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Juliet Waters

Juliet Waters
Location
Montreal, Canada
Birthday
August 01
Bio
Montreal based writer, book critic, single mom. Currently working on a book about a year learning computer programming. Visit me julietwaters.com, or familycoding.com.

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FEBRUARY 26, 2010 1:04PM

The New York Times has issues

Rate: 36 Flag

Blue footed boobie

From the website of the Canadian Center for Childhood Disability research 

 

I've been hoping for too long for the New York Times to run an article about my son's under diagnosed learning disability.  So, wow, did my heart ever sink yesterday when I read "Watch How You Hold That Crayon", and saw where they placed this article, The  Style and Fashion section. 

When he was eight, Ben was diagnosed with visuo-motor dyspraxia, or as as it's more commonly known  in North America (when it's known at all), Developmental Co-Ordination Disorder (DCD).  When the neurologist who was following Ben for minor epilepsy told me "this will be a problem for the rest of his life," I didn't quite get it at first.  From what I could see, my son was only struggling with handwriting.  He has a fantastic memory and strong reasoning skills.  When he was five he was accepted into the only public school for gifted children in my city.  

But he's always detested school, right from kindergarten. Even when he was the first kid in his class to start reading fluently in two languages, and was chomping at the bit to start multiplication.  I figured he was just bored. But fortunately his neurologist put him on a waiting list for occupational therapy.  

Two years later we finally got an O.T.  Until we started working with her, I had no idea how much my son was suffering.  It wasn't just that he couldn't  write or draw.  He couldn't figure out how to space things on a page.  He couldn't keep his stuff organized because he just didn't have the same kind of  consistent connection with his body and thus the space around him that other people did. 

His large motor skills weren't great either.  He had good endurance, but his hand eye co-ordination was geeky  at best.  His posture was poor, so his breath was being cut off whenever he sat at the school desk that was way too high for him.  His feet didn't properly reach the floor, so his brain, which didn't have much confidence in his body to begin with, was being flooded with vertigo. 

The energy he was trying to put into all the paper, pencil and crayon exercises was exhausting him.  And the gap between what his mind could do, and his body wouldn't do, was infuriating and de-moralizing.  

Worst of all, for a parent who is a writer,  he detested all writing tasks.  This was a kid who read the entire Harry Potter series in four months. (Ironically, the celebrity spokesperson for dyspraxia, as the disorder is known in Britain, is Daniel Radcliffe, who suffers from it himself.)

Ben was obviously imaginative and bright.  But midway through grade three he insisted that writing projects were impossible because, "I don't have any ideas. I just don't." His body was blocked, and to accomodate that, he was starting to block his mind.

That Ben was normal looking and obviously smart only compounded the problem.  The older he got, the more teachers figured he was just lazy and passive agressive.  The more impatient they became with him, the more withdrawn he became.  It was a vicious circle that was snowballing pretty quickly.

If it weren't for a perceptive doctor, a neuropsychologist, and an entire team of hospital OTs, I would never have been able to convince the schoolboard that he had a genuine problem.  And, believe me, if it weren't for Canadian medicare I would never have been able to afford the treatment and continuing intervention that he will always need. 

Sure, with a lot of work, he can improve his handwriting.  But he'll always struggle to take readable notes, fill out or create charts, express what he understands about geometry, and do the normal paper pencil tasks that kids take for granted.   Handwritten essays  will always be a massive task.  And keeping materials organized will always be a little beyond him no matter how much he works on acquiring de-cluttering skills.  Finally, about a month ago, our schoolboard agreed to give him a portable computer for the rest of his scholastic career and assign someone to help his teachers integrate this into his classwork. 

The difference between him and the roughly %2 to %10 of children who suffer from this disorder is that he knows about it. And when someone tries to shame him, or judge him for his sloppiness and physical immaturity, he knows that this is their ignorance and  not his character defect. So he's far less at risk for the chronic frustration and low self esteem that most dyspraxics suffer from.

