For a long time, I had been expressing the opinion that my child was struggling. Struggling in school, struggling with change, struggling with tiredness, struggling to read as proficiently as others the same age as her, struggling with hearing the word no, struggling to get to sleep, struggling with restful sleep, struggling with early wake up’s even though she’s exhausted, struggling with life. Now others may not describe that as struggling, they may just dismiss the child as bold but thankfully I know better.
I asked her teacher upon starting school, to be mindful of how my child was processing information because, as her mum I had a deep intuition that she could possibly be dyslexic. However, she did not pick up on anything. Now granted, due to covid she never had a complete year in either junior or senior class, which probably didn’t help. Additionally with the increased focus on inclusion of additional needs children in mainstream classrooms, without additional funding and support, teachers are stretched beyond belief. A focus which I believe is causing untold stress and adverse childhood experiences for thousands of children across the country. To delve into that requires a separate blog……….
As most mums will agree, the transition from junior classes to first class is a challenge for most children. Children go from being minded, to making their first transition into self-responsibility. They are required to write down their homework by themselves. It’s on the board for a set amount of time and they are required to be self-motivated, organised, and focused. Additionally, they begin to learn spellings off by heart. Changing the way, they use their brain which leaves most children tired. They are creating new pathways in their brain, testing the boundaries of how their brain processes the information it is receiving. It’s hard work for our little people.
At the end of January 2022, I acknowledged in myself that my child needed help. Something was not clicking for her. I listened to my inner knowing and began by asking questions of people I trust and am blessed to have in my life. Thankfully Joanne Callen mentioned that there is an eye test which can indicate if your child is dyslexic. Great stuff, I’ll start there. Off we went to Newbridge to Crowley Opticians. The wonderful Grainne Maguire completed a series of visual processing tests.
WHAT IS VISUAL PROCESSING?
Visual processing is a term that is used to refer to the brain’s ability to use and interpret visual information from the world around us.
The process of converting light energy into a meaningful image for you to understand is a complex process that is facilitated by numerous brain structures and higher-level cognitive processes. Your eye receives the image, sends it along the complex pathways of your visual cortex, to be processed by the brain.
For some people, these images get scrambled, or confused and misinterpreted, leading to visual processing problems such as dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), migraines, some conditions related to autism (ASD), or other common perceptual issues such as “face blindness” or peripheral blur.
20% of people struggle with some form of visual processing issue where the eye is functioning perfectly, but the visual message being sent to the brain along the Visual Cortex is being misinterpreted due to a processing error.
Taken directly from Crowley’s opticians website.
My little bub was asked to read, she completed the task as usual, laboured, slow, intensely looking at the page. Grainne then popped coloured lenses on, she repeated the task, this time fluid, less effort, smooth and fast. I could have cried with relief for her and myself. Her little face was priceless, she beamed. Then Grainne asked her to look at me, my child burst into tears. “It’s the first time I have seen your full-face mum”.
I nearly fell over. Basically, my child’s eyes process at different speeds, so when she looks at my face focusing on my nose all she can see is either the top or bottom half of my face. This little person is working so hard on the inside to achieve the everyday actions required to be human. Now I totally get why she is so exhausted as our brain uses the majority of our energy. It makes total sense now.
Have the glasses made a difference, yes absolutely. Does she love them no, but she wears them for school and for watching TV. She has chosen to not wear them all the time as they are tinted green and she misses colour. She is a very creative child that loves art and crafts and painting and making clothes. Colour is very important to her engagement with the world and her happiness.
We have since received our dyslexia diagnosis. We choose to go private for this assessment as the likelihood was, she would be waiting 3 years to access it through our school system. The diagnosis allows us to access supports and the all-important Irish exemption for her. It would be torture to expect her to learn to write in Irish. She does however remain in the class while it is being taught as she loves speaking the language. It’s a missed opportunity I feel that children at secondary level do not have the option to choose oral Irish only.
I will do everything I can to support my child on her journey to understand herself and her brain. I will be the warrior mammy ensuring she deeply values herself exactly as she is. That her brain, with all its strengths and weaknesses is a gift that will bring something special to the world. I will impart to her a deep knowing that she’s here on this planet to be a creative being not a productive one. She will be empowered with the knowing that not everyone she encounters will understand or value her abilities.
Finally, can I say to all the mummies out there, listen to that inner knowing, acknowledge it, trust it. The world will question your knowing, will dismiss it, not value it, they will claim that you are too emotional, needy, your overprotective, your child is indulged, spoiled, lazy. Let them judge you, as frustrating as it is, they are doing the best they can with the knowledge and ability they have in that moment. Keep your focus, keep asking questions, keep advocating for your child so that they can be the best they can be. So that they can feel held, heard, accepted and perfect just exactly as they are.
It appears to me the world has enough thinkers. So far thinking is not working out so well for the world. Maybe just maybe, our non neuro typical children are here currently to help us all go back to feeling not always doing. Happy children, Happy families, Happy communities, Happy life. Wouldn’t that be good for us all.