Advocating for Kids with Learning Difficulties

Advocating for Kids with Learning Difficulties

by Kelly Bellamy

When my son was very young, I began to have concerns about how he learned and retained information.

It started when he was about 3 or 4 and struggled with getting his shoes on the correct feet without help. I was told by many seasoned parents and even professionals to not worry about it. I tried to let go and not worry. I beat myself up for being a nervous first time mom who worried over every little thing.  Through pre-school we weren’t seeing the progress that other kids were achieving. He couldn’t spell his name, let alone write it, and struggled to memorize things. One thing that truly concerned me was that he seemed to forget colors he’d known for some time. I was told that sometimes kids will pretend to not know things.

I knew he was very intelligent so I continued to try to set aside my concerns. He started Kindergarten just  6 weeks after my daughter was born. My hope was that being in ‘real’ school would help and he would catch up. I still remember my first Parent Teacher Conference. His teacher was so sweet and affirming. She told me that she saw what I saw, but assured me that he would catch up. “Every kids learns and develops at their own pace.”  This became my mantra. Yet, he made comments about not being as smart as the other kids.

By first grade, he was completely defeated. At our first parent/teacher conference, we got the results back from the end of Kindergarten and he ranked in the bottom 10 percent. I felt a punch to the gut. The tears were hot and stung. The school started him in their intervention program but by the Winter break we still weren’t seeing results. During this time, we also scheduled an eye exam. He was complaining about headaches and words bouncing around. The doctor who performed that exam seemed irritated by my questions and said he had perfect vision.

I asked about getting a full evaluation done at school and was told he didn’t need it yet. This didn’t resonate due to the issues we were seeing. I reached out to friends in education and was told that I had a legal right to request an evaluation. I was told that March was too late in the school year to perform the eval and it would wait until the next school year. We made the decision then to homeschool.

We took that next year to allow him to simply breathe. We worked on building his confidence and using methods proven to help with kids with Dyslexia.  I began to worry when I noticed that we were not making enough progress. I scheduled a private evaluation to be done, to help me know how to best teach him.  We were referred to get an evaluation at a Developmental Optometrist. I will not even try to lie, I was terrified of what we would learn. I worried about all the possible outcomes.  

The evaluation was very similar to the standard vision exam. It was just more in depth, much more in depth.  We learned that my son has several developmental delays that were overlooked when he was younger. All the things I was seeing and concerned about were pieces to the puzzle. My gut was right and my son needed real help.  One of my son’s biggest issues is Convergence Insufficiency.  {“Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a common binocular vision disorder that is often associated with a variety of symptoms, including eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, diplopia [double vision], sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, movement of print while reading, and loss of comprehension after short periods of reading or performing close activities.”  Archives of Ophthalmology. 2008;126(10):1336-1349} We have started office based vision therapy and hope that my son will be able to make great progress within the year.

My advice to other parents and caregivers dealing with learning issues is to trust your gut. No one will advocate for your child like you. You know your child better than anyone. I fell into the trap of thinking that I didn’t know enough because they were the professionals. While I fully respect the education and experience that comes with being a doctor, teacher or therapist, they are still human and capable of making mistakes. Trust yourself and do your best to get your child the help they need.


Kelly Bellamy

Kelly is one of the owners and founders of Growing Up Maury. She was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Middle Tennessee in 2006 with her husband. She is a mom to two beautiful kids through adoption. She is a seamstress and owner of Mama's Mess Boutique. She loves coffee a bit too much and loves authentic conversation.

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