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The islands of weakness in a sea of strength showed themselves early in our son’s development. He could remember the most obscure visual details and recall long involved lyrics to songs but have trouble retrieving specific vocabulary words for comprehending spoken or written narrative or writing grammatically correct sentences.
He struggled with bouncing a ball and for that matter, with any physical activity. His reading was slow and labored, his comprehension was non-existent and math was incomprehensible. Socially, he was unable to interact with peers and trying to insist that he see friends became a struggle that was better left alone.
He began to skip classes, feigning illness, blamed his teachers, his classmates and the school in general for all his frustrations and maladaptive behavior. His repeated lack of success, despite the efforts of well-meaning teachers, tutors and parents that were willing to do anything and everything to help him, he became learning helpless. With repeated disappointments and without any relief in sight, he assumed a passive role and became hopeless about life in general and having any type of a meaningful future.
We did our utmost to have him repeatedly tested, hired private tutors, had him shadowed in school and coached him in every aspect of his life – to no avail. He started taking drugs and drank alcohol as a way to cope with his pain. By the time we found out, he needed detoxification in a residential center for drug abuse. His difficulties so stressed my marriage that it finally ended in divorce.
High School was fast approaching. I did not want to leave him in a rehabilitative boarding school. We needed a major change and Israel became a very viable option. However, with no Hebrew skills and his resistance to change, sending him to a foreign country seemed like a very dangerous move and unlikely to succeed.
There is an unspoken expectation – that parents with a child who has a learning disability should be able to handle the difficulties with that child in extraordinary ways. From where is the parent to get his information? Where are the role models for this type of problem? It requires more than an ordinary intelligence to manage and oversee the educational development of a child with special needs.
I escorted my son to Israel and left him in the hands of Dr. Stuart Chesner, a Ph.D. in psychology and Alan Simanowitz, an expert in Special Education for many years. They had opened a residential program for teenagers who exhibited the same behavioral and learning difficulties as my son. Going to Israel saved his life. Dr. Chesner and Alan showed him so much love and caring that he began to believe that he was part of a community that would never reject him. His confidence and motivation grew as he was able to do more and more academic work. The social aspect also improved dramatically as he volunteered to mentor new students in the ways of the school.
Today, he is a functional young man with a bright future ahead of him. He started several companies concurrently with his school work. As graduation is several months away, investment and high-tech companies have asked for his resume. He is fully confident that he will land one of those jobs without ever going to college. He insists that some day, too, that will become an option.
What can I say to these two incredible men for simply being there – for helping us out when we needed a hand. As they worked with my son, his mind came alive. Today he thanks them for believing in him and showing him that he could make a difference.
From my heart to yours,
With tremendous appreciation…
A grateful Mom