What did I learn from raising a son with a learning disability? I guess it was like being on an emotional roller coaster ride sometimes—not only for Marco, but for me too. But I realized I couldn't take the ride with Marco. I was the one who had to be on the ground, to give him the support that he needed. But in order for me to stay on the ground, I needed support, too. I got that support from family and friends and from other parents who had faced similar challenges in raising a child with a learning disability.
For me, I think it was hardest before the diagnosis. There were just so many unknowns and I had no place to turn. When he was diagnosed, I actually felt a sense of relief. I thought, "What I can name, I can deal with." And I could make a plan and find the resources that Marco needed to overcome the obstacles that he faced. We were no longer victims; we could take control.
As a parent, my identity is so wrapped up in my child. But I had to let that go. While I needed to have high expectations for Marco, I had to be sure that my expectations were realistic and achievable—based on what he could do, what he found difficult, and what he wanted for himself. And while I had to acknowledge his weaknesses, I also learned how to focus on his strengths.
Raising a child with a learning disability isn't easy. It requires many phone calls with schools, meetings with teachers, and patience. I often questioned myself, "Is this the right service for Marco? Should I push the school harder? Should I push Marco harder? What could I be doing better?" While I did have lot of questions, I was sure about one thing—that here was this child I loved and I had to do whatever I could to get him on a path to success.
Looking back, I realize that there are many pathways to success. There are also lots of obstacles on the way, but with the right supports, children with learning disabilities can succeed.
Marco graduated from college last year. He is now a teacher, working with high school students with learning disabilities, helping them find their path.