Get Out of Your Own Way!

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This post if for parents of older kids with dyslexia.  This is my experience with having a very intelligent pre-teen with dyslexia that needs the program at The Morris Center,  but thinks “he’s fine” without it.

If you’ve had a teenager or pre-teen, you are probably familiar with “the change.”  You know…when one day you look up and don’t recognize the stranger in your home.  Your once gentle, considerate, obedient child has left the building.  In his place, is this grumbling, mouthy, self-absorbed “man-child” that has made it his life’s mission to show you just how wrong, mean and clueless you are about kids today and life in general.   With my oldest son, I was blind-sided and ready to put up missing person flyers.  I wanted to return the multitude of parenting books I had purchased and highlighted…. and ask for my money back.  They obviously weren’t working.  I didn’t know what to do with this new, extremely loud, and at times cruel teenage boy who thought the world revolved around him.  This was his life and we were just living in it.  Nobody told me the kid who once hugged me tightly and wouldn’t leave my side would begin to avoid conversation with me and roll his eyes when I demanded “forced family fun.”  This new person was difficult to be around and, my mama feelings were hurt.  But a mama with grown children gave me the encouragement (and laugh) I needed.  She said, “oh yeah.  Welcome to the teen years. Been there.  Its like you look at him and think an alien has taken over his body.  You will live with this new, exasperating version of your child for a few years.  Then around 15-16, he will come back.  He’ll be back.  You just have to hang on.”  That boy is now 15 and I have to say she was right.  He’s starting to return to himself and he’s maturing into the young man I prayed he would be.

So for child two, I felt like a veteran parent. I “diagnosed” his condition at the first sign.  “The change” had begun.  I padded up, put on my toughest skin and started walking directly into the storm of adolescence.  But unfortunately, just as no two kids are the same, no two “changes” are the same either. There’s a lot going on physically, intellectually and emotionally at this age already.  The changes happening in his brain hinder a lot of logical thinking, and when he’s asked to explain why he did or didn’t do something, his answer of “I don’t know,” may actually be valid (yep, I read that in one of those parenting books). So by nature, all of this is already going on.  Add in a complete uprooting of his normal life and you find yourself in Ocala, Florida basically saying this: “instead of that fun summer at home you were looking forward to,  you’re going to complete an intensive dyslexia program that involves 6 hours of learning, 5 days a week.  You’re welcome.”

I love finding quotes that relate to my life or the lives of those around me.  My current choice for Cannon…..“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”
Truth.  He started at The Morris Center with a bad attitude…..mad about missing home, being here with little kids and doing a pointless program that he “doesn’t need.”  (Adding to his frustration was the fact that two weeks prior, he completed his last lesson of a dyslexia program he’s been doing at school for the past 3 years.  He hated the program but remained diligent.  He believed that once he finished that program, he would be done for good.  We however, knew that wouldn’t be the case and his future education would require more intervention).  He started at TMC with two 9 year-olds and an 8 year-old (a 15 year-old started a few weeks later). This wasn’t helping us sell the fact that this program is for ANYONE.  The program begins at a developmental level.  I’m talking mouth movements and sounds.  Simple, but necessary, and the starting place for everyone, regardless of age.  He didn’t shy away from telling us just how dumb it was that he had to do this “baby stuff” with little kids.  The first few weeks were much the same.  We tried explaining the  program’s progression to him but he was in no place to hear it.  However, we felt certain he would soon “buy-in” and realize how this was helping him.  I wish that was the case, but his adolescent self was determined to be miserable and committed  to making sure everyone around him knew it.  The funny thing is that he KNOWS this is helping him and has acknowledged this fact.  Yet he REFUSED to let go of this negativity. He gets his stubbornness honest.

We are now starting our 9th week (7th full week without testing).  It’s not been smooth-sailing.  He still holds onto resentment and anger about being here at times, but there have certainly been some good weeks mixed in.  On the bad days, he’s pushed the boundaries to their limit. One week ago, he crossed over from disgruntled to disrespectful.  His demeanor and negativity was affecting his speed of progress.  He was only making the program longer for himself.  He was essentially wasting valuable time. This was the last straw for us.  It’s one thing for us to see his attitude, but when the staff are acknowledging it, we have a problem. Let’s just say we had a “come to Jesus” talk with him about his attitude and refusal to just accept his circumstances and make the most of it. If he wants to be miserable, we can show him just how miserable it can be (i.e. no technology, no fun weekends, no bike trails).  This certainly got his attention.

Our “chat” was a tough but necessary one.  The part that resonated most was when I told him this: “these people are experts in their field. They have committed 4 months to helping you achieve your potential.  They love their careers.  When you come in here with a bad attitude, telling them this is dumb, pointless, etc…. you are insulting them.  That’s not you and that’s not okay.”  That was a turning point.  He woke up the next morning a completely different kid.  He had found some logic and reason.  He’s shown up everyday since ready to work and with a positive mindset.  The staff have noticed and affirmed his behavior.  We are all breathing a sigh of relief.  They are finally getting to see the “real Cannon.” And we all know that his new attitude will allow him to get the most out of this program in the fastest way possible.

At this point I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to the staff.  Each of them have played an integral part in this journey.  They’ve shown patience and understanding.  They’ve offered more grace than deserved.  They’ve treated Cannon with respect and professionalism through his defiance.  The psychologist increased the number of sessions with Cannon to offer more support and coping strategies.  Dr. Conway has had one-on-one “brain talks” with Cannon to explain the science behind all of this. One of the coolest parts of this whole journey has been seeing how the staff works as one unit.  They meet together every week to discuss each child in detail and they keep in touch throughout the week to stay informed.  They make weekly plans for each child and share strategies that work most effectively for that child’s attention, learning style, and  emotional state.  This allows the kids to hear a consistent message no matter who they are working with or what type of session they are in.  They meet with the parents weekly and schedule weekly observations of each discipline.  If we have concerns, they are quickly addressed.  When they say they take a trans-disciplinary approach to this program, they are telling the truth!  I’ve never seen anything like this and feel so humbled that my kids are able to experience such a customized learning environment.

So if you’ve considered bringing your teenager to The Morris Center but hesitate to do so out of fear of his “attitude” or perception…… just do it.  I can’t say it will be easy, but it will certainly be worth it!

As for Cannon…. at the end of this, he may not understand completely or even appreciate just how much this program will change his life.  But I have no doubt he will figure it out when he resumes school and as he progresses through high school and college.  He will recognize just what Dr. Conway has been telling him:  “This is going to help you work less and learn more.”  And once his brain is completely developed (not until age 24) and he’s starting his career, he will realize just how life-altering The Morris Center was for him.  And maybe, just maybe…..he might actually thank us for taking his summer away.

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