughter progressed without complications. But those jitters remained, tense then relax.

Once she started school, my daughter continued the path of typical development, until the second semester of first grade. As the other kids would learn their addition and subtraction facts, she would stick to knowing the numbers. As the other kids were reading early chapter books, she read the large picture ones. As the other kids learned about letter sounds by tapping the syllables on their arms, my daughter’s taps would match how she heard these sounds, which was a bit different.

Then, thanks to standardized testing, she fell below the average. Second grade provided a standstill in learning, while anxiety gained vitality. Her third grade teacher wanted to help and did follow through by providing a nurturing, secure learning environment along with making a personal connection to my daughter.

What I admired about her third grade teacher is that she gave me homework, homework to write a letter to her about my daughter.

I will be honest with you. Second grade was a difficult year for my daughter. Not only did she get use to one teacher, and had a terrible time adjusting to the regular teacher [due to a maternity leave], she also had some poor peer relationships and suffered greatly with her self-esteem. By May, I realized that she had some anxiety issues and through discussions with various doctors and specialists, I realized that she also has anger issues and a developmental disability that started in spring of first grade. As a result, she sees a counselor weekly and a child psychologist monthly to help her. I did put in a request to the principal regarding developing an IEP meeting in June and followed up in August, but nothing has come about.

In regards to her anxiety, my daughter is working on being positive and controlling her thoughts when she faces a troubling situation. She is working on completing the following five tasks when she feels this way: 1. Counting to 10. 2. Taking deep breaths. 3. Thinking of a relaxing scene. 4. Tensing and relaxing parts of her body. 5. Saying “I’m OK.” My husband and I talk with her daily about whom she eats lunch with, hangs out at recess, and whom she socializes with in class, to assure that she is feeling comfortable and is enjoying her peers. I want you to be aware of her “tummy aches” because this is a signal that she is in an anxious situation. The last four weeks of school, [of second grade] once or sometimes more, she would request to see the nurse and want to go home; this was due to her feeling nervous about peer situations, and also some academic ones too.

Which leads me to the developmental disability. I’m sure you are aware from her test scores that she is at a starting second grade level. Sometime during first grade when Orton-Gillingham was introduced, my daughter did not get the depth of how one is to use this system when sounding out words. She is not an auditory learner; she is a visual and kinesthetic learner who needs to repeat what she is being taught in order for her to master it. Reading stresses her out. She has difficultly listening to vowels, she drops the final letter or syllable in words, and she replaces words with the same letter since she does not know how to sound out difficult words. So these issues, provided many struggles she has to face, resulting in the suffering of her academic success.

My daughter is a very sweet, loveable little girl, who has lit up my life from the moment she was born. I hope you keep these items in mind as you get to know her. I invite you to discover if you notice the same problems that I have. I look forward to working with you. Please email me at any time.

Thank you again for inviting me to share.

During the following year, her fourth grade teacher made appropriate accommodations as my daughter needed them. I finally was reassured that my daughter would want to go to school, unlike the end of second grade when she would feign diarrhea several times a week. Keep in mind that she was now nine, with chronically, low testing scores that the school decided to help her more than before, but these interventions were too little, too late.

As a result, I had my daughter formally evaluated for learning disabilities by a separate doctor outside of the school’s domain. In addition to anxiety, she has ADHD. Both of these issues go hand in hand. Because of her anxiety, she does not pay attention. She is not one to act up or be disruptive; she is quiet, alone, isolated. When too much action surrounds her, she fails to focus. She withdraws. No one notices her. No one helps her. Her inability to focus causes her to lose any understanding of what the context of her current situation is.

Around the time of this testing, I was nearing my wit’s end. She would constantly argue, fight, lose what little control she had due to her anxiety about homework, school, going out, staying home, what to do during unstructured time. So, I enrolled her in at a local taekwondo center. Attending class three times a week, she double tested all of the lower belts. The deputy belts challenged her perseverance. She failed one test, which demonstrated to her that these belts required more time to fully master the complex movements. At a little over a year and a half, she earned her black belt.

Around this time, I shared with her instructors the reason why I placed my daughter in their care. She tried dance, gymnastics, violin (she does play flute), but none of these stuck with her. When I informed them of her disabilities, they commented that they would never had guessed. I was glad I kept that information hidden from them.

As she reaches the age of twelve, the tournament’s success allowed my daughter to recognize what she is good at. She may not be on the honor roll. She may always use her fingers to solve any math problem. She may never read a chapter book fully. But that’s okay. As long as she tries, I’m one proud mama.

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