Lee’s Legacy by Wendy Pesky
When our son Lee was a child, the words “learning disability” were not used. The usual reaction to children with learning differences was to classify them as slow, underperforming, or when their frustrations came to the surface, as trouble makers.
Lee was tall, gangly, and handsome with a fun sense of humor and a smile that could melt anybody. We never had an indication that anything was wrong until school and school work started to become increasing difficult.
When Lee was in 3rd grade, it was suggested that we should take him out of his school and find a place that was less academically rigorous and more suitable for him. At that point we knew we needed help.
After going through many tests with a neurologist, we were informed that, yes, Lee did indeed have problems, but lack of intelligence was not one of them. However, we were told that if unattended, these problems would certainly impact his ability to perform in school.
To start with, Lee had small motor control problems which impacted his ability to write legibly or at the speed of others. His writing was almost illegible and any time he had to do anything in class, he was slower than everyone else. The result was that the teacher and Lee got frustrated with each other.
The neurologist also detected that Lee had an auditory problem. In simple terms, he had a problem processing information. There was a split second delay in the time he took in information and processed it. With this delay and his handwriting problem, Lee was being left behind in class, and it had nothing to do with his intelligence.
Could these problems be fixed? No they couldn’t. Could steps be taken that would allow Lee to work around these problems and ultimately fulfill his potential in life? Yes they could. But it would take patience on our part, perseverance from Lee, and understanding from his teachers at school.
Steps were agreed upon and a process was put into place. To tackle Lee’s writing problem he started typing lessons. It was not easy as Lee did not want to be different. But the school agreed to accept and work with us on this issue. And when he did write, the teachers agreed to cooperate and give him more time to finish his work.
They seated Lee in the front of the classroom and suggested he use a tape recorder so that he would not miss any of the information the teacher was presenting. Lee resisted this because he did not want to draw attention to himself. Imagine how easily a child’s self confidence and image can be shaken when he finds himself different than his peers. He didn’t want to sit in the front of the class and he didn’t want to sit with a tape recorder. Lee struggled in these early years and we struggled with him. He would bring his frustrations home, which manifested in many ways, most of them unpleasant.
I came to realize that the problem with Lee, wasn’t always Lee. It was everyone else who reacted negatively to what they perceived as an under-achieving, frustrated, and difficult young boy.
It was not an easy haul but Lee did ultimately succeed. He went to a very challenging high school, did very well in his SAT’s, and graduated from college. Lee moved to Ketchum, Idaho after graduating. He started a chain of bagel stores in Ketchum and Boise, Bucking Bagel. He also found the woman he loved very much and I had never seen him happier and more fulfilled in his life.
In the spring of 1995 when Lee was thirty, he began to complain that he was not feeling well. After months of seeing doctors and being misdiagnosed we found out in August that Lee had a malignant brain tumor that would ultimately take his life two and a half months later. He was hospitalized immediately and in that short concentrated time our family lived an eternity.
As a family, we all decided that we wanted to do something to help others that would be a meaningful tribute to Lee’s life. We wanted something where a little bit of Lee would exist in those we were able to help. We could think of nothing more meaningful or appropriate than to be able to help those with learning disabilities. That is where the seed was planted that is now Lee Pesky Learning Center.
LPLC opened its doors fifteen years ago in Boise, Idaho with two full time employees. Today there are 25 of the most dedicated people working at the center in Boise, Hailey, Ketchum, and Caldwell.