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Going Bananas

Maggie Repp sharing her story. Photo credit: Janel Schermerhorn.

By Maggie Repp.

Maggie wrote this piece after sharing her story at an AWC women’s salon on Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018. The evening focused on Dyslexia and other learning differences, and was presented by local expert, Brid Ni Chatháin.

I was going bananas. And more importantly, so was my son…

Being a parent is the biggest privilege of our lives, I think. It’s a journey not for the faint-hearted, and is crammed full of adventure. One of the plethora of milestones for parent and child alike is starting school. That first-day-of-school is usually a cocktail of tears of joy, tinged with fear and apprehension but always excitement. This is how it was for me.

I couldn’t wait for my son to learn to read and grow to love the magic and beauty of words on a page. How they transport us to a different world, perhaps a different planet. A different age where anything and everything is possible. We would go together, my boy and I, on these adventures. We would swing through the Amazon jungle, sneak around Hogwarts in the evening with magic wands to protect us, and discover an Island with Treasure!!!

Why Didn’t My Son Want to Read?

By the time my son was in third grade, however, I was becoming frustrated and impatient. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t share my love of reading and was so resistant to picking up a book. I had read to him every single night since the day he was born. But when it was his turn, it was “I’m tired,” “I don’t like this book,” or “Can you just read it for me?”

It wasn’t just his reading. My son was struggling in all of his subjects, and at the end of the school day was beyond exhausted. His teacher suggested that we have him tested, citing his fine and gross motor skills as being a problem, along with spacial awareness. We were referred to an Ergotherapist who carried out a series of tests over several weeks, and diagnosed that our son has Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. This could explain why he didn’t like to sit with us if we were drinking orange juice, or if the light was too bright, or the music too loud.

There Was Something Rotten in the Air

We were very lucky to find a caring and astute Ergotherapist, who arranged to go into our son’s class one morning and sit in the corner to simply observe the environment and how our son coped in the classroom. Our little boy is a joy to have in the classroom, I’m often told, and is not at all disruptive. He does not appear to have poor concentration. That said, he was not managing the tasks required of him that morning. Yet he was more than capable of completing the tasks, and had all the resources he needed. The Ergotherapist recognized that something was bothering him, distracting his thoughts, and disturbing his work.

The Ergotherapist walked around the classroom in search of the silent distraction. As he approached my son’s desk, he saw that a trash can was placed in front of my son’s group, only two meters from where he was sitting. The
Ergotherapist had a quick peek into the trash and found the offending object — a discarded banana peel snuggling up beside an apple core. While quite innocuous to the majority of us, it was wreaking (or should I say reeking!) havoc on my son. That afternoon, the teacher, the Ergotherapist and my son sat down and agreed to move the trash can to the other corner of the room, where it would be out of sight and out of his whiff-radar.

Big Challenge? Start Small

That rotten banana was an epiphany for me as a parent. I would often get completely overwhelmed with everything I had to do to help my son. There was so much – where to start? Now I realise that sometimes all it takes is a little tweak to make things easier or less stressful. Start off small! This advice was echoed at the Dyslexia discussion AWC had last Tuesday. And it’s good advice for all of us, isn’t it? Most of us have an old banana skin somewhere in our lives. It is good to have a look at what keeps us back and either try to distance ourselves from it or just simply chuck it out.


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