My story begins with my daughter at the age of 4 and enrolling her in preschool. She had been diagnosed with a hearing and speech problem, though after months of testing we had been assured that she could easily keep up with her peers. Five or six months into the school year she became increasingly withdrawn, would hide so she wouldn’t have to go to school and began exhibiting aggressive behavior towards others, especially her younger brother. We couldn’t get much information from her teachers other than that she was fighting during lunch recess and was refusing to do tasks, which were being given three at a time (i.e. run to the corner, skip to the slide, walk back to the teacher). At the time we weren’t sure what to do and believed that perhaps she was just being stubborn. We stuck out the school year to the end and believed that next year would be a better year for her.
Testing and More Testing
That summer we continued working with the Early Intervention Program and agreed to more tests to determine what the roadblocks were for our child’s success in school. We went through hearing tests and added speech therapy twice a week. We met with a child psychiatrist to determine whether there were mental or emotional problems standing in her way. Towards the end of the summer we were counseled that she might be better off in a local special education school instead of the private school she had been attending.
I did a lot of soul searching about what to do with my daughter. I firmly believed that she was certainly smart enough for school. Since her disability wasn’t a visible one, and she wasn’t a verbal child, I believed she was unable to get the attention she needed in school. I spoke with my mother, who was a retired elementary school teacher with a specialization in remedial reading, for some insight on what to do with my daughter. I also began asking questions of my husband about his speech problem as a child, and wondered if the two problems were related.
Heredity Plays a Part
What I found out was that my husband had speech therapy at a local university for several years when he was in elementary school. His therapists could never give a name to what his problem was, but they were able to work with him to improve his speech so that he could be understood by his teachers and peers. His parents were told that the best they could hope for with him was a “C” average and, with luck, graduate from high school. He did graduate from high school and he maintained a B+ average throughout college as well, excelling in math and science.
My husband began talking about what it was like as a child, and the difficulties he experienced. With an adult’s perspective, he helped us understand what our daughter was probably experiencing, as well as what he still goes through on a daily basis. We described my husband’s history to our daughter’s physicians, and this helped to unlock the mystery of her problem.
Diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder
We discovered that what our daughter had was an auditory processing disorder, something that wasn't well known several decades ago. She could hear, but didn’t hear things the way you or I do. A tea kettle could be whistling, and she would say the doorbell was ringing. Saying the name “Angie” would sound like “Agne” to her. Hearing multiple sounds, such as talking, rustling papers or background noises in a room was very confusing for her. It was apparent that the reason she couldn’t follow sets of tasks given to her was because what she heard made absolutely no sense to her, if she heard it at all.
Having a name for our daughter’s problem made it easier to move forward. We consulted with my daughter’s doctors and discussed school options. My mother suggested homeschooling, something we previously had never given any thought to. She believed that she could tailor a learning program especially for our daughter, and could give her all of the attention she never would get in a normal school environment. My husband and I took a leap of faith that this was the best option for our daughter, and we’ve never looked back.
The Solution: Homeschool
Today our daughter is still homeschooled and is working at or above the normal level for a child her age. She excels in math and science, like her father, but still struggles with pronunciation of words. She has difficulty hearing, but has learned to differentiate certain sounds based on what is logical given the environment she is in. She enjoys taking dance, fencing, voice and guitar lessons, as well as playing soccer, all of which require her pay close attention to individual sounds and actions going on around her.
I admit that I wasn’t confident about what to do for my child in the beginning, and relied on outside organizations and physicians to guide me in my course of action. However, I also believe that parents, in their heart of hearts, may know more than any physician or government agency does. Take the advice of specialists and doctors, but also realize that you can make your own judgments based on what you personally know about your child. Don’t be afraid to try something different, such as homeschooling, if you feel that your child will definitely benefit from it.