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Delphine Rule is a mother, wife, teacher and strong believer that all children have the potential to make a difference no matter how difficult their learning struggle might be. Something else worth mentioning, she is Dyslexic, a disABILITY her children share. Does it define her? Absolutely not. It is simply just part of her journey, one she’s navigated proudly. Learning to navigate both her own learning disability and her children’s has led her to create Access to Education – an educational consulting business that supports families in finding their roadmaps to success.
In this episode:
- Learning differently comes with challenges, opportunities, & successes. All brains are wired differently. What works for one, doesn’t always work for another.
- When navigating learning challenges with your child, trust your gut & ask for help.
- Your child’s learning profile highlights their strengths & needs & can be created with insights from you, your child’s teachers, your child &, in some cases, a psychoeducational assessment.
- Create a circle of support around your child. Build relationships & have open communication with your child’s teachers so that you’re all on the same page.
Connect with Delphine:
- Instagram: @access2educationtoronto
- Facebook: @Access2EducationToronto
- Website: https://www.access2education.com/
- Podcast: Access to Education
Connect with Tiana and The Part-Time Jungle:
- Instagram: @parttimejungle
- Facebook: @parttimejungle
- Website: https://theparttimejungle.com
A LEARNING DIFFERENCE
Delphine learned that she had a learning difference or learning disability when she was about seven or eight years old. This is mainly because she was put into a small class placement once she had a diagnosis of dyslexia. Prior to this, she moved around to different schools a couple of times. Different things were tried and things weren’t working. This led to her parents having her assessed. With her diagnosis , Delphine’s parents were able to advocate for her, get her support, and put her on the right path.
For Delphine, her diagnosis has almost always been a part of who she is. As a child, it wasn’t something that she wore proudly. When she was younger, kids made fun of her because she was in the small class. She had to come from out of area to attend the school. Delphine felt like it wasn’t okay to have her diagnosis be a part of who she was.
As Delphine grew up, she learned that there were a lot of gifts that came from her diagnosis. She learned that she had a lot of abilities because of her disability. As well, her disability gave her some advantages. For example, she got time and a half on exams. As well, she didn’t have to write her exams in the gym in university with 400 to 500 other people. She got to write her exams in a regular classroom with 15 or 20 people. For Delphine, this worked. So as much as people sometimes say, it’s such a disadvantage, Delphine doesn’t see it that way at all.
HER KIDS’ LEARNING DIFFERENCES
Navigating the diagnosis of learning differences with her own kids was hard. The thing that was most hard about it was that Delphine initially felt that it was her fault because it was her genetics. She had a feeling that she somehow had to fix it. However, there wasn’t anything to fix. Delphine had to remind herself that it was a bit of a gift and not a bad thing. If she could guide them in the right way, her kids could learn about their strengths, struggles, and the supports that could help them.
It was especially tough for Delphine with her eldest. The understanding that something wasn’t okay for him was hard emotionally. When we have our first child, we have all these visions and these goals and these dreams and these expectations as parents. We have expectations because people have expectations put on us.
Delphine expected that her son would be this bright, bubbly little boy who wouldn’t have any challenges. She expected that everything would be fine, that he would sail through, and that they wouldn’t have any problems. When her son was 2 years old and in play school, Delphine would pick him up after class and the teacher would tell her that he had been doing things like hitting and not following directions. It felt uncomfortable.
IMPORTANCE OF OPENNESS
When he started at a regular daycare with a preschool, there were all kinds of red flags. Delphine knew that she needed to not be afraid and she needed to be open to looking into things. That openness is hard but once you start on the journey, you start putting the pieces in place. Delphine started by going to her family doctor and having a conversation. This conversation is key because they are the key to unlocking the door.
LETTING GO OF THE GUILT
Delphine still feels badly about her middle son. She was so focused on her eldest because he had so many emotional problems. He was not aggressive but he was a zero to 60 kid. Delphine calls him a super feeler. He would have these big explosive moments so a great deal of focus was put on helping and supporting him. She missed a lot of the signs for her middle son and now feels like they are playing catch up. However, she has let go of the guilt and reminds herself of all that she can do to support her kids as an educator with a background in special education.
FRENCH LANGUAGE SCHOOL
Delphine and her husband made the choice to put their children in a French language school since they have been in preschool. Her sons are now in Grade 6, Grade 4, and she has a daughter in Kindergarten. They have sometimes questioned if their sons’ learning disabilities have been affected with a second language. The research suggests that this is not the case.
