Dear Senator Simon Birmingham, I have a question for you,  Have you seen my boy, now aged 13, the boy who used to laugh, the boy that wa...

W's Red Letter

21:57:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Dear Senator Simon Birmingham,

I have a question for you, 

Have you seen my boy, now aged 13, the boy who used to laugh, the boy that was pleasant and a delight to anyone who would cross his path, a boy who was cheerful, full of life, a boy who loved exploring and go on adventures, If you find him, please show him the way back home!

Here is my story, I hope you are able to make things right, as it is so needed for so many children like my boy. 

As soon as he set foot in kindergarten, starting a new world of learning, exploring, meeting his teachers, socializing with other children,  the smiles and laughter started to quickly fade away and seem to disappear into thin air…. Soon there was no sign of that young man, who would brighten anyone’s day, the boy that could make people happy, by even just a simple smile!

For many years, my now 13 year old has been having difficulty keeping up with his peers; I always suspected that something was just not right. He was a late talker… did not say any proper words till he was three, has speech difficulties, stumbles to find the correct words, would repeat a whole sentence, as he lost track about what he wanted to say,  he has been teased a lot from other kids, due to his speech difficulties I knew something was not quite right, I just could not work out what it could be, school was no help either, I suspected that he may be dyslexic and I have spoken to the school, many times, they said I should just read to him more, and practice his sight word too… I did all that and more, still no improvement, I started to ask questions and was looking for answers, the school were not able to answer all the questions I had, I was trying to work out why he was having such difficulties reading, spelling and speaking, writing was difficult too and he is still holding his pen in an awkward grip. 

He could not keep up, In year 1, they suggested he should do the Reading Recovery program and no matter how many times he was practicing his sight words at home and to practice reading, he would simply not pick it up, in year 2, I asked his Pediatrician  if she could diagnose him, She was not able to do so, she is not a developmental Pediatrician , she informed me that school could do some tests that could indicate where the problems would be, but not a diagnosis, she did however diagnose him with borderline ADHD and migraines

In June 2012, I made a request to the school councilor to try and find out why he was having all these difficulties and after I spoke with another mum about my concerns and she too informed me that school can do an assessment,  it is called a ( WISC) and is an individually administered intelligence test for children between the ages of 6 and 16 The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV test), is an IQ test. No writing or reading ability is needed of the child that is taking the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. Once it has been completed, the WISC test produces an IQ score to see where he may be struggling, not once did the school suggest this for my son in the first place.

This report showed a lot of weaknesses in phonological awareness and working memory amongst other things. I spoke with the Principal and she had informed me that school is not able to help with a diagnosis of any kind and to seek help from an Educational Psychologist, These specialists that are very expensive and I am a single mum and unable to work due to my boy’s unpredictable medical conditions. I asked her if she thought that my son may be dyslexic her answer was a simple no and suggested for me to look into dyspraxia, I at the time did not know enough about the symptoms.

I proceeded to explore Dyspraxia, as I thought she would know better, she works with children all the time…. 

I discovered that Lidcombe University was doing research on Dyspraxia and we were invited to do some tests, upon receiving the report, it was discovered that he does not have Dyspraxia and although the test did show again there were some weaknesses found.

In July 2012, He was a victim of an assault by his neighbor, an AVO put in place and the matter went to court, He was seen by Victim support services and received counseling, He has had numerous of nightmares and has been scared to even be alone and finding it difficult to trust adults, He is not confident to ask anyone for help, I believe this scared him for life….

In September 2012, we moved and out of xx and he started a new school entering year 4, I had informed the school about all that has been going on and also gave them all the results of the testing done so far, but they were not able to do anything about the results, although it showed recommendations by other specialists

Soon after starting that school, trouble started occurring again and he was getting bullied, not once but a number of times, one time he was hit on the back with bamboo sticks, so hard it left him with permanent marks and again being teased due to his speech difficulties and some kids were teasing him about his spelling and told him to go back to kindy !

I complained to the school, but they did nothing to help stop it, all they would say to the other kids involved, is to not hurt others and to be kind to each other.
At times he would not behave in class the way that is expected of him, destroying his homework, doing just about anything to avoid having to do the work, he was simply not able too.

In May 2013, the school suggested for him to go to “Stewart House” and to be able for both of us to have a break from everything.

