As a parent, one of our responsibilities, and indeed moments of pride in our childrens developement, is when they meet their milestones… But what happens when your child doesn’t do as well? Do you go into denial and hope it fixes itself, or do you become pro-active, and work hard to help fix it?
Sister Rushdiya is a mum of 4 daughters, a teacher as well as a student, and this is her story. It is the journey of a dedicated mother who worked hard and did all she could to help her daughter overcome her difficulties, as well as the societal reactions to it.
“My second oldest daughter was recommended to see an O.T at the age of 4. She had difficulty remembering songs, sequencing and recognition of numbers or letters. She had always been a quiet and shy child but I had noticed that she didn’t sing all the words to songs, she would mumble through some pieces of it and sing some words clearly. And she sang the same songs over and over so she should have memorised all the words right?
I had just started as a teachers’ assistant at the same school she was attending. Taking her for an assessment was not a big deal for me. I felt that if she had a difficulty that could be overcome by seeing an O.T, it should definitely be done. Especially because she was young. That way, by the time she reached school going age, it would be resolved. It seemed that I was part of a minority that shared this opinion.
During this whole process I found that people did not really understand what it was that an O.T actually did. To be honest neither did I. We met with a wonderful woman who was a perfect match for my daughter, they got on like a house on fire. She was just that good at making kids feel comfortable around her. We found out that my daughter had a perceptual problem. An example of this would be that I would ask her to bring my bag from the table and she would just stand infront of the bag and look at it. She could not see where the bag started and the table ended. And because of this difficulty, she was unable to identify the different numbers, letters, etc. She also lacked concentration, she would get tired quickly and found it tedious to complete any task that was too long. The O.T explained that she had poor muscle development.
In retrospect, I had noticed all the things the O.T had listed, but I didn’t know they played such a huge role in how she would cope with learning pre-maths and pre-literacy. I was grateful for the opportunity for her to be helped. And then I spoke to some family members. They said things like:
• this was just a new way for people to make money
•lots of kids were going to see an O.T suddenly
•none of us ever needed to see an O.T when we were young and we are fine
•there was nothing wrong with her, she’s not stupid.
I found myself getting more and more frustrated because I was only hearing negative things. But honestly after the first session, I could see a huge difference in my daughter. I think she became more aware of how to deal with how she felt because she could not “see” properly. I also think that because the O.T explained what the problem was, we as parents became more tolerant. We asked questions in a different way to make it easier for her to accomplish her tasks. She underwent a wonderful confident boost. But despite the evidence, her therapy was still considered a waste of time amongst family members who were not afraid to voice their opinions.
Just because she needed help with her perception did not mean she was stupid. We have this idea that going for any therapy means there is something wrong with us. This is so untrue. Almighty has granted Doctors, Physiotherapists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, etc the knowledge to help us identify what we need help with. It has no bearing on our level of intelligence, in fact I have found that kids who are lacking in one area compensate by excelling in another. They learn to live with it. But why should they? As they get older it becomes harder to cope with the difficulty. Take my daughter as an example, imagine we had not identified the difficulty and she went to primary school. She would not have been able to recognise numbers or letters. Her reading and mathematical skills would have suffered. She would probably not have enjoyed reading and maths as much as she does now, or school for that matter. Her report card has merit awards for mathematics and she is part of the advanced reading group in her class at 8 yrs old.
Taking my child for the correct help was not a reflection on me as a bad parent. I think that ignoring the recommendations of a qualified, trained professional would have been.”