I have always had a feeling that my daughter had trouble with certain tasks that her peers didn’t seem to have. I chalked it up to “every child learns at their own pace,” that everyone, including my husband seem to say, but I was still not comforted by this and had her work with a tutor throughout the year. At first it was just getting her to write her name, “I can’t make an “S” she would cry, “we don’t say can’t, you haven’t even tried” I would say. This was before kindergarten and we had been working all summer on remembering our phone number, address and writing our name, to no avail. I tried to let it go, itwas becoming anxiety provoking for both of us and left us both feeling like we failed each other. Kindergarten did not show me much progress, she never learned to tie her shoes (so thankful for velcro) and most papers did not have her name on them. Reading at her school was not monitored close enough to show any significant problems so she received her S for satifactory as she did for everything else. Still problems with directions persisted, left and right, getting easily turned around, not remembering steps and orders to things even though she had been taught over and over. This directionality issue would continue into first grade, getting lost not once but twice in a large store even though we were just the next aisle over. Her grades in first grade were ok, but we often wondered why she would understand something one day and the next it would seem like brand new information. Reading was exhausting for everyone involoved, her father and I took turns every night and were constantly frustrated that she could read a word on one page and on the very next page it looked brand new. Learning math facts came along fine until she had to take a test, then she often switched the operations adding when she should subtract and so on. Doing homework at night was dreadful and I found myself hating it as much as she did. Finally her teacher suggested we test her for ADD, we agreedshe did show some signs of inattentiveness but it still didn’t seem like that was the problem, so we waited until the next school year. A new school gave some new clues to our daughters problems, it seemed she had forgotten most of what she had successfully learned in first grade, her reading inspite of her reading to us everyday showed she was not reading at the level she should be, it was not because of a lackof effort. She seemed happier at her new school and her teacher was and still is very helpful at keeping us posted on her struggles as well as areas that she has progressed.
After the first meeting with her teacher I was even more determined to find out what the problem was, she is brilliant at things like acting and singing, describing a story with such detail and is fascinated with anything to do with science. At times I told my husband “she thinks like I do” what I meant is I recall not remembering what I read, I figured unless I was super interested I just daydreamed. I remember my mother writing a R and L on my shoes during grade school because I just could not remember which went on what foot. And homework! So much frustration, my mother just stopped altogether and my dad worked too much to help. I struggled to sound out words but eventually I read as well as the other kids. I always knew I learned differently than other people, I had to experience it, I had to start at the end result and work backwards to really make sense of why it was the way it was. I worked through high school not loving any of it, but making mostly B’s and C’s I was average at best and I had no idea what I might be good at. Once I said this out loud to my husband, that I think our daughter and I think the same way I remembered my father telling me that he was dyslexic as a kid (I guess he believed that it goes away). I never gave it much thought, both of my parents read voraciously, bookshelves lined our living room walls and both seemed to seek new things to learn, I dismissed it until I researched it and found the clues I had been missing! My research would also show that many with dyslexia are good at art, both my mother and father are extraordinary artists, I had lived with out-of-the-box thinkers my whole life. Maybe this is why my initial struggles didn’t stand out to them.
For me I see my daughter try her best and I see her frustration and anxiety growing with every challenge she is faced, I see her give up before trying, second guessing herself at every turn. I cannot accept that, I wonder how much she could accomplish if she just believed in herself, I imagine how she could soar once she is given the key to opening her potential, I believe she needs to have some “wins” so she can face the hurdles that will come her way with confidence. She needs to know that dyslexia is just a different way of thinking, a unique, talented and extraordinary mind that is undervalued in todays education system, but can be of great use in life as she developes determination and persistence. It is for her and many other people who I started this blog, hoping to one day turn it into something more. Sally Shaywitz said it best when she said that “dyslexia robs people of time”. Many people never know their potential because they never learned they had any, they slip through the cracks of our current education system and the little knowledge the schools have on the subject. As I advocate for my daughter in school I am also working with her at home so she has every opportunity to see her potential, I will share some of these methods in upcoming posts, until then keep moving forward. -MGM