Denial to Healing: A Mother’s Journey Through Learning Disabilities
- Thursday, September 16, 2010
When second grader Anna Lee was demoted to first grade, put in a cubicle away from her classmates, and her struggles emphasized daily, her mother, Anna Buck, knew something had to be done. With the teacher's words "severe learning disabilities" ringing in her head, she pulled her daughter from the school and began the long journey from denial, to advocate, to healer.
"I knew my daughter struggled, but didn't want to face the severity. I refused to have her diagnosed, but people threw out labels like severe dyslexia, bi-polar disorder, and CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder)," said Anna. "Looking back, I think I was grieving. Denial, anger, tears, and weeping eventually became a determination to face the situation."
Though homeschooling was not commonplace at that time, Anna didn't know how else to offer her daughter the support she needed. Family and friends criticized. "It seemed no one could help me," said Anna. "I couldn't share with anyone because it would make both of us more vulnerable and open for criticism. Anna Lee was already too fragile."
Professionals recommended that Anna "accept" her daughter's disabilities and that Anna Lee learn to "cope" with her disorders. Anna wanted more for her daughter.
"I spent hours and days sitting in Tattered Cover Book Store reading everything I could get my hands on about learning disabilities and was dumfounded when I read how one author described dyslexia: ‘We don't know what it is or what causes it.'
At that point I became convinced that the professionals didn't know much more than I about how to help my child. This started the journey of research. I was determined to hunt down what might be causing her struggles."
Anna's journey to find answers for Anna Lee took years, not months. Initially homeschooling consisted of tiny, incremental steps forward. Anna agonized over her daughter's struggles. Anna Lee couldn't repeat a word longer than two syllables, couldn't read or write, and couldn't memorize memory verses for Sunday school—retaining only two-word phrases.
On top of the academic challenges, Anna Lee had a fear of social interaction and little sense of place or personhood. She needed her mother by her side at all times to feel safe. "Her personality was hidden so deep inside her fears and difficulties that I felt as though I never really knew who she was," Anna said.
Anna struggled with exasperation and anger, thinking her daughter should just "try harder." Then, convicted of her daughter's inability to do so, Anna would experience a deep sense of personal inadequacy. "The hardest part was not knowing what to do for her. I prayed daily that the Lord would meet her needs in spite of my inadequacies," said Anna.
As one year stretched to two, then five, then ten, Anna never gave up. "If I didn't fight for my child, who would?" Anna said. "I knew she was a gift from God before she was born, and I felt that it was my responsibility to do whatever it might take to protect her, fight for her, give her everything in me for whatever she needed. I couldn't give up—she needed me for her very survival."
Anna Lee was nineteen before her mom found the answers she's prayed for over the many years of heartache and struggle. They came through the life work of Dr. Peter Blythe of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (NPP), and Svea Gold's book, If Children Just Came with Instruction Sheets. These professionals proposed that learning disabilities should be treated at the root cause—the abnormal retention of the primitive reflexes at the base of the brain. Blythe believed if the blockages to normal development were removed, the body would develop in an organized manner when treatment followed that same organized, systematic progression.
Anna contacted Svea who responded to her emails with exercises to try with Anna Lee. Anna was astounded at the results. "I would take Anna Lee into my bedroom at night to do an exercise with her. One night nothing was different and another night she would collapse onto the floor in a heap and sob for fifteen minutes. Each time the sobbing happened, the next day I observed something new about her that I had never seen before. Sometimes it was improvement in body coordination, body awareness or balance. Verbal expression began."
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