I had some specific hopes about Dylan’s 5th grade experience that unfortunately did not come to be. It’s been a pretty tough year in many ways, a lot of negative feedback from a teacher who does not understand that Dylan is not forgetful or inattentive or easily distracted on purpose. He definitely needs to work on putting forth his best effort, but it’s become clear that he’s facing a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to a standard class environment.

I now know how difficult it is to go from “Hmm, I think there’s an issue here” to “And now we have a diagnosis.” The process began back in November with a pediatrician appointment and stretched on until April, when the long wait for an evaluation came to be.

This is one of those topics that is not entirely mine to talk about and I’m simply unsure what the boundaries are, but in general terms Dylan is wired differently than some kids and that makes certain things a challenge. He is gifted with a staggering memory for details when it comes to things he’s interested in — I mean, he can tell you the final score for just about any basketball game that has ever occured, or the exact outfit he wore during a special dinner on our first family trip to Hawaii — but give him a list of three things to do and he’s got the last one wrong while the first two are long forgotten.

His executive functioning was described by a doctor as an inability (or at least a major difficulty) to categorize things in his brain in what’s typically thought of as an efficient way. It’s an exhaustive process for him to access and assemble information towards problem solving because he’s not grouping things together or applying certain logic like this + that = this.

To his teacher’s eyes, he’s not trying, but his brain is actually having to work extra hard for what appears to be minimum effect.

At this point, my goal for 5th grade is survival with as much self esteem protected as possible. Dylan’s greatest challenge is not believing in himself, a situation that has been exponentially worsened by a year of feeling like a failure at school.

Looking ahead to middle school, he’ll have a 504 in place and hopefully a chance to really sit down and get his teachers aligned with making sure he has what he needs to navigate 6th grade. Keeping materials organized, keeping track of assignments, staying on task — it’s all going to be difficult. We’ll help as much as we can, of course, but it’s largely a giant question mark in my head right now. Does he need accomodations? Tutoring? Counseling? All of the above, none of the above?

Academic success for Dylan is likely going to look different than what it looks like for Riley, and that’s a tough place for Dylan to be too. He constantly compares himself to Riley’s straight-A report cards and it breaks my heart. How can I continue to lift Riley up for all the things he’s great at, while helping Dylan understand that he has his own unique traits and they are no less valuable?

I want Dylan to realize what an incredibly special, sweet, funny, smart, and interesting kid he is. I want him to know it doesn’t matter what kind of grades he gets, as long as he’s trying hard. I want him to feel more confidence and more curiosity about his fascinating capabilities.

Most of all, I want him to know he’s not defined by a diagnosis, or one teacher’s close-minded and frankly crappy assessment of who he is as a person. He is so many things, a great complex assortment of wondrous thoughts and characteristics. He deserves much better than he got this year, and once again, I find myself hoping for a better set of circumstances next time.