"Dyslexia is a gift, a talent,” she said… and my jaw dropped. I didn't think that my child had any sort of learning disability, so it never occurred to me that I would need a "special education" expert as a tutor for him… until I met Linda Vettrus-Nichols.
Linda has taught me that learning disabilities are just symptoms that show up when foundational pieces and patterns of self-regulation are not put in place - when we have not fully integrated our brain, body, and our innate gifts - our soul.
A full-blown learning disability may not be recognized until the underlying issues have been there for quite some time. Linda has shown me that taking the time to teach your child the right way the first time saves time and many headaches down the road. Laying a strong foundation for learning is not just about academics, in fact, it supports a child in developing social skills, emotional and behavior moderation skills, and movement adaptability.
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At first, Linda and I were just online friends. We met in an entrepreneur group on Facebook and just clicked. After a year and a half of friendship and working on several book publishing projects together – her on the editing and me on cover design, my family and I decided to take a trip to visit Linda and her husband Terry in North Carolina – our first 12-hour road trip.
During our visit, Linda brought out a box of her “old” work – a curriculum she had created during her years as a special education teacher. I’ll admit – I expected this would be a box full of random notes and handouts from over the years. I also assumed that it was for “disabled” children only. What she pulled out of that box, though, far exceeded my expectations.
Linda had discovered and put together a streamlined system in her years working at a psychiatric day treatment center and years in special education classrooms that was not just a “special education” curriculum for disabled children. This curriculum that could teach any child essential learning foundations. This curriculum went beyond teaching information, I could see how it reached deep into the brain to create a transformation that would affect every area of the child’s life.
My husband and I decided to start working with Linda to homeschool our son immediately upon our return home. We had been at a loss of how to proceed beyond teaching reading – and even found that what we had done in teaching reading could have been achieved much more effectively with Linda’s system. My husband has a daily weekday morning meeting with Linda and my six-year-old, and I take the weekends.
Even though “special education” doesn’t do this work justice, what Linda has done for our family with her “patterned learner” system is definitely special. Her teaching and tutoring has shown me that learning disabilities are not about labels or your child being wrong or broken.
There are a lot of things in life that create learning disadvantages for us. When we do not lay a foundation for learning and pattern our brain, body, and soul for success we end up struggling in school, work, and relationships. How we are born - my son and I both my c-section - can even start us out a bit behind. The good news is that we can intentionally re-pattern and re-program ourselves to make learning and growth come much more easily.
As we've worked with Linda to lay a foundation for reading, writing, and math - what we have *actually* done is opened up entirely new ways of being and thinking for my six-year-old. Some of which, I'm just learning NOW as a 27-year-old. He has discovered that mastery does not always look like a big huge fanfare of achievement, but that it is found in diligent practice and perfecting of the most basic skills.
The exercises and tools that Linda uses often, to be honest, seem counter-intuitive or non-sensical. That is the point. The work we are doing is working on a level beyond normal cognition and ego functioning. There is evidence of just how deeply he is shifting because as he masters the exercises and integrates these tools during our lessons, the changes show up in unexpected places throughout our days.
I saw the evidence when my son winked back at me with just one eye for the first time. I could see that his ability to differentiate and control movement in different parts of his body was making leaps and bounds.
I saw the evidence as, over time, he began to roll his bowling ball down the lane instead of dropping it clumsily with a BANG, I could see that his gross motor skills were smoothing out and becoming more refined and fluid.
I saw the evidence when he struck up a conversation with me and said, "It sure was a nice day to come here, wasn't it mom?" I could see that there were neuro pathways firing in his brain for social skills he didn't have access to before.
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In just over a month's time, I have watched my son hone his ability to focus. He listens when I answer him and accepts my responses without long, drawn out arguments (at least a majority of the time). His behavior doesn't fit into the "good kid" box - it exemplifies a person who is in their power and doing the work to grow and become masterful in their life.
Yes, at six-years-old.
It takes patience, diligence, and dedication to create this kind of a shift in ourselves and our children. We have to show up to do the work just as much as we expect them to. My husband has had to work through many of his own interpersonal struggles and fill in a few of his own learning gaps during this time. It’s remarkable how our family is growing together.
I have realized that my own strengths have sometimes kept me from developing my weaker parts. I am incredibly skilled at delivering academic results. I can out-think and out-learn anyone when I am totally committed to gaining the knowledge at hand. I can memorize, comprehend, and regurgitate information all day long. This comes in extremely handy in school but isn't the only strength I need in order to become masterful in my own life.
My own "learning disability" - the unintegrated and underdeveloped part of my foundational self is the ability to slow down. To be present. To do what is tedious over a long span of time in order to get to an end result that I desire. I want everything in my life to move FAST and produce outcomes INSTANTLY. This is what happens in academia, it almost never happens in life.
Life takes work. Life requires discipline and self-regulation. Life demands a commitment to growth that transcends what is comfortable or easy for us to learn.
As I teach alongside my child, he teaches me too. When I am willing to see that his challenges are his most precious gifts, I see this within myself too - and I am a better mother, wife, and woman because of it.