Our DS has always been a bright and bubbly boy. He passed his pre-K screenings with flying colors. When the day came to start school, he politely informed me "Mom, you can leave now". Piece of cake right? About two months in he mentioned a trip to the principal's office. Whoa! Hold your horses! Maybe I'm dating myself but when you were sent to the principal's office in the 80's it was a declaration that you were pretty much a hooligan, for life! I brought this up at the parent teacher meeting and was shocked to find out that he was there often.
Now, I would never state that my DS was an angel. We have seen plenty temper tantrums but to find out in Kindergarten that he was living in the 'the big house' was flooring. Why was he being sent there? His Kindergarten was equipped with 'learning stations' and when he was at certain stations he'd 'police' the other stations. This registered more as an attention issue, only later would we correlate that he would do this more frequently at stations that involved writing or drawing.
DS was not a child that embraced coloring books, however that's not entirely uncommon based on his gender. His writing was malformed and sloppy and this would continue throughout the majority of his elementary years. It was painful to watch him hold a fork and knife and his shoe tying was late and never quite tight enough. To complicate matters in New Brunswick we have a French Immersion program which back when DS was young had an entry point of Grade 1. When we had a foundation in French Grade 2 moved to cursive writing, without much instruction, Grade 3 was fabulous with a teacher that embraced technology, Grade 4 back to cursive and a teacher who refused technology and back to Grade 5 where technology was accepted. It's not hard to see how his writing fell through the cracks completely. His written answers were always too short on tests and he frequently lost marks because his work was sloppy. Every report card would come home stating his pride in his work needed improvement. If he wasn't proud of his work, we wouldn't have seen the flood of tears when he was told his work was too sloppy.
To make matters more frustrating for him, because of his issues he would press so hard with his pencil that it made erasing something next to impossible. There was always ghost writing. I brought up my concerns on multiple occasions but it never seemed to raise the red flag. Maybe it is in part due to the rapid embracement of technology in the classroom or because he didn't fit into the easy to see learning disabilities. He'd come home with A's and B's which were supposed to be reassuring. I don't think people actually understood how hard he had to work for them. A learning disability does not mean that you are mentally incapable and while most have issues with intake, our DS's issues were with production. To complicate matters anyone that would talk to him would have their ear literally talked off on the latest facts he absorbed. Sadly he will probably never express all that he does know on paper adequately.
Things fell apart when he started Grade 6/middle school. The technology wasn't there consistently. He wasn't keeping up with the class notes. He wasn't handing in assignments on time and was losing marks because it wasn't neat enough or the spelling was off. Thankfully at the end of the 6th grade after a long conversation with his Language Arts teacher she'd confirmed our suspicions that we were dealing with Dysgraphia and this wasn't just 'messy boy' syndrome. Finally we were getting somewhere.
However, that road has been a very long and bumpy one. The education system in this province is not equipped to quickly handle/right children who miss early interventions. To access technology requires special documentation. To even get an answer on who you are supposed to go to is rough and for us as parents we were faced with the prioritization issue Diagnose? or Treat? We were not at the luxury to try different methods and hope for the best. We went down the treatment route that didn't fit into the conventional system finally getting a diagnosis at the end of the 8th grade.
What does that equate to for DS? Nine years of schooling, missing bits and pieces of his education. Nine years of frustration. Nine years of his less than forgiving peers seeing him frustrated.
What does that equate to for our family? Nine years of painfully watching him struggle. Two years of missing our own personal appointments to accommodate for the time that we need to take off work. Multiple fruitless appointments spanning those nine years.
This is Dysgraphia...and it for lack of better words sucks!