Why I Do What I Do – My Story
By Vanessa Kahlon, MA
When parents first call Kahlon Family Services they ask me what is my approach when I’m working with children. That is the hardest question for me to answer. I want to tell them that I need to meet your child and look in their eyes and ask them some questions and then I will tell you my approach. Well, that doesn’t work with most people since they might feel I’m out of their comfort zone since I can’t articulate WHAT I do. But what I can tell you is my story and WHY I do WHAT I do.
When I was in elementary school, I was in RSP (Resource Specialist Program is a program to help children who qualify for special education services. The program is designed to give support to children with learning needs and give them strategies to help them be successful in their education). Some children in my school would make fun of that name and call the The R word, which I can’t say or write, Stupid People (RSP). So you can only imagine what this did to my self-esteem. Plus getting pulled out of class in the middle of the school day for one-on-one help was one of the most embarrassing moments I had to experience. Yes, I couldn’t spell most words, it took me a lot longer to understand instructions on a piece of paper because of the way I was processing information, and test taking forget it, not happening.
To get by in school I would personally get to know my teachers as much as I can so they liked me and they wouldn’t want to give me a failing grade. One teacher even let me drive his car to get his lunch during one of our class periods. I was very outgoing but looking back I can see how I used that part of myself to help me “Get By” so no one knew how hard I was struggling inside. I would ask friends for answers and I never wanted anyone to know how hard school was for me so I would never ask for help. I learned how to pretend to know what is going on in the classroom even when I had no idea at times when it came to the assignments, (this is a great skill to have when you are starting a business by the way). This happened all the way through high school. My senior year I ended up missing a lot of my classes to where I was told if I miss one more class I wouldn’t graduate. Well, I did graduate and I went off to 2-year college.
In college I couldn’t do what I was doing before to “Get By” and that is when everything really hit me hard. The way I was processing information, the classes made no sense to me with the information that was coming at me but still I kept moving forward. I found myself going more inward where other children might act out. I ended up hiring tutors that had to go step by step with me with certain subjects. There were times I would walk out of class crying after a test since I would spend hours and hours studying and then I would bomb the exam. I saw how others didn’t have to study the way I did and they would get an A, which I never understood how things came so easy to certain people while others struggled. It took me five years to get out of the 2-year college and that is mostly because of math but I did it! The tutors at this point gave me tools on how to study such as color-coding when you are looking at vocabulary and doing jumping jacks when you are trying to remember to spell a word or remember a date. The jumping jacks really do work!
After college I went on to get my Masters but I had to find a school that didn’t take tests, and wouldn’t require the GRE to get into the Psychology program. This is where I found Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the Bay Area. This school was all about your own experiences, which was perfect for me. This was also a time I was in a serious relationship and my boyfriend noticed that I was having a hard time with my writing skills and I was feeling pressure with sending professional emails at work, which caused my anxiety to increase. He found someone to help me and this was when I met Learning Specialist Susan McCormick Ph.D. I walked into her home and she put a piece of paper in front me, and it felt to me it was some sort of multiple choice test. My body started to sweat and eyes started to water and I said “I can’t do this”. She said please read out loud and I’m not going to judge you. I did what she asked and then after a couple of visits she told me that I had Dyslexia. Well that explained it all at 26 years old!!!
Knowing I have Dyslexia was a huge relief for me especially working with my clients. Years later as my business was growing I used my experiences to connect with my clients. I found myself telling my clients that my brain is a little different and I might need extra help at times, which is the truth. In that moment my clients don’t feel that they are alone with their struggles. This is also when the client will start to trust me and the work will begin. Once I explain where my struggles are that is when they will tell me what is hard for them and then we come up with ways to work through whatever they are going through. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT, so you can see where I have a hard time explaining my approach when a new parent is calling me.
Sometimes, the child isn’t as open but when I observe in the classroom I can see very clearly where the issues are since I was that child that knew how to “Get By” by faking it, which so many children are doing now. I am grateful for all of my struggles because they are the reason I can help more children know there are tools out there to help them. Last year, I opened a school, KFS School for children with behavioral and learning differences and the children are doing very well. Susan McCormick, Ph,D is also part of the school along with 3 other teachers and they all have been a blessing for the children. The funny thing is that I don’t care about academics. I care that the child is happy and once they are happy they will start to love learning and that is where I’m coming from and explains my beliefs when I’m working with families.
As I’m starting my new Radio Show “Parenting with Vanessa Kahlon” on KABC, Sunday nights from 7pm to 8pm, it is important to know that each child’s struggle is real and it affects the entire family and I hope you understand WHY I DO WHAT I DO so other children don’t struggle the way I did.