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The Brain Drain

Imagine what it would feel like to not understand time passing.  5 min, 5 hours, it's all the same. Imagine if a long weekend felt like an entire season of days or a whole summer felt like just a long weekend.  Imagine if every word you read had numbers mixed into it.  The letter 'S' became a 5...

There is a real problem that does just this...and this...

Difficulty reading an analog clock, differentiating left and right, inability to visualize mentally, estimating cost of things, difficulty estimating distance of something,  remembering math formulas, sequences, rules, concepts, inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks, retrieving long term memory...

The disorder is called Dyscalculia and it is a brain disorder and Sam has it.  He was born with it.  
Sometimes, it rules the days and weeks in our family and sometimes, we don't really notice it and Sam manages just fine... at least as far as I can tell.  We have worked every day to find ways around it. It's been a struggle to keep him from feeling 'dumb' because it can make one feel 'dumb' but the disorder affects all levels of intelligence.

It took until 4th grade for us to figure out what was happening.  Up until then, the line I always heard at Parent Teacher Conference was..."There's just something about Sam."  No one could ever say for sure what was off.

One night, we had to do a million math sheets so before we started, I suggested we run through the flashcards of the multiplication tables.  The flash cards were vertical in the way they were set up.  He did great!  We flew through those cards so I let him loose on the assignments, starting with the 2x tables.  He sat there and stared at 2x2.

"C'mon.  What are you waiting for?  Get going.  Write down the answer." I asked.
"I can't."  He replied. "I haven't learned this yet."
"Yes you have!  We just did it!"  I was so confused and proceeded to get very impatient.
The whole night ended in a meltdown of tears and anger because it wasn't fair to make him do homework on numbers he had never seen before!  I realized that because his homework had the times tables laid out horizontally, 2x4=8 instead of vertically, it was as if he had never seen those numbers before.

After months of psychological testing and thousands of dollars later, he was diagnosed with Dyscalculia and Dyslexia.  His brain only processes in the 5th percentile but he is well over the 95th percentile in perception.  The Psychiatrist said to me...This combination is so rare, life for him is going to be incredibly interesting.  

Sam's reality is that sometimes, summer vacation feels like Spring break.  When I clarify that he just had 3 months off from school...he feels like he wasn't there at all.  He can't remember that time passing.  He has a hard time recalling events that even took place over the summer.  I have to remind him.

It took him almost two years to understand the concept of divorce.  He thought, when we moved out of our home, that we were moving to a summer home and he kept asking when we could go 'home' or ask when dad was coming to visit.  He said this even though he went to his Dad's every single weekend to stay and saw his dad one evening every week.

A doctor can tell him about his condition and if it comes up again a few months later, it's as if he's hearing it all over again for the first time. We are always reliving hard, hard moments because he doesn't remember them the first time.  It's hard on all of us to do that.

I could go on and on...It's been an extremely difficult facet of life to deal with.

This week has been almost unbearable and it breaks my heart when I see him swimming in a brain that just can't work the way we think it should.

He has been talking about going on a big hike with all his friends.  I knew it was coming up but I was counting on him to give me some notice when they had finalized things.  He gave me about two hours notice on Tuesday night.  He was caught completely off guard when his friends called him up to tell him they were meeting at Walmart to buy the food for the trip, Wednesday.

If you can let the emotion of it all go and just watch it unfold for what it is, it's completely fascinating but I couldn't quite get there.   The problem is that this huge group of guys are planning and everyone has an opinion of where and when they should leave and some can go Wednesday but some will meet up with the group Thursday and a few have to come home early...Sam gets completely lost in the details of everyone else's schedule and he has no clue what is happening.

I was so scared at how upset he was when he got home from the shopping trip to pack.  He was completely lost and confused.  The Wasband came over and Spencer was home so together, we all tried to get everything together and help him get organized.  By then, there was no way to get Sam calmed down.  He was so completely overwhelmed.  I took him up to his room and tried to get him to talk it out and move on but he just kept saying how stupid he is and dumb and he can't do anything...It was sad.  Broke my mamma heart.

They are hiking up to some natural Hot Springs and it's a 7 mile hike.  His pack ended up weighing more than is desirable for something like this and I was worried. I asked him if he was concerned about the weight of the pack and the length of the mountainous hike.  His response just warmed my heart...  "MOM!! I can't even walk up the stairs to my bedroom anymore without my lungs burning! What do you think?"

Ugh...Sometimes, I hate life. I wanted to tell him he couldn't go but I know he has to do this for himself.  He is going with awesome guys and responsible guys.  Sam is responsible and very smart and resourceful so I know he will take care of himself that way but I just worry the toll this is taking on his heart and lungs.

When I dropped him off early Wednesday, his friend said, "Hey Mom, (He calls me Mom) do you have any questions about the trip?  There is a natural spring up there we can drink straight from so I hope you weren't worried about the water issue."

Good grief...I didn't even think about that!  Sam can not drink out of a natural spring.  Luckily, I packed our water filter/purifier and then had to pull Sam aside..."Over my dead body are you drinking from a natural spring unless you run it through the purifier twice!"
"Mom!  I'm not dumb.  I know that spring water would kill me.  I won't drink out of it."

I just had to leave before my own brain exploded with all the things I was worrying about...Tics...I hear they are out in full force this season and Sam will be sleeping in a freaking tree!  In a hammock!

So here we are on day two of his trip and he has no cell service so I'm just praying he is okay.  I won't even hear from him until Friday night, maybe Saturday.  I take hope in the fact that the friend 'in charge' has a Cop for a dad and Paramedic for a mom so if they don't come home...we have resources!  Sad that those twisted thoughts get me through the day!

Can't they just be 2 years old again when life was simple, bedtime was at 7, naps twice a day...



  1. I feel your stress. With the trials our sons have in life, it is hard to let them spread their wings and fly. I just want to clip my sons wings so he can only hop a short distance from me. The thought would make me feel better, but it would stifle his progress. Good luck.


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