Aided by non-traditional learning methods and the support of his parents, Holt adoptee and once “waiting child” Cody Dorsey managed to conquer his learning disabilities and graduate with the distinction of “Best All-Around Senior.” He is now in his first year of college.
Last week, our youngest son, Cody, started community college. There were times when I never dreamed this would happen. Cody was 5 when we adopted him from Romania. We had originally decided to adopt a child 3 years or younger, but after seeing his picture in the Holt monthly newsletter, we knew Cody was our son. We trusted God’s direction in adopting and truly felt His guidance in choosing our “waiting child.” He was a tiny, cheerful ball of energy and a joy from the first moment. Cody has never met a stranger and will talk to anyone, young or old. He is a great athlete, who draws attention everywhere he goes. He will tackle any mechanical problem and work on it until he figures it out. He is also a young man with learning disabilities. The fact that he is so gifted in other areas makes it hard for people to understand that he can’t always learn using traditional methods.
We were aware that Cody did not know the common things most 5-year-old children do, like names of colors, shapes, numbers, etc. The information we received from Holt told us that he was delayed in some areas, but we were ready to do whatever it took to help him. We realized that part of the problem was language, although he learned English very quickly. I tried games and tricks, but he simply couldn’t remember the names of colors. Finally my husband came up with the idea of instructing Cody to call out the color of balls as they played pool. That was our first experience with non-traditional learning methods.
We kept Cody at preschool for an extra year to prepare for kindergarten. His kindergarten teacher was a wonderful, older woman who worked with him and helped him
make it to first grade. She, like us, thought it was still a language issue. Cody’s first and second grade teachers were very sweet, but inexperienced. Although they tried to help, we had difficult years. We would spend hours doing homework that should take 30 minutes. When I would question the teachers about testing for learning disabilities, they would say he was doing “about average.” Our two older children were academically gifted and seemed to absorb knowledge from the air, so it was hard for me to know what was considered “average.” Finally, Cody had an experienced third grade teacher who agreed there were problems. She ordered tests and we were actually relieved to discover that Cody has learning disabilities. Finally, we knew what was wrong and could get him the help he needed.
Cody entered the Exceptional Children’s Program (EC) and received an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The purpose of an IEP is to adapt learning methods that work best for each child. In elementary school, Cody was pulled out of his regular class each day for extra help in math and English. He also had testing accommodations, such as being allowed to test in a separate room. He could comprehend better if he read questions out loud to himself. He was also given extra time for tests. In middle and high school, he was no longer pulled out, but still received the accommodations. These accommodations helped Cody make better grades and also gave him confidence that he could learn, using the right methods.
Some of the methods that helped Cody were recommended by the EC teachers, like extra time for tests or notes supplied by teachers. Some methods we discovered for ourselves through research online and at our local library. We found ways to make his schoolwork “hands-on,” which was easier for our mechanically minded child. Vocabulary words became matching games on slips of paper that I would frequently put out for him to match up. Cody was an active child and learned better in motion. Memorization was done while pacing around our 9×12 living room rug, repeating the information until he had it. It took some extra time on our part, but was worth every minute. As he got older, we put more responsibility on him to use the methods to help himself.
The EC program gives parents legal rights to demand the help their children need. Most teachers were willing to follow Cody’s IEP, doing everything they could to help because they were impressed with his hard work. He worked very hard, knowing that if he wanted to continue playing sports, we expected him to give his best at academics. We did have to remind a few teachers that the IEP was there for a reason. It was hard for some to see this sociable, successful young man and realize that he needed the recommended help for schoolwork. The typical EC student is quiet, unwilling to be involved in extracurricular activities like clubs and sports. Cody was involved and successful in so many things. He attained the award of Eagle Scout, was All-Conference in two sports and is a leader in our church softball and mission program.
Because of Cody’s accomplishments, he was asked to be a mentor to younger EC students in middle and elementary school. The students recognized him from sports and loved having him come spend time with them — encouraging them. He would say, “I did this… you can too!” During his senior year of high school, Cody worked with children in the sports programs at our local YMCA. This led to his decision to study Parks and Recreation in college.
We are thankful to Cody’s teachers, coaches and other school staff for their guidance and encouragement. This year, at the senior awards program, Cody received the “Best All-Around Senior” award — an honor voted on by the entire high school staff. We are so proud of him because this award stands not only for good grades and athletic ability, but also for being a wonderful young man. Whatever Cody ends up doing with his life, we know it will involve making life better for others.
Becky Dorsey | Shelby, North Carolina
Holt Post Adoption Services
Holt offers lifelong support to all adoptees, adoptive families, birth parents, caregivers and others whose lives have been touched by adoption.
I read this article in tears as our 11 year old son (adopted at 7 from China) mirrors Cody’s learning issues. Our son is the most amazing child truly loved by all. His teachers adore him and say what a hard worker he is. He has a central processing learning disability also discovered in 3rd grade and like Cody, he excels at building things. He is even better at building positive relationships with so many people. Our son is also on an IEP and I meet regularly with his teacher and the school administration to make sure we are all doing all that we can for our son. It is a lot of work for all involved, especially our sweet hard working son. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night panicked for my son’s future (all we want for him is to be happy) but your article, Cody specifically, is an inspiration to our family. Thank you for sharing!