Isa Arathoon just completed an internship at CAST this year (2010–2011). As part of the AIM Center team, she created video shorts of her experiences as an ELL student with learning disabilities. She has overcome incredible challenges, graduating from Lesley University with a 3.8 GPA! Read a letter from Isabel's mother to parents of students with learning disabilities.
A Letter to Parents with Children with Learning Disabilities:
Yes, Our Kids Can Make It!
As parents, we have great expectations for our kids’ future and always want them to do better than we did. We want them to go to college, get one or two degrees, and find a terrific job. We feel so proud on their first day of school!
Most times, children make it smoothly through school, but sometimes kids learn differently. It is in these instances that we, as parents, have to think clearly and unconventionally to be able to fight for our children’s future. Please, do not panic! If our children have an LD it simply means that their brain works differently, but still our kids are bright, and with the right tools and help they can make it!
Most schools just want to have kids who are not trouble for them. Be aware of those institutions! If your children are diagnosed with any kind of LD, please, do not think it is the end of the world. Just think positively and think there will be light. First, inform yourself as much as you can on the specific LD. Get advice, get help, research as much as you can and talk to the LD department in the school or area.
It is also very important to keep a close relationship with your child’s teachers; try to locate the "special teacher" that will make the difference for your child's learning. These teachers will be the support and advocates for your child at school. You will have to put in a lot of effort, but it pays with rewarding experiences.
My daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD when she was six years old in 1993. I still remember the anguish I felt when the psychologist in Guatemala explained to us her diagnosis and told us that we could not expect much for her future. Perhaps she would make it through high school, but never with great results; and forget about college, learning English or other languages. Of course, I panicked. My mouth was dry; I could not think clearly. Fortunately, I did not give up hope on her. I researched, asked for information and help from advisors, worked long hours with her, and went to the end of the world trying to get her the best therapy, tools, and technology I could find. It was also very, very important that I gave her all the love, assuredness, and support I could. Even more important, I always told her that she was bright, that she would make it, and that she would have a great future. I never believed the opposite, no matter what!
The first years after she was diagnosed, we had a lot of bad experiences with therapists and no progress, but as soon as we got the right help she started to excel in school and she became number one in her academics. You cannot imagine all of the rewarding experiences we have had during her educational journey. I still remember when in 1999 she received her first diploma and a medal for her achievements. In 2001, she learned to speak English. In 2005, she received her high school diploma from Cushing Academy. In 2007, she graduated from Landmark College with an Associate’s Degree, magna cum laude. In 2010, she graduated from Lesley University with a self-designed major in Cognitive Psychology and Special Education, summa cum laude.
Today, she is a research intern at CAST. In the fall 2011, she wants to start her master's degree and then pursue her goal to achieve a doctoral degree to be able to open an educational research, development, and consulting center to implement innovative educational methods and systems in Guatemala and other Latin American countries. She wants to make sure that in every educational institution, all students have equal opportunities to learn and that learning is a fun, engaging, and meaningful experience for all types of learners.
I cannot say it has been an easy journey, but, thinking back, I believe that her LDs were a gift to make my daughter a very strong and special person, instilling her with intense and wonderful experiences to prepare her to become an advocate and hope for all those children with LDs in Latin America.
Yes, with the right tools and help, our kids can make it!