In his novel, The Rescue, Nicholas Sparks describes the grief Denise Holton experienced due to her child’s serious learning disability. Denise, a young, single mother, had sacrificed everything for her four-year-old son, Kyle. The doctor who tested Kyle read the results of the report to Denise: “The child is severely delayed in both receptive and expressive language…probably central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)” (p. 10).
Taylor McAden asked Denise, “Why is language so hard for him?” She explains: “They talk a lot about language delays in children, but…it’s usually just one aspect of a bigger problem—like autism.” (p. 117).
Denise worked with Kyle on language skills for at least four hours a day six days a week: “Some days he said everything she asked him to, some days he didn’t. Some days he could comprehend new things easily, other days he seemed further behind than ever. Most of the time he could answer ‘what’ and ‘where’ type questions; ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions were still incomprehensible. Conversation was still beyond his ability” (p. 13).
Denise continues: “They say he has an auditory processing problem, specifically expressive and language delay. Basically it means…understanding language and learning to speak is hard for him…it’s like dyslexia, only instead of processing visual signals, it has to do with processing sounds…the sounds seem to get all mixed up… Whether the problem’s in the connection between the ear and the brain or within the brain itself no one knows” (p. 91).
Denise expresses her grief to Taylor’s mother, Judy: “At first the doctors thought Kyle was deaf. I spent weeks taking Kyle to appointments with audiologists and ENT’s—ear, nose, and throat specialists—before they found out he could hear. Then they thought he was autistic...After that came PDD, or pervasive development disorder, which is sort of like autism…Then, they said he was retarded, with ADD… They tell you something awful about your child, and you go through all these stages—disbelief, anger, grief, and finally acceptance. You learn everything you can about it—you research and read and talk to whomever you can—and just when you’re ready to confront it head-on, they change their minds and the whole thing starts over again” (p. 92).
However, near the end of this story, Kyle says those special words Denise had longed and prayed to hear, “I love you, Mommy” (p. 274).
My wife, Emily, who has taught Special Education for much of her professional career, said, “The most important thing about Denise is that she loved Kyle. This enabled her to accept what had happened and deal with his condition.”