E Dy l xia s

Deal­ing with D o e s y o u r c h i l D s t r u g g l e w i t h l e a r n i n g a n D a t t e n t i o n i s s u e s ? t a k e h e a r t . y o u a r e n o t a l o n e

WKND - - Child Care Beating The Odds -

Suzanne Lang fondly re­mem­bers ask­ing her then five- year- old son, Alec, what he wanted to be for Hal­loween. “The king,” he said, beam­ing. So they went to the craft store and picked out red vel­vet and white fur for a cape. Lang made a scep­tre out of card­board and spray- painted it gold.

“When I put the crown on his head, he looked at me with big eyes, full of con­fi­dence and joy,” she says. “Sadly, I wouldn’t see that look again for many years.”

There had been hints back in preschool that some­thing wasn’t right. Alec’s speech was slightly off. He had trou­ble in kin­der­garten with let­ters and words. But at the same time, he was very bright, cre­ative and in­quis­i­tive.

In first grade, things be­gan to un­ravel. Ev­ery day, the class would spend time writ­ing in their jour­nals. And ev­ery day Alec would try hard but only man­age to write one word — and he’d spell it wrong, too.

School be­came un­bear­able for him. He be­gan chew­ing through pen­cil erasers. He’d come home af­ter school yelling or cry­ing, feel­ing frus­trated and over­whelmed. In third grade, when his school eval­u­ated him, he told the staff he was “stupid”, even though the eval­u­a­tion found he ac­tu­ally had a very high IQ. “My lit­tle ‘ king’ seemed so far away,” Lang noted. Even­tu­ally, the Lang fam­ily dis­cov­ered that Alec had dys­lexia and at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der ( ADHD). These is­sues aren’t un­com­mon: one in five chil­dren strug­gle with brain- based is­sues re­lated to read­ing, math, writ­ing, at­ten­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Back then, all I knew was that I needed to start look­ing for ways to help my son,” Lang says. “But I hit a road­block I never ex­pected; few par­ents wanted to open up to me about their chil­dren’s strug­gles.”

It’s an un­com­fort­able sub­ject, af­ter all. It’s also in­vis­i­ble — no one can tell by look­ing at a child that he can’t read or write. “I turned to the In­ter­net, but it was be­yond frus­trat­ing. Most web­sites were full of con­fus­ing education jar­gon. And if I found a site I liked, I kept won­der­ing, ‘ Can I re­ally trust this in­for­ma­tion?’”

Lang spent count­less hours track­ing down ex­perts, even­tu­ally find­ing a read­ing spe­cial­ist named Margie Gil­lis. “She helped us un­der­stand two very im­por­tant things: why my son was strug­gling and how I could help him,” Lang says.

That knowl­edge marked a turn­ing point for the Langs. They found a mid­dle school that gave Alec the chance to meet other kids with learn­ing and at­ten­tion is­sues. This helped build his con­fi­dence and gave him a sense of community. “I re­mem­ber him say­ing, ‘ I never thought there were so many peo­ple like me’,” Suzanne says.

Once he had the kind of in­struc­tion and sup­port he needed, Alec started to make progress. By the end of mid­dle school, he even started talk­ing about want­ing to go to col­lege. “Even as Alec started to thrive, a sad­ness came over me,” Lang says. “I thought, ‘ How many other par­ents are out there look­ing for an­swers?’”

That’s when she em­barked on a new mis­sion — to help other par­ents whose chil­dren have learn­ing and at­ten­tion is­sues. That jour­ney led her to join the team at Un­der­stood. org, a com­pre­hen­sive re­source that em­pow­ers par­ents of kids with learn­ing and at­ten­tion is­sues.

Its mis­sion is to of­fer par­ents clear ex­pla­na­tions and prac-

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