My youngest son is thirteen years old now.
It took him three years (count them, three years) to learn the alphabet fluently.
Four years to spell and write his first and last name correctly.
He still sometimes fails to recognize basic sight words, that he has been practicing for the better part of eight years.
Progress, especially when you have learning differences, can be so slow.
I remember exactly when I first heard the term “slow learner.”
I was in third grade and sat next to a sweet boy with freckles and blue eyes.
He struggled in the classroom.
I often read things to him under my breath when he was unable to decode them. He seemed to have a motor inside him that kept parts of his body moving at all times. One time, he drew me a picture of a cat, instead of writing a summary of the story we had just read aloud (which incidentally, was about a cat.)
A teacher’s aide often came to assist him. When another student asked why she was always at our table, she answered, very plainly, “Because he is a slow learner.”
I actually shared the entire story on Simple Homeschool a few years ago. I think it is one of the reasons I decided to pursue a special education degree.
Even as a child I could see that he was wonderful. But everyone in the classroom saw him as “the slow learner.”
You can read my Simple Homeschool post HERE.
Here’s the thing – we live in a world that values speed and efficiency far above progress, or even getting things right.
In the age of technology, things move very, very fast, especially for the child with a processing disorder or learning delay.
My son is well aware of his own pace. He is constantly worried about not being able to read like literally every other person he knows, his age and younger. He knows he can’t always interpret what others are saying, especially if there is any sort of background noise and even more so, if they are speaking quickly and in a hurry.
And now that he knows, he is becoming really, really good at disengaging.
Rather than fighting to stay in a conversation that is loud and moving too quickly, he will zone out or begin to move his body around in an effort to do something, anything, to cope.
He acts out. Gives up in frustration. Retreats.
He knows he can’t keep up.
When Your Child Is A “Slow Learner”
Slow is not less. Slow is not less. Slow is not less.
I want to scream it at the world.
Slow brings works of art and beautifully written books. Slow brings fine wine and excellent cheese. Slow feels peaceful, comfortable and like home.
I try to help my son see it. We often talk about progress vs. perfection and how much he has learned. We celebrate the little wins and keep working.
My child is a slow learner.
He is also a creative, inventive, funny learner.
He is passionate about helping others, about animals. He sees injustice and he wants to help.
He is so much more than his pace.
He is living proof that slow is not less. It’s beautiful.