With our senior set to graduate in 39 days, 17 hours, and 30 minutes (not that I’m counting), last night we attended our final Denver Academy Gala as parents of a current student. Because the last two gala events had to be held virtually, we were thrilled to learn this year’s event would be in person again, and at The Ritz-Carlton, nonetheless. I’ve missed this event because it is my yearly excuse to get dressed up and prove that I know which fork to use at a full place setting. I get to wear a lovely dress and heels and see my husband looking dapper in his suit. And raising funds so more students can attend this private school that teaches students with learning disabilities the way they learn best is a passion project now. Steve and I will likely continue to attend these events after Luke graduates because the school changed our sons’ educational trajectories so dramatically. Luke entered 7th grade at the school reading more than a year below grade level, but four years later at 17 he was reading at post graduate level. Joe, who struggled in nearly every subject in elementary school, now attends a competitive liberal arts college and has a 3.6 grade point average. You can’t argue with that success. This year the school celebrates fifty years changing lives for these neurodiverse kids. We were happy to dress up, show up, and donate from the deepest corner of our pockets.
It’s not hyperbole when I say Denver Academy saved our family. Once our sons started at this school, there were no more homework battles; in fact, we were rarely asked to help with homework at all. Parent/teacher conferences no longer made me cry. The boys started believing they were capable. Smart, even. This was new territory for them. They began getting involved in sports and clubs. For our part, we attended a seminar that simulated what it’s like to live with learning disabilities and gained a better understanding of our sons’ struggles. We showed up for every lecture and presentation DA held that we felt could help us do better for our kids. We bonded with other parents whose experiences with their children were eerily similar to ours. We no longer felt isolated in our situation with our children. We found a home, and nothing in our lives has been the same since.
Thank you, Denver Academy, for teaching our kids how to be successful in their skin and for teaching us that learning differences are something to appreciate, not fear.
In what can only be labeled an attempt to undermine my sanity, hubby arranged for me to take his FJ Cruiser in today for new tires and an alignment. I am a fairly independent woman, but I loathe, despise, and deeply hate being forced to deal with anything even remotely car-related. I can do the minimum things (pump gas, wash and wax the car, change out a headlight, check tire pressure, and even change a tire) but I hate taking vehicles in for service. Most times when I take the car in, I am treated like what I am…a blonde female. Now, it’s true. I know next to nothing about the inner workings of an automobile, but I know many men who are floating in that same boat along with me…including my spouse. Oddly enough, though, when Steve takes the car in no one talks to him as if he’s low number on intelligence totem pole. After years of being talked down to as if I’m barely equipped with an IQ of 70, I decided that one of the benefits of marriage for a woman is having a husband around to deal with things like cars, sprinkler systems, and spiders the size of my palm. So, I don’t do car visits. Until today, apparently.
Still, I determined to make the most of my opportunity. I packed some amusements for myself and purchased a grande vanilla non-fat latte from Starbucks to help me wile away the time. While I was sitting in the waiting room for a seemingly interminable three hours, I got to enjoy the vapid dialogue of daytime television hosts and the woman seated next to me who thought her personal phone conversation was important enough to share. I tried to block her out by putting my new Kindle Paperwhite to use. I pulled up the book on dyslexia that was recommended to me back in November when we learned about Luke’s learning difference. The dang book is 400 pages long and filled with all kinds of discussion about brain scans and reading remediation tactics. Up until now, I’d only been able to whittle my way through 17% of it because it’s hardly what you’d consider “light reading.” Today, I rationalized, was my chance to sit, focus, and plow through a couple chapters about how our son’s very interesting brain works.
The deeper I delved into the book, the more I saw our son in the pages. If I had ever held any doubt about Luke’s diagnosis, reading this book would have immediately eradicated them. No need for expensive and time consuming psychoeducational testing or brain scans. The list of potential clues to watch for read like a movie of my experience parenting Luke as he began to read: difficulty with rhyming, inability to say the entire alphabet, trouble recognizing letters, inability to read sight words, poor spelling, abysmal handwriting, and occasional word/letter reversals, all combined with an above average verbal ability and excellent listening comprehension. Despite all these clues, we were repeatedly assured that his skills were increasing, his reading level was improving. So, we pushed everything to the back of our minds. What I understand now is that too few people, including elementary school professionals, understand the signs to look for. Inundated with requests from over-protective, over-involved parents, teachers often assume that the parents are over-reacting and that the child is advancing within “normal” parameters. I get this. Still, I couldn’t help but think as I read today that if I had been armed with this book three years ago when Luke began reading instruction, I would have been more insistent with my concerns.
Experts in the field say that early intervention is key with children with dyslexia. The sooner the learning difference is identified, the more quickly the student can begin learning in a way that best suits their right-brained approach. The longer it takes to determine the problem, the further along a child is when she begins the catch up process. Unfortunately, too few people understand dyslexia, its components, its remediation. Too few people believe it’s a legitimate, real, and prevalent concern. (An estimated 20% of students would benefit from a different method of learning to read. Chew on that for a minute.) I had my suspicions about Luke. I made a conscious choice to let others’ reassurances placate me. I chose not to worry. I ignored my intuition. I now feel confident that we’re doing the right things for Luke. I now completely believe that he will become a competent reader. He may never be good at telling his left from his right, but he will read.
Timing is such a crucial thing in life, which is why the hindsight phrase is so resoundingly true. In hindsight, if I’d had Overcoming Dyslexia in my hands three years ago, we’d be three years ahead of where we are now with Luke and his struggles. But that, as they say, is water under the bridge. I need simply to be grateful that we uncovered Luke’s dyslexia when he was in 3rd grade and not 7th. If you look at it that way, I’m 4 years ahead of the curve, which is quite helpful. I guess hindsight is all in how you look at it. I mean, I never wanted to spend three hours in the service department at the dealership today to obtain my husband’s discounted tires, but if I hadn’t been stuck there with nothing but my Kindle to amuse me I would still be only 17% of the way through the book I started in late November. Hindsight is a bit like unsweetened chocolate. It’s not as awesome as milk or semisweet, but it’s still chocolate and that has to count for something.