And that is the difference between a bright boy who might make it past these nefarious physical, social and emotional hurdles, and the overwhelming number of  dyspraxics who end up droping out of school or spend their  lives as confused and chronic underachievers.

So why is this in the Fashion and Style section of The New York Times? 

Because they've decided that the increase in work being found by OTs is symptomatic of rich people who have too much money to spend on their kids.  

I'm not rich, believe me.  But from where I'm sitting it looks like awareness of this problem is starting to hit North America, and it's starting  first in the places where people can afford to get it treated, and negotiate the accomodations these kids need (which is half the work of an O.T these days).

This is a similar phenomenon to the correlation we see between higher autism rates in middle class neighborhoods.  There's not much point in seeking a diagnosis when you can't afford to get it treated, so yes, more middle class kids "have" autism. 

The difference is we know about autism.  DCD is still pretty far below the radar (probably because kids with co-ordination problems aren't very good at hitting people, which if you remember, was the first symptom of autism to reach the media.) 

But the angle the NYTimes chose to give this article  is especially ironic  on the heels of Judith Warner's recently released  book We've Got Issues. 

The New York Times columnist believed, like too many people do these days, that a generation of children is being over diagnosed, over drugged and over treated.  When Warner started to look at the facts, however, she realized that the vast majority of parents who seek diagnosis and treatment for their kids are actually decent people doing their best to help their kids  have a chance at a normal life.  There are exceptions, but they are that, exceptions.

More often than not, this snarky attitude  towards kids who are being treated for mental disorders and learning disabilities--and towards the fewer and fewer American parents who can actually afford to seek treatment for their kids--is simply ignorant prejudice.

It's time to move past this kind of attitude.  Hopefully, we're on our way  with kids whose childhood disorders and learning disabilities are now common words:  autism, dyslexia and ADD. 

I guess the kids who are struggling with DCD will have to wait until the first generation of kids to know about it become  old enough to write about it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I was reading this, I was thinking "What about keyboarding?" And then you said the (intelligent) school got him one and is working with him. Most excellent.

And an excellent deconstruction of the NYT approach.
i can only imagine the frustration in trying to convince the school that it's not laziness or passive aggression.

keep shedding the light.
What Boanerges said. Excellent, Juliet. Title drew me in, and as usual, your writing kept me here.
Sounds like a grand young man with a fine Mother. Were that every child was so blessed.

Rated.
I think it's criminal your son had to wait 2 years for O.T. and in all that time, you didn't comprehend the magnitude of his challenges. You could have understood it all two years earlier.
The Times has become something of a joke lately. The once venerable Old Grey Lady is looking mighty threadbare. After the nonsense about yellow-cake, and the John McCain garbage (what was that, a leftover piece from The Post?), they've decided to do what they always do, and pretend there's nothing wrong and go on as usual. But for this one, may their you-knows fall off.

rated.
Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.

Deborah, DCD is a bit of a paradox because it's very difficult to diagnose before the age of eight. It's normal for kids to struggle with co-ordination. Some will resolve their handwriting problems. But sometimes that will mask the more invisible problems, that's it's hard for them to write under pressure, that they have a hard time organizing material, and postural problems. So it's extremely rare for a kid to get an official diagnosis before it's too late, or the problem is really, really noticeably severe.

This is why it's so important that schools have OTs who can work with kids that teachers suspect might have a problem. They are the best people to assess how severe the problem is and pass it on to a doctor who is in a position to make a diagnosis.

Believe me, however, if this disorder were as well known as other LDs, the process would have gone a lot faster. It's a shame the journalist who wrote that piece didn't do more research. Or maybe she did, but had an angle to protect.
This is an eye opener. I've never heard of this disorder. And are there REALLY a lot of rich people who have too much money to spend on their kids -- who then choose to spend it on OT for their kids rather than say gymnastics or soccer camp? This sounds like a non trend. I'm glad your son has you as an advocate!
Oh Bonnie, if that were only true. In my experience there are plenty of good teachers. The problem is that every year my son changes teachers and it takes 3 to 6 months for them to really understand the problem. So the trick really is to get a good OT who will follow your child throughout his school career, meet early with the teachers, make sure that his desk and materials are set up to reduce unecessary problems, and work out an intervention plan that the school can commit to. One teacher is never going to be enough.
Wow. One more reason to hate trend pieces, right?

