Parent Stories: The Girl is Reading Sentences

hiresWhat more can I say beyond this headline? Last week was a mysterious time at our house. I watched a friend go through the results meetings for her child’s diagnostic testing for learning disabilities Her hard time pushed me to remember to call the University of Washington Education Psychology Department to see if Annie qualified for free testing, a comprehensive assessment that includes a cognitive assessment, visual-motor screening, behavioral assessment, and social/emotional screening.

This testing, I knew, would likely help us better understand Annie’s learning challenges and how to approach them.

Tuesday morning I did an intake call with the program coordinator. She shut her office door for privacy. My office door was already shut, although I work in a home office when no one else is around. For 10 minutes, I recited facts about my girl. After I read her test results from two years, I had to stop and pause.

“Wow, this is really depressing,” I said.

To her credit, the program manager let my statement hang in the air for 10 seconds before replying.

“I can see you care deeply about your daughter,” she replied.

Touché, I thought, good answer!

I told the woman about Annie’s tutoring-heavy weeks, filled with at least 10 sessions between her private school, free tutoring at our public school, and two private therapy sessions.

She rightly asked, “Well, why do you want more testing for her since you are already doing so much?”

“I want to make sure we are doing enough and that her school fits her needs right now,” I answered.

And then she asked me to fax the two-year-old test results to her office, telling me the committee was meeting the next day. I would know soon whether or not my daughter qualified for this testing.

Rumor has it that because graduate students administer the testing, we wouldn’t garner exact diagnoses for the girl. But we would still gather helpful information that could propel us further along our journey. This is helpful because we are not ready yet to dole out around $2000 to obtain specific diagnosis for our girl. She is learning, so we are waiting on this task. If she suddenly stops her growth cycle, I would pay for these more exacting tests. As always, things having to do with Annie’s learning are a moving target.

I am always reminding myself that any of these tests are just snapshots in time taken of my girl by a fallible human being. The results are not definitive, and the results will change based on her age and development.

So I hung up the phone. And the week continued. By Thursday morning, Annie and I sat in her private reading tutor’s home office. At the end of our session — after Annie named the short vowel sounds according to our well-used chart and read and wrote words — our tutor asked her to read an entire sentence.

I took a deep, ragged breath in. Really, I thought to myself, you are asking her to read an entire sentence at the end of the session when she is clearly tired?

And then, for goodness gracious sakes, the girl read the sentence.

She did it slowly, but she did it easily, sounding out each word. She clearly thought it was no big deal.

And I thought, holy crap, my girl just read a sentence. Mind you, she read sentences with me this summer, but it was painful and slow and there was no joy. This morning, there was amazement for me, while Annie was like, ‘whatever, why is my mom excited?’

After school Thursday we ran into a music teacher. She stopped me and told me that my daughter did such a good job and was so engaged in music class today. And then I proceeded to talk about my older daughter with this teacher. Only after I walked away and thought for five minutes about our conversation did it really hit me that this was Annie’s music teacher. She was talking about ANNIE, my Annie! This was a good day.

And then came Friday. After school Friday, Annie’s teacher pulled me out of the crowd to tell me how Annie is suddenly blossoming, engaging and fully participating in class. “I think we’ve got it right,” she told me.

My girl. My girl is doing better than OK. Two years full of tutoring sessions and pep talks and drying of tears and pushing her out the door and into the universe and click, it’s finally working WELL. We have had our moments of it working pretty good. But now we have arrived at things going WELL.

Since last week, the girl continues to read words and the occasional sentence without much fanfare. Sometimes, yes, there is much grumbling and not much focus. But sometimes, oh sometimes, there is good flow while she reads, and the girl looking smugly cool and confident: a learner, a reader, happy, my girl.

What about qualifying for testing? I received a giant packet of pre-testing paperwork to fill out. The UW Educational Psychology Department welcomes the opportunity to work with us.

nancyschatzalton_headWriter, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of her memoir about the beginning of Annie’s learning journey. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two elementary-age daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words.

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