Dear Dr. Laura,
You have helped me change my son's life, and I owe you so much. Over the last 12 months, you've given two pieces of advice that transformed my family.
In August 2011, we had just moved my then 9-year-old son to a new private school that was much more rigorous. We knew he had some learning challenges, but we had been addressing those with therapy and we were excited to have him in a school where he could flourish. Instead, we faced a series of events that changed everything. My son struggled mightily in the new school, so my husband and I decided to withdraw him.
We decided to take him to a pediatric neuro-psychologist. Instead of a couple of minor problems, we were presented with a series of six diagnoses: generalized and severe anxiety, executive dysfunction, dysgraphia, gross motor skills deficits and corresponding lack of core strength, sensory processing disorder, and social issues maybe Asperger's, maybe not. My son has a very high IQ and a good character. Together, these had compensated for his deficits at the easier school. So while we knew there were some problems, their number and severity were hidden until he was in a more challenging environment.
We decided to homeschool.
The first several months went well and I had a great support network. My parents were particularly important then my dad was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. Seven months later, he was gone. For the first time in my life, I was overwhelmed and riddled with anxiety, including occasional panic attacks. And my son seemed lost. His fragile self-image had been so damaged when he left school, and he thought so little of his many abilities. And like me, he was deeply saddened by the loss of my dad. Then, I heard Dr. Laura give this advice:
1. People with depression or anxiety should exercise rigorously - preferably outside.
2. If someone needs stronger self-esteem, they need to impress themselves.
I decided to challenge my son. What if we attempted to do something he thought was impossible? How would that change his self-image? We chose a serious physical challenge even though we were NOT physically gifted - or even in shape - people. We chose the Coast-to-Coast Walk Across England. We started training last September, walking a mile or two around the neighborhood. Now, we are regularly hiking serious hills, and covering 40-50 miles a week. On May 5, we will catch a flight to London, en route to our 200-mile hike across the country. But even if we fail (I hope we don't!), we have already won.
Yesterday, my boy told me something amazing: "Mom, I'm not a guy who quits anymore. If I make a plan, and I follow it, I think I could finish just about anything. I'm a lot stronger than I used to be." I agree. I'm a lot stronger, too. Dr. Laura, I'll miss you in my ear buds as I hike the Lake District, but I will carry your advice in my heart.