This has been on my mind a lot lately, watching my son adjust to kindergarten. He has a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but he's been doing so well with the support of an excellent teacher at a great public school. Still, it's heartbreaking to see him struggle with things that come easily to the other kids.

Sure, things were simpler when we were in school, before we had all these fancy pants "diagnoses" and "medication" -- they'd just label kids like my son "bad" and stick him in the corner. Problem solved. Sigh...

Thanks for this piece. I'll be bookmarking it and re-reading it.
"But he'll always struggle to take readable notes, fill out or create charts, express what he understands about geometry, and do the normal paper pencil tasks that kids take for granted. Handwritten essays will always be a massive task. And keeping materials organized will always be a little beyond him no matter how much he works on acquiring de-cluttering skills. "

One of my children has a severe auditory processing problem. He's now a senior in high school and, over the years, teachers have become more knowledgeable about the disability. In the early years, we struggled to explain it to the teachers and the school; in the later years we struggled to explain how a child getting excellent grades with accommodations really does have a learning disability.

A neuro-psychiatrist suggested that we explain it this way: Imagine he is deaf. Would you tell us a deaf child cannot be highly intelligent? Would you tell us that a highly intelligent deaf child does not need any accommodations? Would you insists that a deaf child who accommodations to make up for what he cannot understand by listening is gaming the system when someone writes the same information out for him?

This is example generally does the trick. Even the naysayers are horrified about labeling a deaf child as unintelligent, and they understand the analogy because in auditory processing, although the ears can hear, the brain cannot "hear."

Similarly, teachers need to ask themselves what they would do if your son's hands were paralyzed. Would they insist that he must complete paper and pencil tasks anyway? No, that would be horribly cruel. Fortunately, his hands are not paralyzed, but his brain cannot move them properly and it is no more his fault than if they were paralyzed.

You should know about an incredible assistive device that is relatively new. It was developed for children who are hearing impaired but not completely deaf, but it is terrific for kids with auditory processing problems, or for motor problems that make it difficult to take notes. The system consists of a pen that is also a voice recorder and a notebook with special paper that is embedded with an invisible grid.

Let's say the teacher is talking about the countries in Western Europe. First she talks about France, then England, then Spain. The voice recorder in the pen is recording all the time, and every time the child puts the pen to paper, the audio recording is marked. He can simply write France when the teacher talks about France, England on the next line when the teacher talks about England, and Spain on the next line when the teacher talks about Spain.

Here's the amazing part: When your son goes back to look at his notes, if he places the pen on the word France, he will hear the recording of everything the teacher said about France, nothing more and nothing less. But he doesn't have to start at the beginning. He might only need to study his notes about Spain. So he puts his pen down on the word Spain and he hears the recording of everything the teacher said about Spain.

He can still take notes at a pace he is capable of achieving, without missing anything.
Juliet ... FWIW I've been having increasing "issues" with New York Times coverage of a lot of science issues, not just medical. They are hit and miss now, some of the stories are very competent, others have errors or are misleading.

I haven't made the effort to see if this is correlated with particular writers/reporters or not.

I don't know anything at all about your son's problem, so I won't say anything about that except "hope everything works out."
Thanks for deconstructing this trivialization of an important topic. Your love for your son shines through.
Amy, thanks so much for that tip. I'll definitely look into that device.

I've been blessed so far with understanding teachers, and have rarely had a lot of resistance with reasonable accomodations once we had a diagnosis to work with. In my experience, I've found that what the teachers need first and foremost is the power to make the accomodations. They understand the problem, but they worry mostly about straying too far outside their training without someone giving them the authority to do that.

But who knows what I'll come up against next year.

One thing I've found is that while parents are generally the most passionate advocates for their kids, there's often a danger if they assume too much of that role. The best situation is where the parent is part of a team.

