I started doing Family Dinner Book Club this past January, and have had such a fun time reading and being inspired by children’s literature. I love the idea that we are encouraging families to read, discuss, and create together. I hope this month’s book selections will spark a deeper conversation at your dinner table. We will be reading Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco and Bookmarks Are People Too! by Henry Winkler. Both books were written by dyslexic authors and will help give a little insight into what it is like to be different than everyone else in your classroom. Chances are, someone in your family or someone in your child’s class is dyslexic, and they could probably use a little extra compassion.
October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. This month, I’m hoping to raise awareness and support for those who live with dyslexia. As I have been learning recently, dyslexia is so much more than struggling to read. People with dyslexia are simply wired differently, which means they need to be taught and learn differently. Unfortunately, dyslexic children often grow up feeling dumb, and are bullied in school for being different. These things do not need to be part of anyone’s story. Please take the time to learn about dyslexia with me this month, and check out other ways you can get involved. This month I will be joining the events Light It Up Red for 1 in 5, and DANCE. Keep up with Dyslexia awareness throughout the month by using these hashtags: #DecodingDyslexia, #DDLA14 #1in5
My cousin, Sharon, is here today to share her story of raising a daughter with dyslexia. Sharon is a Decoding Dyslexia Louisiana founding member and Parent Advocate.
There are events in life that stick with us in our memory. Entire days that are marked by joy, sadness, loss, and perhaps a mixture of all three. For my family November 1, 2012 was one of these days, after a long year of parent teacher meetings, tutoring sessions, and melt downs (by all of us) my husband and I found ourselves sitting in the office of a private Child Psychologist waiting to hear the results of our daughter Tyler’s educational evaluation. I can close my eyes and picture myself back on that saggy brown couch sitting in silence next to my husband and listening to the results. I tried to follow along with the words on the paper in my hands, but, ironically, I found it difficult to read. I tried not to cry, but tears snuck out of the corner of my eyes and ran down my face. We sat quietly and listened to the word we had both feared and expected “Dyslexia”. There it was on paper, and hanging in the air where it was joined with words like “ADD”, “Dysgraphia”, and probably most heart wrenching “SEVERE”.
To describe how I felt at this moment you have to appreciate how hard it was to get there. Truth be told what I felt was a mixture of concern, uncertainty, relief, and quite frankly validation in my belief that there was an issue. You see, like most parents, from the moment my daughter was born I was planning her successes in my head. Of course she would be like me: a natural learner who hardly had to try to make good grades, and an avid reader from an early age. It was evident relatively quickly this was not the case. I had enrolled her in Pre K2 with the belief that early education was the key to getting ahead. After the first year she was progressing socially with the other children, but her teacher expressed concern that she wouldn’t speak; I just assumed she was shy. At the end of Pre K3 she was the only child in her class that hadn’t learned the alphabet, not a single letter; I chalked it up to being a late bloomer. It was mid way through Pre K4 when her teacher, Ms. Linda, requested a parent teacher conference. My stomach was in a knot and tears began running down my face almost immediately. I knew why she wanted to speak with me and I was so afraid of what she would say. Then Ms. Linda did something that startled me. She told me I needed to have Tyler evaluated for a learning difference. She assured me that my daughter was indeed very smart it was just her ability to learn certain things that she was struggling with. Then she gave me the number to a child psychologist that specialized in education. The one whose office I was now sitting in a little less than a year later feeling lost and alone.
The next two months were a blur of important decisions and hard conversations. We moved Tyler to a private school with a special education program, a choice that was both emotionally and financially challenging for us. I bought books and Googled and joined message groups all in an effort to find answers, but the more I searched the more I felt I was flying blind. Then in the summer of 2013 I received a flyer in the mail from one of the groups I had joined. The International Dyslexia Association was going to have its annual conference in New Orleans and I was going to attend. I immediately put in for the time off of work and registered, then like a child waiting for their birthday I began counting down the days. I knew this was going to be a game changer for us and I was ready to start winning.
My day at the conference was like taking that first deep breath when you reach the surface of the water after diving into the deep end of the pool. After months of searching high and low, in one day I was overwhelmed with information. I attended a session about educational intervention methods, I experienced a dyslexia simulation, and I cried a lot BUT not alone. Most importantly I was now surrounded by parents who were all walking a similar path and we were all there to find answers, help, hope that we could find a way to guide our children to success.
During my lunch hour I had signed up for a panel discussion by a group called Decoding Dyslexia. I sat down with my boxed lunch at a table with a doctor, a lawyer, and a teacher, but most importantly at that moment we were all Moms with children we were desperately trying to reach. As we listened to the opening comments by founding member Liz Barnes we became aware that Decoding Dyslexia was a grassroots parent movement founded on a train ride in New Jersey with a mission to help families find support and affect legislation regarding dyslexia. I am not a public crier, but by the end of that lunch there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I had found my people.
Within a month I had become a founding member of the Louisiana branch of the Decoding Dyslexia movement. I was connecting with other parents across my state and across the country about education, legislation, and the emotional issues surrounding dyslexia. I learned that I was no longer alone; I was one in a legion of parent advocates who had made it their mission to change the world. I learned that dyslexia is not a burden. It is a gift. It is the gift of a change in perspective, of a different way of thinking, of learning to persevere.
Tyler is now in the second grade and she has improved by leaps and bounds. She excels in math and absorbs everything. She’s quite the little athlete and a total free spirit. She is empowered about her dyslexia and she is confident in herself in ways I wish I had been at her age. She is a force of nature.
Our journey is unique in that it is ours, but dyslexia can affect as many as 1 in 5 people. It exists on a continuum affecting some mildly and others, like Tyler, much more severely. It is a lifelong difference. People do not grow out of it they learn to live with it. Tyler lives with it, she is learning to work with it, and she is AWESOME!
For more information on dyslexia please visit:
The National Center for Learning Disabilities
The International Dyslexia Association
The Dyslexia Training Institute