Overcoming Complex Learning Disorders
Mark and Wendy Wilson knew their son Christian needed to overcome some learning challenges when he first began public school. They also knew he was a smart, sensitive child who was very capable, but just needed some extra help. So in first grade, when school officials attempted to label Christian as having behavior problems, with one counselor even going so far as to suggest he might be "retarded," the Wilsons were understandably furious — not only at the use of an offensive word, but also at the school's attempt to label and dismiss their child.
Instead, they turned to outside testing and fortunately found a psychologist who knew exactly how to diagnose and help Christian. He was diagnosed with a complex learning disability involving dysgraphia (a deficiency in the ability to write), dyslexia (impairment in reading) and dyscalculia (difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic). The psychologist suggested enrolling Christian in a private school specifically geared to children with learning challenges, but the Wilsons at first decided to keep Christian where he was. They also tried medications, but those did not work and had adverse reactions, and the Wilsons didn't like the changes the medicine had on his personality.
Then, in the first grade, Christian began having even more difficulties in class. For example, because so much of students' work is timed, Christian would always finish last and would be penalized, which affected the whole class and in turn, how other children treated Christian. Finally, the Wilsons had had enough and looked into private schools.
They enrolled Christian in Noble Academy, a private school in Greensboro for children with learning differences. "We immediately noticed a huge difference," says Wendy Wilson. "The school community was so welcoming, and the teachers understood Christian's needs and his struggles and how to help him overcome them."
Christian, now age 12, and in fifth grade at Noble Academy, has made great progress and is reading and showing improvements in writing and comprehension skills. "We did not want to see him fail," Wilson says. "Being at Noble Academy has helped us help Christian. We've given him the tools he needs to learn."
Christian no longer requires medication and is a compassionate, considerate young boy. Once he was in a learning environment that was better suited to his needs, he has gained self-respect and now takes his learning disabilities in stride. Like many other tweens, Christian loves video games, computers, books and baseball.
"When Christian first began having learning difficulties even in daycare and pre-K, it was really hard. We didn't want to be that family whose child was so different, especially once we got to kindergarten," Wilson admits. "At the end of the day, we are blessed to have such a wonderful, caring son. We realize his disability could be so much worse and it doesn't bother him. He has taught us all patience and understanding."
"If there's one thing I could tell other parents dealing with a child with a learning disability, it's to be a voice for your child because no one else will be. Use all available resources and don't be ashamed to ask for help. Listen to your heart if you know your child isn't happy," Wilson says. "It has been a long road but to see where Christian is now is a blessing."
Wendy and Mark Wilson live in Greensboro with their three children: Christian, 12; Nash, 8; and Sydney, 4.