When you have a diagnosis and therapist trained to work with the teachers, the school and the schoolboard, there's just a lot less conflict. Ben has two OTs who are in regular contact with the school, one who is the specialist on his case and works with him one on one, and another who is the computer and software specialist who works with the school and schoolboard figuring out the best arrangement.

It's all a work in progress, but we're getting there. If I've learned one thing, however, it's that no parent should ever worry about "labeling" their kid. Or live with the illusion that schools are overflowing with special resources that they're just looking to give these "labeled" kids. It's always a challenge to get what your child needs.
As I was reading this, I thought about the physical therapy I've been going through. Iyengar Yoga, Easy T'ai Chi, and Pete Egoscue's Pain Free in addition to specific exercises for my specific injuries. Yes these exercises are for pain and range of motion, but they do address major body coordination. I have video tapes. I can play and replay the same exercise over and over until I get all the movements. I also go to live classes where the teacher corrects me. And I got an audio tape on healthy breathing by Ken Cohen (which after much practice) has given me great control over filling my lungs. These may not work for your son, but if he is interested, they are worth trying.
I wasn't diagnosed with learning disabilities until my early twenties (as a matter of fact some of the things that you mention about this disorder sound like me). I was always a very good reader and this fooled my mom which she's always felt guilty about. I think it's great that more kids are being diagnosed and helped. I hope things continue to go well for your son.
I think that pretty soon every kid will have a diagnosis. I don't mean that negatively. I just mean that the more we learn about the brain, the more "types" and "categories" we'll find when it comes to learning, communication, and physical styles. While I occasionally worry about too much pathologizing, I also understand that everyone needs to develop strategies for coping in the world. The more we know about ourselves--our brains, our organizational skills, our strengths, our weaknesses--the better off we'll all be. I'm glad you've gotten this one mostly figured out.

btw, when my oldest son landed in 7th grade, I was sick and tired of teachers taking points off his perfectly excellent work for bad handwriting. I wrote a note to the school telling them he had "dysgraphia," and that attending to perfect handwriting exhausted him physically and creatively. I said he would be handing in most work typewritten and if teachers could not read anything he did during class time, they should just ask him what it said. (That's a good practice, btw--just telling them what's going to happen rather than asking). Anyway, I sorta thought I made it up!
Lainey. Wow, that's great. You didn't make it up. Dysgraphia is Ben's official diagnosis for school purposes, although it falls under his general diagnosis dyspraxia. Maybe you just went with your gut instincts as a parent. I think most parents know when there's a real problem.
I read this and thought, the world is full of genius, different kinds in different packages, it is up to us to learn how to unwrap. Kudos to you Juliet.
Rated.
I read that article, and was appalled. In my work we often have a hard time convincing parents to try to get services like OT; making it sound like some kind of frill for rich folks is so destructive. I admire not only your level-headed and creative approach to finding what will help your son feel good and do well in school, and also your writing.
Ben is fortunate to have you as his mother and advocate. You're right -- parents pretty much always know when there is a problem. To think that parents seeking help for their kids are somehow overdoing it is shortsighted. The attitude is symptomatic of either an overworked or under-enlightened educational system. That's why it's so important that professionals and parents work together. It seems that sometimes it takes a lot of perseverance on the part of parents to break through the initial resistance of educational personnel. It sounds like you've done a good job!
Excellent essay. Hope you can send it or a shorter version as a letter to the NYTIMes. They sure messed up on this one, and you write really well. Juliet, I PM'ed you for whenever you have time. This hit a HUGE button for me. Love to your family, and you have some amazing comments above! A pen that remembers!
I too hope you send a response to the Times.

Thank you for this piece. You taught me a great deal.
re LAINEY --

I agree with the supposition that soon most children will have a 'diagnosis', and it doesn't have anything to do with "right" or "wrong". We live in a time which is experiencing exponential growth of knowledge in science, physiology, biology and every other form of socio- or psycho-related fields. Contemporary professionals are taken with categorizing, organizing and labeling everything they find. It's not a bad thing, it just shows how the human brain is consumed with finding out how things work. We want to know what is happening, why it is happening, and how.

