One afternoon after coming home from school, my 9 year old son who is a third grader proudly announced, “ I got a perfect score in my exams!” Ever the supportive mom, I immediately exclaimed, “wow!” Proof or no proof, I was not going to rain on his parade. I was just going to ride his hot tamale train and enjoy the ride. He hurriedly opened his bag and then showed me this:
True enough, there it was. Written in red ink were the words, “ v. good” and a clearly written, “100%” To say that I was in shock was an understatement. I grabbed the test paper in disbelief just to see if it was true. I scanned the pages just to make sure that everything was correctly checked and sure enough, everything was correctly checked! It was a true blue certified perfect examination paper. I was so proud of my son! He was so pleased with himself and I could see the pride clearly etched on his face. Our hot tamale train of celebration was for real.
I know for most, this is a bit much of an overreaction even for a perfect examination paper. It is more so since the subject in celebration was Physical Education, a very minor subject among all the minor subjects. But in the 5 years that my son has been attending school, this was the first ever perfect score he received whether for quizzes or examinations. This is the first perfect score he has ever received for the first 50 months of education that he has received in his whole life. This is the first!
You see, my son suffered from a speech delay. He said his first word at the age of two which is “no” But from the time of his first word until the time he went to school, all the rest of his other words were just a product of my intelligent guess work. In his mind, he knew the words he wanted to communicate but his speech organs (the mouth, the tongue, the cheeks etc) would not obey his brain to form the correct sounds. He would often resort to showing me pictures or acting out the words so that I could understand him. He sometimes gets so angry and frustrated when I couldn’t correctly guess his intentions.
By the time he attended school for kindergarten 1 at the age of five; his speech proficiency was still that of a two year old. Attending school with that level of speech aptitude was a bloodbath. Not only was he constantly bullied, school work was also extremely difficult for him. His teachers couldn’t understand him so he couldn’t relay questions that he might have had regarding the lessons. Worse, even when he understood the lesson and knew the answers to the questions; he couldn’t communicate them to his peers nor his teachers. School was my son’s living and breathing nightmare.
Things only began to get worse when school lessons progressed to reading. A fun fact about the ability to read is that it is interconnected so intimately with the ability to speak. Learning to read when you don’t know how to speak is like banging your head repeatedly against the wall; it is useless and just hurts a lot. School was an uphill battle for us. It was always a game of catch up and working twice or thrice as hard as everyone else. We were standing on quicksand and it seemed that the more we struggled and fought, the quicker we sank.
We couldn’t afford speech therapy by a certified therapist for the son. The cost is beyond reasonable and my husband’s salary will not be able to cover it. So we opted for D.I.Y. therapies from apps and online help groups from other parents who are in the same situation. I must admit that getting a certified therapist would have expedited my son’s progress at a faster rate and would have saved him from a whole lot of unnecessary heartaches but as with all circumstances, you make the best with what you have.
My son’s official school time starts at 8 in the morning. We would already be there by 6 am doing our speech exercises. During winter, our six in the morning activities involved a flashlight because the sun would not rise yet until an hour after our arrival. If we have free time after the speech exercises, we would try to read books and/or catch up with lessons he misunderstood from the past quarters. Afternoon was reserved for current lessons and current school work. This was our life for 5 whole academic years.
Yet despite our best and exhaustive efforts, progresses were not always visible. When my son would bring home examination papers which needed to be signed, I learned to wait for my husband. I didn’t want my son to see me break down while seeing his scores. He would often get less than 50 percent of the correct answers. I hurt for him because I knew that he understood the lesson quite well. But since he couldn’t read the questions much less understand them, the chances of him getting the answer right were very slim. For all the hard work he does, he deserved more recognition. Yet for quite some time, he never did get them.
Finally when he was eight years old, we made some form of breakthrough. At the beginning of the academic year, he was sporadically reading and completing 5 pages of storybooks. He was still stumbling over a few words and it still took time to read but that, to me, was still quite a progress. By the end of the academic year, I no longer forced him to finish reading at least 5 pages because he was already finishing stories in one sitting. My son could finally and truly read! In terms of practical application to his education, he could also finally and truly read and understand the question from his exam papers. Progress showed in his grades and he was finally passing.
So after almost 5 years of trying and working, he finally got rewarded and recognized for his efforts with a perfect score in one of his exam papers. Never mind that the subject was only Physical Education! It took us 5 years to get there but we finally did it. I was very ecstatic but I think no one is more ecstatic than my 9 year old boy. In fact, his confidence was on an all time high, he even said that one day he will be included in the top ten of his class.
His aspiration at the moment might seem impossible but 5 years ago, talking and reading seemed impossible too, much less get a perfect score on an exam. Give it 5 more years, and he will be able to have another achievement unlocked.