When your child is struggling to read, you worry. A lot.
“Will he be able to go to college? Will he graduate high school with an actual diploma or one of those “special ed” diplomas? If the latter, what does that mean for his future? How will he be able to read a restaurant menu? How will he be able to navigate signs when traveling? How can he find the quart sized zip-lock bags in Wal-Mart?!?!?”
When we first started this journey with dyslexia, he was in 2nd grade. My son is diagnosed as severe to profound dyslexic. In fact, at our very large elementary school (over 1200 students) where they actually say the word dyslexia (rare for a school) – our extremely knowledgeable (she knows her stuff) principal told me my son is “the most severe dyslexic she’s ever seen.”
It wasn’t a shock. I knew it.
That means his progress is slower than mild-dyslexics. It means his intervention must be more intense. And it also means, as confirmed by several excellent psychologists, his fluency will also always lag behind.
You know what WASN’T helpful though? On every online parenting dyslexia board I would go on, when I mentioned my son was only progressing slowly I would be bombarded with these types of comments:
“Is his tutor/teacher fully certified? Is the program being used with fidelity? Oh, you’re using XYZ program??? My kid didn’t progress until XYZ program – you only have to travel 4 hours one way 3X per week, so no more soccer/football/karate for you, but READING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!”
I know those comments are well meaning. I do. BUT – I am the one who knows my child best. I am the one who paid for his evals, sought out his tutors, fought for him in school. These comments were not helpful, but instead – they added STRESS. Becuase as a special education parent you always worry if you are doing enough. That’s always in the back of your mind.
So, I had to step back. Take a breath.
I’ve discovered reading is, in fact, NOT the “most important thing in the world.” Don’t get me wrong, it IS important. But it’s not the MOST important.
Dyslexic kids have higher rates of high school dropouts. Higher rates of suicide. Higher rates of depression.
After listening to MANY successful adult dyslexics (who still struggle to read), I discovered that the reading isn’t the true issue here. Instead, keeping self-esteem intact and anxiety in check is the true issue.
So, what did we do?
Well, I didn’t give up on intervention. He’s definitely still working on reading. We do it during the school year, 5x per week for 1 hour per day, and he’s making good progress. He can read those restaurant menus now AND he can find the quart ziplock bags (that was an amazing day, actually!) He’ll most likely never read War & Peace without audiobooks, but here’s the thing – we are BOTH okay with that.
My husband doesn’t read War & Peace either, but he’s a very successful mathematics instructor with more than three times the number of college degrees as myself (who, by the way, is an avid reader.)
Also, we are NOT skipping the things he loves for additional/more intense/further away tutoring. This works for some parents, and I don’t judge you. You do what works for you. For us, my son NEEDS things that foster his self-esteem! Those are his fishing tournaments or football practice – two areas he feels “part of the team” – as opposed to additional READING practice (which highlights his weaknesses.)
We are embracing assistive technology to give independence back. We use audiobooks, reading pens and speech to text software so that he continues to grow his amazing gifts in vocabulary, science, math, and discovery WITHOUT pesky written words holding him back.
For us, dyslexia is a disability. It’s not a “difference.” But it wasn’t until I truly learned to embrace what that meant that I saw him fly.
I will not try to “fix” my child. My child is absolutely perfect the way he is. Neither of us would “cure” his dyslexia if we could, but we are incredibly THANKFUL for the tools that level the playing field.
With the technology boom of the 21st century, it’s truly the best time in history to embrace dyslexia.