I can only imagine that I would fit any number of diagnoses from medical experts, should my parents have taken me to many of them. Probably every doctor would have found 'something' to declare, not necessarily because there was something wrong with me, but because we now have the vocabulary and structure to put names to events which have been occurring all along.

That being said, I do believe that America (I know you are Canadian, so I can't speak for your country) has a propensity to over-medicate children. Poor children, particularly, are unjustly prescribed medication when alternative -- yet more expensive -- therapies work better.

Interesting response to the NYT-- I read their article (skimmed it), and you should send this in as a response!
My son had an evaluation by an OT. He has a bunch of issues, none as bad as you're describing. He's smart, he's disorganized and his handwriting is bad. We don't have much choice about therapy, as we live overseas. We could get an expensive and extensive evaluation in the US with maybe a program to go with it. What I haven't figured out from research on the web (which has a very high component of parents of kids with autism who are very, very sure the state needs to fund their kids' OT) is does the therapy work?

My daughter (never diagnosed with anything, but not tested, either) had horrible struggles with the mechanics of handwriting, which meant she hated to write. Then she became behind on the content of her work, since in higher grades it's supposed to be shown in written form. But she grew out of it. The handwriting got easier, she learned what was expected in terms of content and I think this term, she'll finally have no grade lower than a B on her report card!!!! She's now tuned into school. If she had problems, she grew out of both the mechanical problem and the attitude/scholastic problems it caused.

My son's nine. Will therapy do anything that time won't? I'd really appreciate any articles you can point me to with answers.
There's no reason over-diagnosis and over-protective parents can't co-exist with kids with real problems. Look at Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was/is the leech's favorite route to disability pay. It's also a real debilitating disease that is utterly miserable for sufferers.

I do think you should work with your son to understand his attitude problem and find him ways to overcome it. I got a lot of traction from talking with my daughter. The biggest hurdle was the whole anger from her/response from school/parents problem. We moved to celebrating success and she was much more willing to try. I've been going to parenting workshops held at the school. But most libraries are full of books. Read until you find something that makes sense and works.

Speech to text software works pretty well.

My daughter wasted a lot of time making very nice drawings very, very slowly and didn't get her work done. When asked for a drawing, my son dashes off a rough sketch with stick figures. Any teacher who marks down for art quality when the job was, say, to show how the heart works, deserves to be lambasted.
Malusinka. As I wrote, there are parents who are over protective and doctor who overdiagnose, but I continue to believe they are the exception. Especially because DCD is so expensive to diagnose and treat. For every parent who is way too rich and over protective, there are probably about a thousand parents who know their child has a problem, doesn't know how to go about helping, and is intimidated by the cost of the help.


It sounds like you know that your son has a problem, and nobody can tell you whether or not he can overcome it with attitude alone. But in my experience it's a lot easier to work with a child's attitude when the adults around him are clearly working on trying to resolve the actual problem.

There are great, inexpensive programs like Handwriting With Tears, that might help your son improve the quality of his handwriting. But that might not help him much in pressure situations, and from what you're describing it sounds like he has gros motor skill problems too. So working on his handwriting may not be enough.

He's getting to the age where the problem, if it exists, is going to start getting worse. I don't know what rights he has where you live to get accomadations. That's the most important reason to get a diagnosis. Having the problem acknowledged will take a lot of stress off both him and you, and help you work with his teachers to find the most reasonable solutions.

But, yes, from what I understand it's expensive.
Juliet
I guess I made so many unimportant points that you missed what really mattered to me. I'm pretty much sold on the explanations of what my son's brain is weak on. His school's wonderful, very supportive. I have a good grasp on things that can help him -- special chair pillows, keyboading, etc.

While I've seen anecdotal articles supporting interventions, what I haven't seen convincing research on, is whether there's an effective cure. Do you know of any research that supports the idea that therapy helps overcome problems with the vestibular system or proprioception system?

