“Where does he want to go to college?”
That is the question I get when I say my son is a senior in high school. That is also the question he gets.
But my son learns differently, and his strengths are not in the academic field. It has been such a struggle just to get through every hour of school from kindergarten to 12th grade with severe DYSlexia, DYSgraphia, attention deficit DISorder and all of the “Dys” that have been his label. I once used those words too. And then I realized what an effect that must be having on him. If you keep telling him what he cannot do because of all the DYS’s, he will start to feel worthless and stupid. In fact, he did.
In first grade he said to me, “I’m the dumbest kid in my class.” That is when the teachers and I decided that as painful as it was, we would have to leave the Jewish day school behind to get a specialized education where they teach they way he learns.
He says today that switching to a school for kids with learning differences was the most important decision of his childhood. He realized he was not alone in learning differently, and that being different, although challenging, can be an asset.
In middle school, I began to realize that we were spending all of his time in and out of school focusing on what his brain found difficult. I decided that it was time to let the school attend to his academics, and after school we would focus on building his strengths.
And there are so many of them. He joined theatre groups and a dance studio. He took voice lessons. When he came off stage after his first show he said, “I finally found where I belong.”
That's the sweetest sound a mother can hear.
One summer, he did an internship building sets for a local theatre, working 8 to 5, and came home singing. When we bring in an IKEA box, he is the one to put it together. He takes out the trash and recycling; he puts all the groceries away; he does his laundry; he shoveled the driveway without complaining. He is a great brother and a loving son. He is going to have a bright and productive future. He is not going to college.
Let's think of a different question to ask him. And since we don’t know what is going on in anybody’s life, can we change the conversation? How about, “What are you thinking about doing next year?”
Let me know in the comments what else we can do to help celebrate our children's' strengths.
Dr. Tova Rubin is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 10 years of experience working with individuals and couples. She has worked in a variety of settings including public and private psychiatric hospitals, community mental health facilities-both inpatient and outpatient, university counseling services, as well as emergency room service. Dr. Rubin was proud to serve the San Antonio community until her recent relocation to the Washington DC area.