Language delays, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD — and now thriving

When my son Henry was 18 months old, I took him to our pediatrician for a regular checkup. She asked if he was speaking yet. He wasn’t, so she recommended I take him to a specialist.

This referral led to that referral, and before I knew it, my son was sitting through a screening for early intervention services. He also sat through testing by a . These would turn out to be the first of many evaluations he’d have over the years.

The results were heartbreaking to me. Henry had both and delays. He also had delayed fine motor skills and a host of other issues.

So I followed the recommendations of experts and began treatment. Twice a week he went to an . And once a week, he went for .

The treatment seemed to work. A year later, my son was talking up a storm and hitting most of his developmental milestones.

So when he was almost 3, I decided to have him reevaluated by the same speech-language pathologist to ease my mind. Now that my son knew more than 200 words and was stringing together simple sentences, I hoped an evaluation would show that he was now on a “normal” developmental curve.

But that didn’t happen.

This time, the evaluation found that Henry talked excessively and had trouble with transitions (read: he pitched a fit when it was time to move from one activity to the next). He also wasn’t making eye contact. And in the evaluation report, there was a statement I’ll never forget: “It may be prudent to consider whether Henry will be capable of participating in a ‘regular’ preschool program.”

I cried myself to sleep that night. I couldn’t come to terms with the report. My once cantankerous toddler had, in my eyes, blossomed into a joyful and adventurous 3-year-old.

Despite what felt to me like a gloom-and-doom report, I chose to enroll him in a “regular” preschool. As his very first parent-teacher conference approached, I braced myself for the worst.

But to his teachers, who knew nothing about his history, he was just a typical 3-year-old. All of the things that were flagged as issues — difficulty with transitions, excessive talking, and lack of eye contact — didn’t seem to register any warning signs for his teachers.

I wish I could tell you that that was the end of my worrying. But it wasn’t. Years later, through a private evaluation, my son was eventually diagnosed with , and .

And since starting kindergarten, Henry has had three school-based evaluations. (He needs to sit for them every three years to keep his .)

Each evaluation has been hard for me as a mother, but I’m glad we’ve done them. Without them, my son wouldn’t qualify for such as extended time. Nor would he get curriculum adjustments like not being marked down for spelling errors in his assignments. The evaluations also allow him access to a keyboard to help with writing and basic computation.

Today, Henry is thriving. Nearly every teacher who has ever taught Henry has made a point of telling me just how bright he is.

“He’s extremely articulate,” they’d say to me. “He often grasps concepts that are way above the other students’ heads.” What’s more, he finished the seventh grade with the reading comprehension of an 11th grader.

Yes, he has deficits. His spelling and writing are atrocious, and the ADHD makes it difficult for him to stay on task.

I left his most recent school evaluation feeling very calm. Not much had changed.

Afterward, I called my husband and we laughed: “I guess we just have to accept that Henry is never going to win the spelling bee.”

But to me, the fact that Henry is doing well is a sign of how far he’s come and how powerful his mind truly is.


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