Given our location, getting my son therapy would be extremely expensive, (everything it might cost in the states, plus international airfare) and a tremendous drain on our time. What I want to know, is will this solve his (not very disabling, but real) problems or would I be buying the world's most expensive snake oil?

I'm certainly aware of this since my brother has autism -- something that can be fairly reliably diagnosed and for which real cures are non-existent,but lots of snake oil is sold.

Can you point me to any research?
As a mother of two kids just beginning the journey into the school system, you've given me some useful bits to chew on for many years.
I rated it right off for the pun in your title, having confidence that the content would at least match it in quality. I was right. And like Boanerges1, I too was wondering about keyboarding when you answered that in your text. Like dyslexia, this disorder (which I've never heard of before) has nothing to do with intelligence, and that is obvious in your Ben. So much to learn, so far to go, but it looks like he's a guy who will be able to contribute.

Another good article. And still looking forward to the follow up on your previous article about the smells.
Juliet, Thanks for sharing a personal and educational light on your son's learning disability. It sounds like you've been a great advocate for him and have also been lucky to have had a great cadre of professionals helping him as well. I agree with the others who have recommended that you send a version of this as a letter to the editor to the NYT.
Hey everyone. I'm a little rushed and will try and get back to your comments and Personal messages later this weekend.

@Maluska. As far as I know there is no treatment that will resolve Dyspraxia. With lots of practice people can develop sufficient co-ordination in the tasks that they really need to do. But these days OT works as much trying to design strategies, environments and tools, to minimize complex tasks. And people with dyspraxia might want to avoid careers as neurosurgeons or Japanese grill chefs.

But I'm not an expert. If you really want to contact someone who might know about current research maybe you could e-mail the Canadian Center for Childhood disability research. I linked to it under the picture of the blue boobie.
You are such a wonderful advocate for your son. My good friend's son also has this. With each new year, and new teacher (now in the middle of the year with his teacher out on leave after having a baby), my friend has to educate his teacher on how he learns. It's sad there isn't more training for teachers in different modalities of learning. Perhaps I'd have been an honors student and graduated college if my ADD had been diagnosed before the age of 45!
My son had advocates at his school for a few years when they had OT's. She suggested a laptop. We purchased one for him. The teachers were so annoyed that he had one he promplty quit using it. He is now struggling to finish school. Beyond bright, schools are so one size fits all.

Kudos that you received help from the Canadian system. I pray we get a system like yours one day. We have great insurance, but there are no spaces for new patients in our extended area. Two years sounds great when compared to Never.
Times also had horrible hit and miss articles on Chronic Fatigue or Myalgic Encephalitis. Often they promote food life styles that are out of reach of most consumers. Recently they had an article about "Catcher in the Rye" about it's relevance to todays school kids. They had a whole panel of experts talk about it- but not one teenager, and I believe not one person who taught teenagers. I guess you don't have an opinion worth printing unless you're an Ivy professor or an edgy popular icon.
You can under and over do stuff in general to be fair to the Times, although I obviously hope things go well with your son, and I bet they will.
Modern school environments to me are too prison like, which does not help much, because not everyone fits in, but then if you don't have that too much, you have problems too, although I still wonder sometimes if we worried less would we be happier, espceially if the parents and teachers could find some more informal ways of doing things, especially if we didn't want to label everyone with something, like Lainey said. But good luck to Ben, and maybe he is supposed to be a doctor, after all, they have always had the reputation for bad handwriting. I bet he does just great.
Keep advocating for your son and teach him to advocate for the accommodations he needs. That's the only way to make in through.

Did NYT cite any research to support that outrageous claim? I have worked in special education and have a disability myself. I thought I had heard it all, but this is a new one. (SIGH)
This is just a beautifully written and beautifully told story. Thank you so much for this. I hadn't ever encountered this particular disability and I covered K-12 education in districts with high poverty rates for five years. I am certain that children in those districts have this condition, too. I love what you said here:

The difference between him and the roughly %2 to %10 of children who suffer from this disorder is that he knows about it. And when someone tries to shame him, or judge him for his sloppiness and physical immaturity, he knows that this is their ignorance and not his character defect. So he's far less at risk for the chronic frustration and low self esteem that most dyspraxics suffer from.

