The Shoemaker’s Son – The Last One to Get a Pair of Shoes


Like the shoemaker’s son who was often the last to get a pair of shoes, parents are often the last ones to notice or acknowledge their own child may have difficulty learning or concentrating in school.  As a Special Educator, one would think I would have recognized that our youngest son was struggling at school. Looking back I dismissed many subtle (and not so subtle) hints from family members, play group leaders and teachers while I was busy working with other children who had identified special needs. It took our son to finally break down in tears and tell me how much he was struggling at school before I jumped into action and sought help.

As a parent and an educator, what would I now share with parents?  Here are a few tips that might help. Leave your ego and emotions at home and listen objectively to what teachers and family members say about your child. Observe your child in a setting with his or her peers. Ask questions. Visit your doctor and rule out vision, hearing and other possible medical issues. Have your child assessed by an Educational Psychologist. Ask for help. And do not be too hard on yourself – you are the best parent you can be as well as your child’s best advocate.

What advice would you give from personal experience or from a professional perspective?


8 Responses to The Shoemaker’s Son – The Last One to Get a Pair of Shoes

  1. Namita K says:

    No Parent wants to learn that their child is struggling mentally. We are quick to fix physical ailments with doctors diagnosis and medical treatment, but hesitate to fix any special or other mental needs our child might have. Both are easily treatable – and the sooner the better before self esteem issues make things more complicated. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

  2. Carola says:

    I think it is also important to acknowledge that some things cannot be “fixed”. The dyslexic child may acquire a “bag of tricks” and tools that supports his learning style and his success at school — but he may never love reading or go into a profession that involves hours of reading dense text. This can be very difficult for parents to handle: that years of tutoring, love and encouragement, early intervention, mentoring, special schools will not put Bobby on the track to become an attorney or getting a Ph.D. Very tough if the parents themselves are in that mode.

  3. Vicky Singh says:

    Sometimes what seems to be the issue is not really the issue. I know of a situation where there was a behavioral problem with a little boy and the emphasis was on punishing his inappropriate behavior. Later, it was determined that there was more subtle physical limitation that was causing frustration in the boy which was manifesting through oppositional behavior and misconduct. Once this was acknowledged, the emphasis went on rewarding his good deeds which soon lead to a shift in his behavior. The lesson to me is to really watch everything and be open to whatever may surface.

  4. Karen Lee Mah says:

    I actually started to work with special needs kids because of my oldest child. She was my first and I did feel she was a bit “off” compared to the other children at her preschool. Teachers would tell me about incidents where she was behind socially with the others. I had her tested with an educational psychologist and his conclusion was she was a late bloomer yet possibly gifted. Today she is a straight A student, a nerd (I prefer brainiac) yet still small for her age. She still has to work on her social cues, fine and gross motor skills but it is just who she is (she will never be an athlete or an artist). Back then, as a full time working parent with a type A personality, I was indeed in denial of who my child was until I started listening to others and having a professional evaluate her. It has helped me be a better parent and made me able to help other families as well.

  5. Sara S. says:

    It wasn’t until our younger child “hit the wall” academically in 6th grade that we began seeking professional help to get solutions. Always seen by his teachers as a “bright boy,” yet not living up to his scholastic potential, as parents we thought he would “grow up” and mature into a capable learner. Far from being hysterical parents, and were willing to “wait and see.”

    In hindsight, this was a lackluster strategy. After suffering through a difficult sixth grade he underwent extensive cognitive testing. However, the results didn’t give us enough detail to plan concrete next steps.

    It wasn’t until the end of seventh grade that we had him tested with another practitioner who was able to fine tune the testing sufficiently to give us a proposal for action. We cobbled together two weekly sessions for academics and learning strategies. Finally, by the spring of 8th grade, and after much serious soul-searching, decided to complement with ADHD meds. You can imagine our resistance to drugging a child simply so that he could conform to the way the majority learns. It took us a long time to come to terms with that.

    Today, he is a freshman at an independent school which teaches to his learning style. Here the teachers are invested in the success of each student. Small class sizes is a huge bonus.

    I stress the following from our own mistakes:

    1. If your child’s WISC (IQ) scores show huge variations among areas, this is a first indicator of potential learning differences. Seek help.

    2. Make sure enough diagnostic work is done, “drilling down” sufficiently so that you have clear ideas about which anomalies exist and how to ameliorate.

    3. You can’t start too early. Don’t wait. Get some answers now. I often see kids in high school who are just now sorting out these knotty learning problems. What an advantage they would have had getting answers earlier.

    4. Try to connect with other families facing similar situations. Often in “perfect,” performance-driven America, having a child with learning differences is a dirty little secret. You will be surprised how many families are in your same boat. They can be a great resource.

  6. Doreen says:

    I have a dyslexic child who is now a freshman in high school and enrolls in every Pre-AP/AP class he can. Officially describing and treating his difficulties when he was in second grade was the first step in being able to address his learning issues with concrete help. His favorite teacher is still Ms. Cooper, the MTA teacher from his middle school. He has learned to use his MTA skills to achieve academic success and we have learned to appreciate his individualism. And as the parent of 3 children, appreciating the uniqueness of each one is a lesson I work on every day. We all have our unique styles and ways of looking at things.

  7. Jeannie says:

    Approximately one-third of students have or had an identification of special needs requiring additional supports during the school day.

    Take a deep breath and rather than devising a solution alone, consider a team approach. If you believe your student is progessing differently than others think about how best the educational team at the school may assist and be part of the solution.

    Begin with your student and let them tell you when they believe they are successful and happy at school and under what circumstances. See if you are able to frame concerns by topic (such as speaking, reading, writing, listening, math, etc.) Then speak to the teacher(s.)and possibly guidance counselor and discuss topics, thoughts, key situations, ask for suggestions and actions of possible scenarios to improve learning in a few defined areas. Take some time to look for improvement.

    Request a team meeting to get all on the same page when it comes to doing the best for your student; include the teacher(s), principal, guidance counselor and school pyschologist. Depending on the age of the student, include them also in the meeting(s). Begin developing the team by stressing to all educators that you know they have the expertise and best intentions to provide the best for your student. Voice areas or topics in question. Ask for confirmation of specific concerns or improvements. Ask for suggestions if needed to add on to normal academic instructional time such as meeting with the teacher before or after school for additional assistance, try after-school homework clubs, school help centers, mentors, and tutors who are personally familiar with academic program and teachers.

    Take time to reflect following the meetings to think about the pros and cons of suggestions, and what will motivate your student to improve and become competent and confident.

    Take a step-by-step approach and use the team approach to pursue whatever combination of resources will help futher define areas for improvement.

    If the situation will be on-going, work with your student so they personally understand their own strengths and needs, so they are able to learn to advocate for themselves with the teachers or counselor whenever possible.

  8. Debra says:

    I have a child who is not on the fringes of a WISC norm, but struggles just enough to warrant extra help. Since I am a staunch advocate for my child, I was able to pull together the teacher, school counselor, and principal to create a strategy for diagnosis and remediation. It’ll be a long road and one I hope doesn’t involve medication, but we aren’t ruling it out. My child is fortunate because he has a parent who advocates for him, and a school administration that has stepped up on his behalf. Sadly, many children in American schools are not so fortunate.

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