Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Beauty of Being LD

I just returned from the LDA 49th International Conference in Chicago. I presented a session at the conference entitled The Beauty of Being LD. I have presented this session about probably 3 or 4 times by now in the last two years. It gets updated, but the message stays the same.

This arose from attending a workshop 2 years ago when a parent of a child with LD, who had grown into a successful adult with LD, gave a presentation. I was very excited at the time to attend this session. As the mother of a child with Aspergers and several severe learning disabilities, I wanted to hear how someone else's child had progressed and grown into adulthood. I wondered what this mother might have struggled with over the years and were some of her fears for her child the same as those I have? Did she have some of the same dreams for her daughter as I do my son?

Encouragement within that workshop for me quickly turned from excitement and eagerness to discouragement. Thus, the session I recently conducted was born.

The presentation itself consists of 8 Beatitudes I rewrote strictly outlining what I felt was beautiful about any child with a learning disability. I wanted others to understand that being a parent of a child with a learning disability can be a beautiful journey and a blessing. I love my child. He is such an awesome kid.

It is a blessing each day of my life to be graced with my children, both of them. The diagnoses of my youngest son does not define who he is...Each morning when he awakens and each night as he closes his eyes to sleep, he is a blessing and he has a name. His name is not his diagnoses, his name is Charles. Charles is defined by his moral character, his fortitude, his graces, his beauty, the inward light that comes from within, his wisdom, his inquisitive nature. He is not named for his disabilities. He is Charles and he is my son.

His disabilities are a part of him. And, because he is a beautiful child, his learning disability is a beauty in itself. It makes him a better person. It gives him tenacity. He is a fighter. He perseveres. He works harder than most children I know. There is beauty in his being LD.

On a lighter note, at the beginning of my session, I needed a projector to show my powerpoint presentation. A dear friend and colleague, Dr. Joan Teach, had agreed to loan me and help to set up her projector for the presentation. Joan refers to her projector and laptop, which she has strapped to a roll dolly for easier transport, as the 'dog and pony show.'

Charles was my assistant for the presentation. He stands at the entrance to the room and gives session participants their handouts and any necessary materials related to the session. The session started without a hitch and was well underway. Joan snuck out the side and Charlie stopped her on the way out. I am well into the halfway mark of my presentation when quietly from the back of the room the whispering starts, "Mom...Mama...Mom...Mama!" Then, still in a whispered tone, but louder, my child continues to call my name.

He is then walking up the center aisle of the room, still whispering my name in a louder, but hushed tone. He is coming towards me. I am still presenting the session. I asked everyone to please forgive me for one second, as I focus my attention on my son. He stops to tell me "Ms. Joan left the room to go to a mental meeting and you have to watch her dog and pony until she gets back." He whispers to me that there is not a dog and pony in the room. His literal interpretation came shining through. What tickled me so much was that he knows what Joan calls the 'dog and pony show' and has called it that before himself. He has helped to pull this ensemble in previous cities before and at previous conferences, as he has helped us to set up or move equipment from point A to point B.

But, the bigger point was that this moment in time was a shining example of a learning disability in action. But, more important at the moment was the child.

So, my question to you, as you think about your child with a disability...do you allow the disability to define your child or is your child defined by the person he was created to be? Don't limit your son or daughter by the label that is given him or her.

My son is my son - each morning and night. He is defined by his moments of sincerity, by moments of inquisitive learning and thought, by his humor and laughter, by his tears, by his heart and feelings, by the moments that make his life. He has Aspergers and learning disabilities, but he is never defined by them. He is made more beautiful because of them.

I have a child named Charlie. He has disabilities. He is not limited by his labels, he excels because of them. They help to make him a more beautiful and refined individual. My child is beautiful, because there is beauty in his LD.