This is so very true. During the time that I was covering those school districts I was dating a brilliant physicist who won a national inventor's competition. A wonderful man. Luckily he had well-educated and observant parents who were able to get him the help he needed for his learning disability. He is severely dyslexic and could not read at all in the 5th Grade. But he graduated from Yale and the University of Michigan and then did a post doc at Northwestern.

All children deserve to have all of their needs and talents recognized. This is great! I don't know how I missed reading it yesterday.
This was quite illuminating. On the one hand, I do think there is a lot of overdiagnosing and overmedicating going on in the U.S., and that tends to make people paranoid about relatively unknown conditions, such as DCD. Plus its so easy to blame rich people for all sorts of things. Be that as it may, it's a shame that you've had to deal with so much ignorance.

One of my recollections of public school (at least, the one I went to) was that there was this determination to treat all the kids the same and to emphasize that we expect the same things from all of them no matter what.
I'm sure this attitude arose from a genuine desire for equality, but the fact that the administrators at my school wouldn't face is that we are not all the same. We are not all equal. We ought to have equal rights, yes, but there is no educational mold that will fit every student, nor should there be, despite the obvious budgetary simplicity of such a system.

Anyway, bummer about the NYT.
Best of luck to you and your son.
So much good information in this post and in many of the comments.
My son was diagnosed with dysgraphia in the second grade by an OT who worked with the public school he attends. He also had the same masks that others mentioned: He tested as gifted, he was an early and voracious reader, etc. At the time the OT explained that it was already too late to begin any kind of therapy to help him correct the writing legibility issue. We, too, got a keyboard provided by the school district and worked with a large group of administrators and educators to work out a plan for his accomodations. He's now in the 5th grade and has made a great deal of progress with virtually no therapy and now often chooses to handwrite assignments over typing them.

Three years ago, I had never heard of his LD, or dyspraxia, or a host of others, and I found it diffcult to obtain useful information even on the internet. Until I could explain it to myself, I couldn't explain it to his teachers.

I agree that the NYT article is dismissive and irresponsible. No one wishes a disability for their child to use as an excuse, but with the lack of information available, I'm glad that it was written, if only to prompt your post and intelligent discourse of your commenters.

rated for parental solidarity.
As a teacher of gifted kids for 21 of 29 years, I saw many kids with varying degrees of this disability in my classes. The challenge is not just to see it as a point on a spectrum of normalcy, but to teach the other students in your classes to see it that way, too. I liked finding units that emphasized these kids' strengths, because they felt good, the other kids were in awe, and then I felt good about my teaching. It's so obvious that these kids should have keyboards, but I agree that getting them in the public schools is a more painful procedure than it should be because of the cost. I never required handwritten assignments in class unless these kids were allowed more time, and certainly not ones written in cursive - the bane of many writers (myself included.) Pretty frustrating to the elementary teachers who spent so much time teaching them cursive - keyboarding would probably have been a better use of time. Keep advocating and writing - colleges of education need to learn to adapt what they teach teachers about disabilities (and giftedness!) The device the doctor described sounds like a miracle for these kids...wish I had had access to it when I was teaching.
And, once more, if not always, the Canadian government tops that of America in their foresight and handling of your son's terrible trouble. It sounds like you as his mom are wiser than some, and so must have more to offer someone with his disability.

We here in the U.S. are mainly afraid of the tax increase we'd all have to be patient with once some real health care reform kicks in. I call it foolish, if not worrisome. Those forgetting the principles behind what it is to give with intent to help us all live better, had better hearken to your fine portrayal of one child's struggle. Without the help your son receives, where would you both be? Then, too, where would he end up? I think it the wisest of investments, such taxation as occurs in those faithful countries we must exemplify. After all, what we put into the care of others helps everyone live better all the way around.
Well done. And thank you. Rated.
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