SUPPORT AND FUNDING FOR LEARNING DIFFERENCES
The biggest challenges in navigating her sons’ learning challenges have been finding support and finding the funds. Supports have included tutors, occupational therapists, doctors, and other specialists. Accessing these supports has meant that Delphine has had to take time off which is also a big challenge. Delphine says that sometimes it feels like the brunt of the responsibility is put on her. It is largely logistical because Delphine’s works closer to where her kids are but then, she is the one having to miss work and there is guilt associated with this. How do you find that balance between your responsibility as a parent and your responsibility to your job which in Delphine’s case includes the students and staff in her building.
There have been many successes for Delphine and her family along the way as well. With every little step they’ve taken forward, they have seen so many gains and so much potential. She has been able to watch her children grow and learn how to deal with their super feeling emotions or how to deal with not being able to read the book. They know that they have strategies they can implement like going to the computer and using the Read and Write Gold software.
LEARNING TO BE INDEPENDENT
Her sons are also learning to be independent. Delphine’s son in grade six is beginning to be able to self advocate and to ask his teacher for what he needs. Her son in grade four is starting to learn some of those skills. He’s not able to tell his teacher but he is able to share his insights with Delphine who can advocate on his behalf. Another big success is that their kids talk openly to Delphine and her husband about their learning differences and their struggles. Having an open line of communication is important in Delphine’s family where they can share and discuss the good moments and the bad moments.
NAVIGATING LEARNING DIFFERENTLY
Delphine has two key pieces of advice:
- TRUST YOUR GUT: If you are someone in a child’s life, adoptive parents, biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and there’s a little voice in your head telling you that something doesn’t feel right then, trust that. If you know a child and you want the best for that child, you’re going to hear it. You’re going to feel it.
- ASK FOR HELP: It is important to speak up. If you do, there will be someone who will hear you. Iit might not be the first person you talk to or the second or third. Tell someone you trust. This could be your child’s teacher, the school principal, your doctor, or a friend who is an educator. This is not a journey that should be done alone. It’s a very long journey. It is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes a village. Delphine is the first to admit that it is hard to ask for help. Her journey has taught her that sometimes you have to have to ask for help and it’s okay.
A learning profile is just a fancy way of saying what your child’s strengths and needs are.
- What are they really good at?
- What are they really passionate about?
- What drives them?
- What engages them in learning?
- What are their areas of challenge?
STRENGTHS AND STRUGGLES
Maybe your child is really good at building things. They love to create things with LEGO, to build towers, and to look at and talk about the intricacies of bridges. Maybe your child is really good at writing. They get their thoughts and emotions out by writing things down on paper. For challenges, they might be shy and don’t like to speak out. They might not be very good at math. It could even be something as simple as they’re not good at holding a pencil which is an example of a fine motor skill. One of Delphine’s sons struggles with gross motor skills and finds making his bed difficult because he doesn’t have strength in his arms and hands. You could also think about how well your child can follow instructions. If you give them a list of things, how many can they remember at once?
When you read your child’s report card, to better understand their teacher’s thoughts and insights in terms of what they are seeing in the classroom, look for phrases like:
- With support is able to
- Can complete
- Can follow instructions
- Likes to do or does not like to do
- Prefers to
- Needs to be encouraged to try
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
If you put what you perceive to be your child’s strengths and needs together with what the teacher sees as your child’s strengths and needs, you will have a pretty good overview. However, if you want a really specific learning profile, this involves going and getting a registered psychologist to do a psychoeducational assessment for your child. This is doable and absolutely worth it and will give you an amazing window into the wonderful brain that is inside your child’s head.
A psychoeducational assessment is always followed by a debrief with a psychologist along with a report that you can revisit and share with your child’s school and teachers. It allows you to really clearly see your child’s strengths, challenges, and potential. If you’re one of those parents who is worried about your child academically, because you think that there’s something that isn’t right, this can be a tool to help alleviate that stress. It can give you insight into the way that your child is going to achieve things. They have their own brain and makeup. If you can get your child the right supports and put the right blocks in front of them, the crevice from one jump to the other is much more narrow. The massive gap that you initially see is probably not as big as you think it is.
ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN
The potential is always there. All children, no matter their learning data, can all learn. It’s just that they don’t all do it the same way. Sometimes as parents, we spend a lot of time comparing one child to another child whether they’re siblings, friends, or cousins. For Delphine, it’s taken a lot of effort to shut that down. She reminds herself that each of her kids is their own person and that they are different from one another.
One thing that Delphine has done with her own kids is to ask them what they think they are good at and not so good at. Sometimes her answers match theirs. Other times, Delphine is surprised by the things that they think they’re really good at. Delphine recommends that you just go with this. If they have a security within themselves that they’re good at something and maybe you don’t agree with, don’t shatter that. Instead, build on that and provide them with opportunities to show more, understand more, and to work through it.
