I’m feeling reflective today… but in the best way.
Something I don’t often talk about in depth, is the thing I’ve spent the most time on the last three years. There was many times in the beginning I wasn’t sure it was going to turn out “fine.” And for once I just couldn’t find words for it.
I’m late to work (my office in our house! but work nevertheless) today because I was at my son’s school putting in place his next year’s 504 plan and it’s accommodations. It was a great irony in my life that as my books started to sell, I learned that my then, 2nd grade son, had a reading-specific learning disorder. It seemed to be serendipity that readers buying my books became the funding for our real-life struggle to teach our young son how to decode the simplest of words. But to him? Not one learned word has ever been “easy.”
You see my son has Dyslexia. And most likely whatever you think that means… probably isn’t the full picture of it. I’ve discovered and many dyslexia-professionals will attest to, that even most educators have a limited/narrow/incomplete understanding of the very real and encompassing symptoms that defines dyslexia and the far reaching practical manifestations they have.
It also became another part-time job for me of sorts. I became the point person to deal with the school, teachers, and tutors. In our journey, I even home-schooled for 6 months, as Alex was SO behind and there was several dyslexic-based math programs and site-word learning programs we absolutely had to do.
I would be nowhere without our dyslexic-specific tutor. Alex has worked with her for three years now and she’s saved us! EVERY penny and every hour we’ve slogged through tutoring, is something I’m on-my-knees grateful for that we found… for she’s given us, what no one else could… the gift of reading to our son. There is no doubt he’d never have progressed past a first grade reading competency without this long, grueling, point by point remediation. Specialized tutoring which, just today, a school official asked me… why don’t we just go through the school?
Someday, I’ll tell you the full story of why I don’t “just” go through the school.
It seems like the minimum bar of being a parent is to provide food, shelter, health and yes, I truly believe, the ability to READ. You just owe it to your kid. Seems like a basic human right to have the ability to read, considering the world we live in. There was a time, I feared we would not succeed in giving him this.
It was three years ago this month I found the solution to an ever growing concern at the time: why can’t Alex read? From first grade on, I knew something wasn’t connecting with how my son was learning to read.
But everyone at the school said no! He’s fine. He’ll catch up. He’s bright and works hard… yes, he was all those things and had all the right help at home… and no positive results to show for it.
We did it all… the outside reading, the one-on-one extra help.
We pushed our son. We helped our son. We loved our son.
And still our son did not read.
Still we were failing our son.
The school said wait longer… it’ll come. But with extensive remediation nothing came except frustration for us, and anxiety for him.
I felt my own anxiety and frustration and panic growing… what was wrong? It was terrifying not to know or understand.
We finally went outside the school (I highly recommend this. Contrary to what most think, MOST school districts DON’T TEST OR RE-MEDIATE PROPERLY for dyslexia). It was the best and worst news of my life. My son tested as severely dyslexic… but now we knew what the problem was… and now we could find effective help. And eventually, we could learn to embrace the many positives about it. (which I’ll go into in a later post.)
There was a grief in it at first. I tried fighting the school district to provide the correct help but finally figured out it’s a State funding issue. They recognize Dyslexia as a learning disability but have no enforceable funding to test for it or re-mediate for it properly.
And I quickly learned, do NOTHING verses doing the WRONG reading program. There are books upon books about dyslexia… but the key part to fix reading: IT MUST BE AN ORTON GILLINGHAM based reading program. I could provide pages of backup why/what this is… but in the end, that’s the truth. That’s the holy grail of dyslexia & reading.
So as I was discovering this and our family was slogging our way through what to do… I had written Erin Poletti of River’s End. If you’ve read that you know she’s an illiterate adult… who has dyslexia.
Imagine my… surprise and kind of WOW! moment of irony… I wrote a character and now that characters’s problem is exactly mine.
I write about so many subject in my novels, most of which, I’ve not personally or fully experienced. I sometimes get asked if I’ve gone through this or that of which I’ve written about.
No, is usually the answer.
But dyslexia? Oh yeah. As the parent of. I can tell you and from talking to other parents of dyslexics, it’s a unique learning disability. It’s highly misunderstood. Especially in the state of Washington. Most teachers AND reading specialists have little or no training in it. As the parent of a dyslexic student, I guarantee you, you will know more about it than any educator you deal with.
What I can say is it’s been three years, and now Alex functions in a public school setting, highly independent, adjusted in all ways social/behavioral/emotional and most telling for me, educationally.
But you know what? He still has dyslexia. It still pops up as a problem and difficulty. It’s something we talk about and figure out… and something too, we laugh about.
But he’s learning how to handle it.
Voluntarily reading the ceremony outline for Boy Scouts Banquet!
Many years and tutoring sessions…. Pretty big & emotional moment for me to witness.
And all the difference in Alex’s success or fail is tied up in he’s had the RIGHT accommodations and dyslexic-based programs.
It has taken more time than I could quantify but honestly? The return on my investment has been the best of my life.
And now, I feel like for the first time in three years… I can breathe.
My son can read.
The best comprehensive website on Dyslexia AND help that works:
Bright Solutions for Dyslexia.