My son has dyslexia. I blog about it quite often because I’m still struggling to understand it. If I ever get through the 400 page book I started reading about it, I might know more. But, for now, I’m picking up bits and pieces and starting to get a glimpse into what this revelation means for Luke. There are moments in your life when you’re struggling and something (call it fate, God, the Universe, whatever) gives you a pearl of insight that helps you see things more clearly. I had that experience today.
I was rifling through the papers in Luke’s take-home folder from school when I ran across a reading comprehension page he had done in class. He scored 2 out of 5 on it. This is not surprising given his reading issues and the fact that he’s only been in dyslexia tutoring for about six weeks now. He’s not there yet, so a 2 out of 5 isn’t a problem. He’s working on it. What bothered me about the paper was that in the top, right-hand corner his teacher had penned this comment: “Please read carefully!” When I read that, my brow furrowed. Really, lady? What part of dyslexia don’t you understand? Isn’t telling a dyslexic kid to read carefully a little like telling a blind person to watch where he’s going? It’s not as if Luke doesn’t want to read well. He can’t. It’s his fondest wish to be exactly like his classmates. He doesn’t want to be different. He doesn’t want to read slowly. He doesn’t want to ask for special accommodations or additional help, but he needs to. Chastising my kid for something he can’t help seems a bit unfair. Weeks ago I had a thirty minute conversation with his teacher so she could understand his struggles. Clearly, the information I presented to her didn’t sink in.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that this is what Luke will struggle with for the rest of his life. There is a significant portion of the population that doubts the very existence of dyslexia. These people think that the person with reading difficulty simply needs to work harder. The fact is that Luke doesn’t need to work harder to learn to read. He needs to work differently. That is what the dyslexia tutor is doing with Luke. She is teaching him to read a different way. I’ve already seen a difference. For the first time ever, he’s starting to be able to name rhyming pairs. This is progress. With tutoring like this, the kind that focuses on teaching to the way a right-brained person learns, he will read eventually. He will never be as fast or successful at it as a person without dyslexia, but he will read. And, he will spend his entire life trying to convince people that he really does need the extra assistance he requires. At least through college he will have to undergo hours and hours of testing every two years to guarantee his access to accommodations to help him keep up with his fellow classmates. Dyslexia never goes away, but you’d be hard pressed to convince most people (and most schools, apparently) that this is the case.
Luke’s best shot at success will come from his ability to self-advocate, to understand his issues and to be able to fight for and earn the necessary accommodations to ensure he gets onto a level playing field with his classmates. He’s going to have to be able to look a teacher who tells him to read more carefully in the eye and tell her that he’s reading as carefully as he can because he is dyslexic, and if she would like him to read more carefully he’s going to require extra time. Luckily for him, Luke has loads of self-confidence and charm. He has never been afraid to ask for what he wants or to negotiate to get his way. Those skills will serve him well in the future. As for me, I’m still working on my bravery and my advocacy skills. I’m going to start by reminding his teacher that he’s doing the best he can on his reading and he’ll probably go a lot further if she curbs the presumptive admonitions on his reading papers and sticks to positive reinforcement instead.
I have lately come to the conclusion that our wounds, our thorns-in-the-side, disabilities and so forth are gifts, that they provide the occasion for our strengthening. Would it be going too far to call them blessings? Through friction the grain of sand grows a pearl. And his being so young you may not even see how he uses the “gift”, though you have hints already. It may be to help others with the same diagnosis or that the so-called “dis-ability” may make him more sensitive or empower a perception that other young persons do not possess. Like how a blind person develops other senses more strongly. It brings to mind that verse from our own scriptures about rejoicing in tribulation. Tribulation worketh patience, patience worketh experience, experience worketh hope. I have forgotten where that is exactly. My mentor in religious studies at University always talked about the cross we each bear and how “the way of the cross leads Home”, how we must take up our cross and bear it self-awaringly. He did not mean this in a corny fundamentalist sense, but rather “Home” being one’s Self, one’s center. Or, if you will, one’s Zen. Thank you for occasioning this reminder of Dr. Anderson’s counsels. God knows I need every reminder I can get! Peace…..
Luke bears his struggles well because he has known them from the beginning. It is a real gift that he has perseverance and stubbornness like his mother. Comments like the one his teacher put on his paper just make home work harder. I’m the one who gets annoyed by them. 😉
I’m so glad you’re seeing progress! That must be so exciting for him 🙂 I’m sure his teacher is a lovely lady but she needs to put her listening ears on when you talk to her about him! Sheesh.