During the stay, children are provided with optometric, dental and medical treatment as well as emotional support. This is balanced with health and educational programs and out of school activities to boost their self-esteem and to promote a healthier lifestyle and is part of the NSW Department of Education 

He attended for 2 weeks, and really enjoyed it, as it was not a structured school setting. It was also a great respite for me as I too needed time out from all that has been going on.

Upon returning to his usual school, things soon became again very difficult and again been having trouble to keep up with his peers…. They just did not seem to understand or want to understand what happens when someone is not getting the assistance required with his learning difficulties, he is so anxious and stressed and his self esteem sinking further into oblivion, the ignorance and understanding of these difficulties in most schools is appalling, you can count yourself lucky if you find a school that is able to assist somewhat. It’s like a lottery ticket.

Every start of the year in Primary, I would hope for a teacher that would understand and sympathize and at least be accepting of information and to follow the simple accommodations within the classroom. 

No matter how many times, I had passed on information to teachers /schools, to suggest strategies, they seem to ignore it, or it was placed in the too hard basket… 

And so again the same behavior and avoidance would start again, he would also be showing strong symptoms of anxiety and feel so sick, that he was unable to attend school 

After yet another meeting  with the school to try and make things work, and  to also let them know that his behavior is due to the lack of support , they did not want to know, , It seems that he was just  too difficult . He was not like the other grade A or B students, this boy who just needed to be understood 

I took him to counseling, to help him with his anxiety and behavior, to help him with school related issues. 

Nothing I did to help him would make things better, as they were not doing the right thing by him. Something is drastically needed to address this within the system. If schools/ teachers were more able to recognize these difficulties, my son would most likely never have become that boy who is in need of seeing mental health professionals and to get medical certificates for his absences.

So yet again they suggested, he should go to yet again a different school… for a few weeks to help with his behavior, they do not seem to understand what it means to have to be in class each day and to try so hard without any teacher understanding, the difficulty these children have, each and every second of the day. 

This school is for children with challenging behaviors and provides an intensive intervention program for up to 20 weeks for students in Years 5 to 8. The program is designed for students who have experienced problems in their ability to access the academic, behavioral and social curriculum of their mainstream home schools. 

PP was small structured school and two /three teachers and all trained in special education and only at most about 8 students He had some great days there, but mostly he would benefit from one on one tutoring.  This was only for 20 weeks and I believe some of his best in years, he came out more confident and ready to go back to school when the time had finished.

Upon returning to his usual schooling, things became quickly to difficult again and although he was getting a lot of support at PP, he was not getting ANY support at school and was thrown into the deep end.. He was drowning so to speak and schools should be more aware what happens with a child that has learning differences and not getting the right support. They become anxious and easily frustrated .. They have been hurt and tried so hard for so long, they give up.. Enough is enough…!

He started complaining about tummy aches, He would wake in the morning, with a migraine, he would feel weak, at times unable to walk, have pains almost daily, In that same month his tummy ache was that bad that the doctor sent us to Hospital, with the suspicion of appendicitis, there they did tests and no, we have the all clear…. 

During that time he had become so frustrated and angry, every time we would discuss anything to do with school, that one day, he barricaded himself into his bedroom and said he wanted to kill himself by placing his hands around his neck and banging his head against the wall, He also had picked up a knife from the kitchen, I contacted his councilor and she recommended I call an ambulance and police came to the house too as I rang 000, the police were able to get him out of his room, that is when I discovered the knife

They took us to the Royal North shore for observation and seen by a mental health team, later to be able to go home and to follow up with a physiatrists at a later date.

A few days later, he was seen by a physiatrists and there he was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and ODD . and I am sure this has been due to the years of struggle and trying so hard to keep up with his peers and for the nonexistent support and understanding in the education system.

In Oct 2014 He was seen by the team of Learning links and there he was diagnosed as having Specific Learning Difficulties, otherwise known as Dyslexia, along with the report from Learning Links and ONLY due to a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, school was then able to apply for funding, although it took a very long time to get everything in place, and even when all was granted, it would still not be enough 

In Feb 2015, we had a week at Coral Tree Family services, just to get some help and guidance with my boy who had simply had enough, his self esteem was at an all time low and no more will power to keep going.

