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October 2015

Mrs. Edison Got it Right!

October 26, 2015

Have you seen the post on Facebook about Thomas Alva Edison’s mother receiving a note from school that prompted her to homeschool her young inventor? The story goes that Mrs. Edison received a note from his teacher stating, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.”  Supposedly, it was only after her death that he found the actual note, folded in a book, that read, “Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school anymore.”

True or not, every time I read this post, it brings tears and I need a tissue. You see, I am the mother of two sons, one with a learning disability (Older), and one who surpassed me long ago in the math and science departments (Younger). They both have ADD, another challenge unto itself.

I ‘get’ some of what Mrs. Edison very probably went through; both when she read that note, and again when he surpassed her in the reasoning and invention departments. Neither of my children ‘fit’ the norm for students and this has brought some challenges along the way. But it has also brought some of the best and proudest moments that Mr. A and I, as their parents, have experienced!

Would Edison have become the inventor we know today if not for the strong belief in him of his mother?

Would Edison have become the inventor we know today if not for the strong belief in him of his mother?

Well Meaning but Wrong

We’ve heard, from well-meaning ‘professionals,’ things like, “Why don’t you look into this program instead of college, it will be easier for Older,” or “Most LD students don’t go to college, they just aren’t cut out for it.”

Our response? Older WANTS to go to college to get a full degree. He will go.

Older is now in his senior year of college. It has been a struggle, but worth it. The family, all four of us, have had to adapt, adjust and sacrifice. But he found an awesome university and amazing program director that worked with him and the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is in sight!

And to those educators and counselors who say that LD kids just can’t cut it in college? They clearly haven’t done their homework! Just Google ‘Colleges for students with learning disabilities’ and you’ll find plenty of programs out there to assist LD College kids, and even some colleges that are specifically for LD, ADD and Autistic students wanting to earn a degree. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.

It’s Our Job – For Now

For parents who are slogging through the LD and ADD avenues alongside their kids, we often wonder why we’re doing this. Is it worth it? Yes. A thousand times, yes! Hang in there! Believe me, I’ve had conversations with God a few times over the years. He always gave me the steadfast belief that ‘This is your job – for now.’

Mr. A had a heavier accent when we started this journey so it was hard for Older to understand him when they read together; I took on the majority of the educational task with Older. Mr. A took on the task of guiding Younger through the maze of classes, teachers, and a college degree. Adapt. Adjust. Sacrifice. See what I mean.

Sponges Don’t Always Fit Either

Even Younger wasn’t exempt from the ‘well meaning’ pack. When he struggled at the beginning of nearly every school year, we were repeatedly asked why we didn’t hold him back, let him be with kids more his own age. We just kept having to explain the ‘wait and see’ phase that went on with him.

Honestly, we thought about holding Younger back more than once, but invariably, over the Christmas break the ‘lightbulb’ would go off and our Little Sponge would catch up, and then some.

Younger started regular school at age four because he was bored stiff with preschool (his birthday falls just before cut-off date). He ‘needed’ to get to school so he could be an astronaut – his argument, at four years old, for going to kindergarten! Anything that had mechanical wings or rotors was his for the learning. He had his Airframe & Power Plant license (aircraft mechanic for us laymen) by the time he was 19. He’s has been working his way through college toward a degree in aviation engineering since.

Lucky and Blessed

So yeah, I get some of what Mrs. Edison was feeling. But I count myself lucky and blessed that our kids weren’t born during Edison’s time. They had an excellent set of elementary education supporters who added to their foundation of self-belief and can-do attitudes. Along with the naysayers above, they had additional teachers, counselors and church staff during their ‘tough’ middle and high school years that gave them enough pats on the back, hugs and thumbs-up that the naysayers words didn’t sting so much and didn’t take root as readily. Also, Mrs. Edison didn’t have computers and the internet to assist her. With these we’ve found help for traveling the various paths we’ve taken with our two.

ADDitude Magazine online: Strategies and Support for ADD and LD – This site was where we continually found strategies for their specific ‘life and learning hacks’ at home and school.

LDOnline: Although this site touts itself as ‘The educators guide to learning disabilities and ADD’ I used it extensively as a parent resource. It was the first place I found information on how to navigate the IEP (Individualized Education Program) system and how to talk to educators about what I saw and experienced with my child at home; without too much guilt toward myself or condemnation toward the educators.

Gifted and Talented Online: I did not find this site until later, it has really only been around since 2003. Oh how I wish I had known about it when Younger was struggling through his earlier boredom and his ‘catching up’ phases. It would have explained so much!

Again, if Mrs. Edison’s story is true, it is amazing how her strong and true belief in her son helped shape his future, as well as setting the foundation for the advantages we enjoy from his inventions. Just think what our

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison - Addled youngster or genius Inventor in the making?

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison – Addled youngster or genius Inventor in the making?

grandchildren’s prospects could be like if we, as parents of this and future generations of creatives, could possess an ounce of the belief in our own children that Mrs. Edison had in her ‘addled’ young inventor.

When I finally head into Glory, I hope my kids understand that they were, like young Thomas Alva was to his mother, the bestest and brightest of all the treasures here on earth to me.

I think I’ll go get that tissue now… Until our next visit Up in the Attic!