ALL BRAINS ARE WIRED DIFFERENTLY
Delphine says that it is mind over matter. It’s like The Little Engine That Could. If you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t. How you do it might not be the same way that everybody else does it. All brains are wired differently. That’s all it is. It’s the wiring of our brain and the way in which we process the information. What works for one, doesn’t always work for another. It’s so important for kids to see what they’re good at, to feel what they’re good at, and then run with it.
SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER
Before becoming a parent, when Delphine first started teaching, she worked in special education. Because of her personal experiences with a learning difference, she felt like she would be able to relate to parents. She had been there and done that. However, as she started working with parents, she realized that she didn’t understand at all. She couldn’t truly empathize.
When she had her eldest son and experienced struggles, everything shifted in her work with parents. She was calmer in the way she dealt with families. Delphine didn’t push as hard and waited for them to come to her a little bit more. She was able to sit with them and say “I know it’s hard and I’m here and I’m listening and I’m going to walk you through this”.
PARENT HAT AND EDUCATOR HAT
With her own kids, Delphine has really had to walk the line in navigating things while wearing both a parent hat and an educator hat. She knows what her expectations are and what her children have rights to. Delphine is very aware of the ministry of education and what is provided versus what could be provided if you know to ask the right questions.
THERE IS A LINE
Delphine says that you have to know how to push just enough without pushing too much. There is a line and you will find it. Delphine had to cross the line to understand where the line was. It was very difficult. She had to put a lot of faith in educators. Sometimes she has had to bite her tongue, walk away from a meeting, process and digest, and then send a very kind email a few days later to say thank you for the meeting.
THEIR OWN PEOPLE
Delphine says that she finds that she puts pressure on her kids to do well. She was a child who always wanted to do well for everyone and her children are not always that. They are not always doers. They sometimes need to be coaxed a little bit. Delphine reminds herself that they are their own people. Her forcing them into something isn’t always beneficial because then it just becomes about butting heads. Arguing and fighting doesn’t work for anybody.
It’s a very delicate tight rope. You want to take it all on yourself because it’s your child. You can’t. You have to let other people be involved as well because you aren’t their teacher. You are their parent first. What can sometimes happen when you try to be the teacher more than the parent is you erode that beautiful, trusting relationship that you have with your child. The foundation of trust, love and appreciation can be affected if you’re so stressed out about school and you become too much of a teacher. The parenting side of things can really take a hit. None of us want that because we love our children to the ends of the earth. Knowing when to pull the plug or step away is hard but is necessary.
CREATING A CIRCLE
One of the things that Delphine works really hard with families on is creating a circle around the child. What the school is doing should be the same as what home is doing and vice versa. And the same as home is doing at school. For Delphine’s eldest son who has emotional challenges and ADHD, she found out that the school was using the Zones of Regulation as a strategy to support him. They decided to do this at home as well. This way they were using the same language and working to create a team between home and school.
A TEAM APPROACH
It’s not always easy to create that relationship. It means that you have to be open and honest about your child. You have to be able to say that you understand that your child is not perfect, that they aren’t great at everything, or that they’re struggling with this or that. Delphine’s eldest son can get really angry and his outbursts can be pretty big. This was really embarrassing for Delphine. She just wanted her kid to be quiet and to sit, listen, and do just as he was told. This was what she wanted but wasn’t what she got. However, she loves what she got. He has energy, emotion, and enthusiasm but he’s got to learn how to channel it. It has taken a team approach. Delphine works really hard with families to create that team for their own kids.
IMPORTANCE OF CONVERSATION AND QUESTIONS
Sometimes Delphine helps families mediate a bit with the school to build that relationship over time. Sometimes the relationship needs to be rebuilt. Whether you’re an educator or not, you’re balancing the parent, teacher, and educator thing. Sometimes parents are concerned that they’re not the experts so they can’t ask questions. However, it’s your child. Delphine would argue that educators would prefer that you ask the questions and have the conversation. This way, they can help you better understand what they see and they can better understand, from you, what they don’t know. Ultimately, this will allow your child to be successful, the teacher to successfully teach your child, and for you to have confidence in the person who’s teaching them.
A PLAY DATE
When Delphine’s eldest child was about five years old, they were heading out to a playdate with a group of moms and their kids. In the past, there had been a couple of issues with his behavior because he can kind a zero to 60 kid. Delphine was really stressed about this visit. Before she got him out of the car, she told her son that he needed to behave because she didn’t want to be embarrassed. Delphine was so anxious because these get-togethers had not gone smoothly in the past. She just wanted the opportunity to spend time with her friends and to talk to other adults. Delphine still remembers the look on her son’s face after she had said this to him.