In the start of 2015 The school had applied for funding , and although the first time it was not successful, the education department finally approved it in May, In June I asked the school as I still was not made aware that funding was approved, I then contacted the Education Department myself and was informed school was already getting the funding since May, of course I contacted the school  and organized a meeting  and was asking them how they would help him and.nothing was being put in place immediately, the constant following up and asking what and when he may get some help  It wasn’t till August of that year that only sometimes he was getting a little help from a Teachers Aid , she was not qualified to teach children like my son, this person would just sit and try and help, one day of the week and this was not every week! The school purchased a program called Razkids  A reading program which he was able to access ….. This is all they were able to do for him…  

Now in year 7 and still struggles on a daily basis. Why is it so hard for schools to understand ?  I have lost faith in the Education System and know a lot of parents who pulled their children out of school and are now homeschooling… I thought that every student has a right to an education, is my son not THAT student ?

The difficulties at school will affect things at home too, due to being frustrated and hurt for so long.  Suffering from low self esteem/stress and anxiety. finding it hard to stay focused and even noise is distracting, He already has had numerous days of due to him waking up feeling sick,  too sick to go to school.

This year he started High school, I was hoping for a better start and after meeting with Learning support and the year 7 coordinator, the deputy principal.  I again passed on some useful info and an IEP plan was developed in March, all teachers were suppose to be informed about his difficulties, LS to also adjust his homework/school work, but still he was getting work send home that had not been altered by LS… I contacted the school on numerous times, about this, it kept occurring,   I had given the school a lot of information about my sons difficulties and how to help children like my son with some reasonable adjustment put in place within the classroom and it seems they would have been ignored again.

Frustration anxiety and behavior started building again and I would be notified by letter to explain what was going to be happening the following day, They would use a “step program” and the first step is to place him in isolation away from his peers, That would not be a good idea for someone like my boy, now would it , next step 2 would be to be pulled out of class and working in the deputy principal office.. step 3 suspension !  That certainly did nothing to correct my sons behavior, they could not understand that.

This would happen again and again… 

Just recently this again was a problem at school, as his anxiety and dyslexia were simply ignored,  over and over again. 

When the deputy principal contacted me in late August , she asked me to collect him, as again he was not  behaving the way a student is required to, I asked what other things they are doing to with help, she said that in the last 3 months,  they only focused on the behavior plan put in place ? That was their first priority?.

I was so shocked to hear her say this, I came and collected him, and did not want to return him to the school that were ignoring his needs, I went to the GP and emailed the school with a copy of the medical certificate and then I wrote her an email suggesting the following to the deputy principal 

{email removed by myredletter for privacy}

This was not the response I was looking forward to read, no mention at all about his other learning needs. Needless to say, I recently pulled him out of that high school since they were doing nothing to help… and even when I asked the principal , what do you think children with dyslexia struggle with her answer…  “ It is just a reading difficulty, isn’t it “  ……you should have seen the frustration on my face… if looks could kill !

Nothing was being done even though I gave the school plenty of information as to how to help children like my son… all they were seeing is a child with behavior problems…. That is it… They suspended him a number of times, has had in school detentions, meeting after meeting with me to discuss behavior

I contacted the regional office and mentioned my frustrations and spoke with a new school in the area, where he has just started   The best decision I have made in a while, I explained all that has happened in the past,and they mentioned that my son’s emotional well being is the most important issue right now… once he feels he is supported, he will slowly become a happier boy and will start feeling better and will be able to learn .I already notice a big difference in support.. all schools should be the same with understanding learning differences.

Early intervention is needed now, to prevent the ongoing need for psychiatrists, psychologist, and the use of other mental health facilities, the need for children like my son to have go to seek help from to MSL tutors, because the schools are not able to help.

With years of struggle, children like mine, simply give up, they will then go on and become yet another burden in the system, they will end up in prison …I am determined to keep fighting for what is right for my boy.  the number of people with learning difficulties in prison is astounding, and does not have to be this way… !

So hereby I am asking you, you CAN make things possible, unless drastic action is taken within the education system and teachers are taught how to teach children like my son and how to implement strategies and make reasonable adjustments and to reinforce these on a daily basis, children like my son will only sink further into depression/anxiety and avoidance of anything to do with school.

Thank you for reading my side of the story as part of the “Red Letter campaign”

This too has affected me personally, my own physical and mental health is at an all time low, The need for change is of great importance for everyone affected by the battle we face each and every day!