Let me start by saying that my 7-year-old has not been formally diagnosed. Unless he is in public school I have been told there is not a need for a formal evaluation. Now if we ever choose to enroll him in public school I would need a formal evaluation in order for him to obtain services from the district. I have had him take assessments online, I’ve spoken to other moms of dyslexics, and I’ve read countless articles on the subject.
This Is His Story
I’ve had my suspicions about my son having dyslexia since he was 2, though at the time I didn’t know what to call it. I signed him up for a fun four week class at the city which was interactive, musical, and just plain playful with running, jumping, and dancing. All the kids in the class were into it. They were following the instructor, laughing, and shaking their bells in beat with the song. My son sat there each week, staring at the walls.
“What is wrong with my child?”, I would ask myself. “Why doesn’t he pay attention?”
During those first few years I looked for clues of autism, but he never checked all the boxes. Was there a visual problem that kept him from focusing? (I later learned of Auditory Processing Disorder, which complements Dyslexia in some individuals.) At 4 years old I took him to get evaluated with the public school system. After a complete assessment, they highlighted a lack of expressive language and sensory issues, which they then recommended he be sent to public preschool to receive speech and occupational therapy.
Dyslexia did not cross my mind until he was around five. He would reverse his letters and numbers, and not sound out words correctly despite countless hours spent on phonological awareness practice. I wrote these off though because he was only five and that process is typical of a 5-year-old.
Fast forward to now in second grade and the reversals, letter re-ordering, and transposing words still exist. Though his reading improved, spelling is still holding at a mid-first grade level. The end of the second year is supposed to be the age for the developmentally-appropriate behaviors to have corrected themselves. By the end of this second grade year the warning signs of dyslexia, letter reversals, phonological awareness difficulties, and reading comprehension problems, still remain.
Dyslexia is genetic.
My father had it. His father had it, and I have it. Not midichlorians, but dyslexia.
None of us have been formally diagnosed, but the struggle is real. My grandfather has a moderate to severe form of dyslexia. He would do a book report on the same book every year so he wouldn’t have to read another book. He still talks about the book, Little Black Sambo. Although my father said he doesn’t think he has it, he was never a reader in school either. I never enjoyed it much either. My mother saved a few sheets of schoolwork from my early years and I had the typical early letter reversals, but they faded out by the appropriate time.
I don’t remember ever having a problem writing, but reading was not a pleasurable subject. I would do anything I could to avoid it!
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy a good story read-aloud, it’s that whenever I would read, I would read words without comprehension. It’s like my eyes were racing ahead on the paper but my brain couldn’t get off the starting line. I’d have to read and re-read a sentence several times before making any sense of it. By the time I reached the end of the paragraph I was so frustrated that I would put the book down and do something else… anything else. You need the trash taken out? I’m there! Dishes done? I’m already on it!
Now my son has the signs. I held out hope it was merely developmental, but all these signs were too much to overlook. One time a word will be spelled “grass”, the next it will be “garss”, and he maintains to the point of tears that there is no difference between them.
This was an attempt at the word crawl and it’s actually a pretty good one. The other day he spelled it carle after trying to sound it out.
An example of letter reversals. I had him fix the f and c in prior words several times before he wrote this one. He reverses almost all his letters, but with no apparent rhyme or reason behind the timing.
It happens with numbers too.
I’ve started to use this strategy with him. Forgive the crude drawings! I know they’re terrible, but I was trying to get the point across. The phoneme to be emphasized is a different color than the rest of the letters to help it stand out. A picture is added as a visual cue.
Dyslexics gravitate toward the visual. They do better when the paper or drawings are in color. They do better making memory associations with pictures, rather than facts.
Yesterday, we got to talking about his frustrations over a problem I had given him. “I don’t know why this is so hard for me.” He complained. “My brain is always thinking and it takes me a while, but I am trying!” He cried.
I gently explained to him that his brain works differently than other people and not to get upset at the problem. I knew he was trying.
I told him he was smart, creative, imaginative, and funny. He amazes me on the violin, playing pieces near-perfectly that he’s only heard a few times before and hummed in his head. He’s thoughtful and a helpful and loving big brother. “Spelling and reading may not come as easy to you as to others, but that with the talents you have we will work through it and you will ‘get it.'”
Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just how we are wired. It is not something to fear, but to be understood as a different way to process information.
I understand his frustrations and though I find it hard to put into words myself, I can relate.
Why am I sharing all of this?
Because as the mother of a child who is struggling with making sense of reading and writing, the best thing I can share with you is that if you also have a dyslexic child, give the child the leeway they need to learn.
Have patience. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to forget how to spell the and grass again… and again.
Gently remind him. Do not get frustrated, because he is trying!
Empower him with your words and show him patience.
Be the kind of teacher you would want if you were in his shoes.
Most of all, love him for who he is… dyslexia and all.
Resources I’ve Come Across To Help with Dyslexia
1. We recently came across an online Language Arts program called Nessy. It is geared to helping dyslexics learn to read, write and spell using the Orton-Gillingham method. It also has a math component for learning the times tables and reading a clock. We recently completed a 7 day free trial of the program and though there has been some frustration of “I know I spelled that right!” when he would spell a word wrong, he really enjoys the learning games. I went through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op to get a pretty good discount off the parents bundle pack.
2. Another resource we have found is Dyslexia Games. Some say it doesn’t help with dyslexia because it is not a phonological awareness program, even though dyslexia and dysgraphia go hand in hand. I believe it’s more for dysgraphia. When you have one it’s likely you have the other. The Dyslexia Games workbooks combine Art and Language Arts to teach you letter and pattern recognition, thereby training your eye to pay attention to detail and helping to correct reversals.
3. Susan Barton’s program, the Barton Reading & Spelling System, using the Orton-Gillingham approach is the benchmark of teaching a dyslexic child to read.
4. All About Reading and All About Spelling are two resources worth checking out. They also use the Orton-Gillingham approach to teach reading and spelling. Many have had great success with this method.
5. The last resource I have are the books written by Dianne Craft. She has written The Biology Of Behavior and Brain Integration Therapy. I am still in the process of researching these, but I will say that her methods look promising. I went to a homeschool conference last year where she delivered an amazing speech! She spoke on the topics in her Biology of Behavior book which was a real eye opener to me. She talked about the causes of ADHD and other common disorders. Once I learn more of her other book, I’ll do a post on it.
If you have any other helpful resources or comments, please post them in the comments below!