The visit went just fine. Delphine remembers going home that night, putting her son to bed, and telling him that she was sorry. She didn’t mean to put something on him that he didn’t need. At the visit, Delphine remembers her son watching her the whole time to see if she was watching him. That moment really stands out for her because she feels that she put a lot of pressure on her son to be someone that he wasn’t. It meant that he couldn’t be who he wanted to be at the play date.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Delphine wishes that she had done things differently. She would have said something kinder to him like “if you need a minute, because you’re getting too excited or frustrated, why don’t you come sit with me or step away from the situation.” Delphine wishes that she had named the emotions and feelings for him.
When Delphine makes a mistake with her kids, she thinks that it is important to apologize to them. As adults, we all get stressed out. She and her kids have figured out a way to communicate with each other. For her eldest son, when they get into these situations, where the sensory overload is going to be there, they are able to have a respectful conversation.
OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION
For Delphine and her family, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. She wants them to understand that there are challenges and that they are going to work through them together as a family. That makes a difference. It’s been important to be on the same page with how they are going to deal with things like discipline and academics. For Delphine, there is joy in being able to sit with kids, to learn with them, to understand their learning profiles, to support them, and to talk about things openly. When mistakes are made, everybody in the family learns from that mistake. Then, hopefully, the same mistakes aren’t made again. If they are, Delphine and her family talk about it again and go through the same motions.
DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
This is what works for her Delphine and her family. Each family has to find the way that works best for them to deal with difficult situations. There’s no right or wrong way. When you first bring your baby home, everybody has every idea known to man on how you should feed your baby, how you should bathe your baby, and how you should put your baby to sleep. At the end of the day, you need to do what works for you. You don’t have to subscribe to anybody else’s way of doing things.
A HARD LESSON
For Delphine, that was a hard lesson to learn. With her first, she tried to do things every other way than the way that she wanted to. Eventually she had to throw that approach out. It wasn’t working for her. This takes confidence and the knowledge that you can.
FOLLOW YOUR GUT
For any family who has a child with a learning challenge, learning disability, learning need, or neuro difference, whatever term you want to put on it, what works for you is not going to work for everybody. Having conversations with other parents can help give you even a tiny piece of advice that you can try. Take what works and throw out what doesn’t and don’t worry about the stuff that you’ve thrown out. If somebody says, you should do things a certain way, you don’t have to. Follow your gut. If your gut says, this is how I need to parent my child, that’s how you need to parent. If anybody tells you differently, just do what you need to do for you.
TRIAL AND ERROR
Everything is trial and error. There are no handbooks or rule books. There’s no Ikea instructions with pictures to try and follow through. It happens through experience and sweat, tears, and, sometimes, anger. If you’re new on a road in academics and education, there isn’t one way or a one size fits all approach.
GO WITH IT
When you find something that works, go with it. Just know that it might change. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. It’s a joy to have these children because they keep life so interesting. This is part of their gift. They bring us the ability to remember that schedules don’t always have to be followed. The best laid plans are simply the best laid plans.
Juggling motherhood and work is not easy but it is possible. Lots of us do it. We just do it in our own way. Maybe this means that you order dinner every night. You can hire a nanny if that makes sense for your household. Maybe you work part-time instead of a full-time job. You can work on weekends instead of during the week. You do what works for you.
Delphine needs to work because it keeps her sanity. She loves her children but she finds that even during her summers off she feels that she kind of loses herself. Working allows her to stay herself. She doesn’t have a recipe for the juggle. For her family, they order in twice a week and she is lucky enough to have someone come and clean her house. Over the past 16 years of marriage and three children later, Delphine and her husband have figured that these are the things that keep her from going off the rails. These are the things that keep their marriage together, their children happy, and Delphine feeling like she’s usually got things together.
MAKE TIME FOR YOU
As a mom, Delphine emphasizes the importance of making time for you. She says that she is not always the best at this herself but she knows what a difference it makes. Whatever it is that makes you feel like yourself, even if it’s just for half an hour, do that. Delphine says that this is hard for her because she likes to hold things to herself and has a hard time letting things go and passing on the responsibility to someone else.
YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!
Don’t allow others to judge you based on what you are or aren’t doing. You are doing a great job. With your job and your children and your family and whatever other responsibilities you might have. There are lots of different hats that we wear. And if you feel like the wheels are coming off, then take a step back and think about what you need. Generally when you get to the point where things are unraveling, it’s because you have forgotten about you. Prioritizing yourself is so important.
Thanks so much to Delphine for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!