A Mother’s Intuition

Don't let "the experts" make you question your instincts. Instead of dismissing your mother's intuition, use it to advocate for your child.
My creative girl grew a beard

Recently, I went to my daughter’s kindergarten, end of the year, parent-teacher conference. It was something we eagerly anticipated since Maddie has had trouble with reading. We spent a lot of time working with her at home, and I wanted feedback on how she was doing.

Maddie went to an awesome preschool, with all the important accreditations, for three years. After three years of trying to teach her the alphabet in preschool, we went into kindergarten with the thought that she just wasn’t ready. “This will be the year,” we thought. And we were reassured this would be the case. “Stop comparing her to your other children!” Resounding advice from everyone. The same advice I give others, of course. But who among us takes their own advice?

At the fall conference, I made my concerns clear. “She is where an average kindergartener would be expected to be.” Okay, if her teacher says so, it must be, right? As the year went on, it seemed we had to do tons of work for a tiny bit of progress. Finally, by Christmas she seemed to have most of her letters down. In the New Year, we started to learn sight words : “a”, “go”, “is”, etc. These were a struggle each and every time. But my little wanna-be-reader kept at it. We did make a little forward progress. We were happy we could help her in any way. And now, the spring conference:

“I am really happy with Maddie’s progress this year,” the teacher tells me. “Mrs. S also states she is progressing well.”

“Who is Mrs. S?”
“The reading specialist.”

“What reading specialist?”

“Maddie has been getting pulled out of class four days per week for half an hour to work with the reading specialist this year.”

The floor is dropping out from beneath me.

“How long has this been going on? Are other students working with the specialist?”

“It has been all year. There are three students getting extra help from our class. In the fall, we will reassess her and decide her needs for first grade.”

I’m going to throw up.

There are twenty four students in the class. And it is May 12th . And no one told me about this – all year. I am thrilled she is getting extra help but now I’m thinking : she gets extra help at school, she gets extra help at home. This child is working so hard and no one has told me there is a problem.
I feel like a failure as a parent. She wants to read so badly, and gets so frustrated that she cries, people. Was I just not paying enough attention?

I start thinking back to the conversations of the past, before medical school. Talking to people about children with labeled with learning disabilities, we conjectured it was likely that the parents weren’t working hard enough with the children or, that the child wasn’t applying themselves. It was a behavioral problem. That was it. The label was a thing we used for convenience.

Being a pediatrician, I am aware of the science behind learning disabilities and developmental delays. Being a mother, I now get to be aware of the day-to-day battles that are faced. She can’t do math, because there are word problems. Science, social studies, health…they all require reading. Games we play at home, reading. The voracious desire to know what all those stories in her storybooks on her shelves… Her sister, spelling secrets to us. So unfair.

Due to my training, my awareness is heightened. We are in a privileged position of getting her formally evaluated and getting help over the summer. It likely was too soon before. But the bottom line is, I felt something was wrong. Call it mother’s intuition. I knew, as a mother, instinctually. In fact, I teach the medical students and residents, “If a mother tells you something is wrong with her child, listen. She is right.”

I am finally taking my own advice.




4 thoughts on “A Mother’s Intuition

  1. Christie Gibson says:

    Anna, I totally agree about the intuition thing. You have to trust it. Your daughter clearly has the determination to read, and I’m sure she will. You are doing a great job!

  2. Reading your story made brought tears to my eyes. We went through this with our son. The long hours of struggling with words and books and helping him with homework that other kids did in less time. The teachers kept telling us sooner or later it would just click. We finally got him tested outside of school and he now gets the extra help he needs. You are blessed to have a kindergarten teacher who was so forward thinking to get your daughter help right away. They should have told you she was having help but at least she got help! Good luck! As a parent of a dyslexic, I get your struggles. And your right, health care practitioners AND teachers need to listen to the parents.

  3. Madeline Postman says:

    I agree with you about the intuition thing. You know your kid. By the way I’m a first grade teacher and I too was appalled that you found out that your child was getting services from a reading specialist. I don’t know if your daughter is in a public or private school. If she’s in a public school then the school has to inform you as to whether or not you want your child to get services in math or reading or whatever. They should not have told you in May that she was getting help all along. Make sure in the beginning of the school year if they’re going to do that again. You as a parent have rights to decide what school services you want for your child.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for the words of support! We did end up getting her privately tested, and poor thing really is struggling. Despite that, her fire for learning burns only stronger! I need to learn from her positive attitude.

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