By Joyce Herzog
The material below was originally a response to an interview by Tina Farewell, formerly of Lifetime Books and Gifts
TINA: How do you know if your children have a learning disability?
JOYCE: This very question reflects an acceptance of the SYSTEM’s worldview which says if a child forced through the system isn’t learning, the system is perfect and the child is broken. It further assumes that, given the SAME approach and opportunity, every child will perform the same and make the same progress. I do not hold this worldview. Rather, I believe the system is broken and its expectations are unrealistic. In reality, God created us all as unique individuals with individual strengths and passions and with the ability to learn. We live in a fallen world, of course, but every child has a place in God’s plan and can learn what he needs to thrive within God’s call. The job of the teacher is to employ good teaching techniques, accept his learner’s differences, gear the education to the child’s needs, passions, and strengths being ever aware of his weaknesses, and leave the outcome to God. The teacher must also work WITH the differences, especially in interest, ability, and time, to bring out the best the child is capable of rather than expect the child to thrive in a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy of education.
Good teaching is needed for what the world calls learning disability. Exceptional teaching is required for what the world terms dyslexic. Both of those, coupled with consistent structure and discipline, are needed for a child the world calls ADHD to thrive. Good teaching, consistent structure and discipline with enable ANY child to thrive and the class differences created by the SYSTEM’s worldview will disappear. It is not that we will then all be equal as the system purports to expect, but rather, then, that each child will be prepared to fulfill God’s divine call on his life and thereby thrive within that call.
If your goal is to “KNOW” if your children “HAVE a learning disability,” ARE dyslexic, or HAVE ADD/ADHD, I am not the resource for you. The field of learning disability, with all its newer branches of ADD/ADHD, ODD, and so on, (and I served in it for 25 years!) is a Pandora’s box. Someday, the system will have to admit they’ve opened something they’ll never be able to finish. We all learn differently. We’re all smart about some things and dumb about others. The “box” we call school was made to fit a certain kind of person in learning limited kinds of things at a specific rate. Someone who excels in school may be a total failure in life and visa versa.
In order to deal with the children who do not “fit the box,” the world system made up a classification called “learning disability” and threw money at it. It grew. It divided and multiplied. Now it is monstrous and inefficient. If you want to know whether your child has a learning disability, get hooked up with the system and get him tested. They are experts at labeling children. I wrote a book called, “Learning in Spite of Labels.” My goal is to focus on helping them learn, not labeling their difficulties.
If, on the other hand, your main goal is helping your child learn better, I believe I can be of assistance. If what you are using/trying is not working, I am aware of resources and methods that will move you along. If you do not understand your child and his needs, I will attempt to help you understand and find something that enables him to make progress again. At times I must say your expectations are unreal or the environment you have set up will not work for this child. I CANNOT FIX the child. I can only help you to have reasonable educational goals and methods to enable your child to thrive.
I am writing feverishly to put out materials to help you do this as I cannot reach everyone in need and my books will outlive my ability to serve. Virtually all I have said applies to all children, regardless whether the world has labeled them gifted, average, ADD, LD, or retarded. Please stop putting them, or myself, in this “special needs” box. That box is, itself, a label and all of us should be in it! But if you label me or them, you greatly handicap us. You limit my field to a certain few children who have specific kinds of trouble and struggle to thrive in a very faulty system. Many children need help. Think about the gifted child holding himself back to avoid the “nerd” label and the “average” child whose untapped talents are atrophying. Please don’t deny me access to the many who need my help by labeling me “LD teacher.”
If you are searching for answers for your struggling learner, try the $30 solution first. Buy, read, explore the resources, and apply the principles in Learning in Spite of Labels and Choosing and Using Curriculum: Your Guide to Home Education. If that isn’t enough, THEN consider the $75 solution: individual counseling through Phone Therapy (call 1-800-745-8212 for a Phone Therapy Kit). If both of these options leave you hanging, finally spend your thousands of dollars and unlimited time getting a label for your child, but expect to be shuffled from one “expert” to another and shoved (HARD!) in the direction of the SYSTEM.
There ARE special needs out there. The field originally applied to those who were blind, deaf, mentally retarded, or physically handicapped. I do have somewhat limited experience working with these and autistic children. I also have knowledge of many resources to meet these TRUE special needs. Many of these resources are given in the newest edition of Choosing and Using Curriculum: Your Guide to Home Education which has MORE special needs help than ever AND six new chapters to assist ANY family in improving their homeschool.
I have a heart for helping children learn, for assisting parents in training up their children in the unique ways which fit each one, for saving you years of frustration trying to make a child fit the system, and for passing on what I’ve gleaned from more than thirty years of mentoring children and their parents. J.H.