I’ve been wanting to post about this for some time now, but haven’t really found the ‘right’ way to start. I decided there probably isn’t really a ‘right’ way, so here goes.
Dyslexia has been a thorn in my side for some time now. First of all, I had some dyslexic tendencies myself as a child and went through testing in fourth grade. There were some oddities about the results but I wasn’t given the LD (learning disabled) label until later in school. Whatever dyslexic issues I have, however, have not really slowed me down. I was a good student who loved to read and write, and really didn’t have much trouble doing well, with the exception of math. I suspect whatever problem I was having was due to having a worse than average working memory, and perhaps more to the fact that I wasn’t inclined to work very hard at things that didn’t come easily to me. Whatever the case, it was more of an annoyance than a hindrance.
Then I met Hubby. Hubby is an amazing man, extremely smart and very creative. He is also dyslexic, the type of dyslexic that caused him endless problems in school. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice to say that when I met my husband he had been so scarred by battling through school for so many years, it affected just about every aspect of his life. He has an amazing auditory memory and can tell you in fine detail any historical fact you’d care to know…he’s a walking history book, complete with dates and geography. He sometimes has to ask me what his cell phone number is. He got through college without buying most of his textbooks…he just showed up and listened, and for the most part he did very well in his classes. He sometimes used books on tape from the library for the blind. It was a struggle, especially with working two jobs and having two kids, but he managed to get his B.A. and graduated with a good GPA. It’s a hard thing to live with, but it has shaped him and given him unique strengths and a work ethic than few people have. He has proven, through hard work and deep faith, that anything is possible despite (and perhaps in some ways, because of) dyslexia. He has, in the past five years, passed several very difficult exams for his career, exams that have a very low pass rate among ‘average’ people…much less dyslexics. He’s proven that dyslexia does not have to stop you. He’s my hero.
So, considering this, I was prepared for the possibility that our children might inherit some learning differences. Each of them do have an oddity or two…none of them are good spellers, all of them sometimes reverse letters, although the older two are finally showing progress in both areas. Middle Child had a terrible time memorizing her multiplication facts, a problem that drug on for two years before we fixed it in two days with a miracle book, Multiplication in a Flash. Despite these ‘glitches’, however, both the older children are good readers and have been pretty easy to teach. Keeping up with them is perhaps my biggest problem.
Then there’s Youngest. Oh, Youngest. She is a shining little light, so bright and funny and so sweet and loving. She comes up with some of the most amazing things, some of the deepest thoughts, some of the most profound observations. She has so much energy, I thought at first that that was why it was taking so much longer to teach her to read than it took for her siblings. It’s hard to get a whole reading lesson in when you are bouncing up and down, falling off your chair, standing on your head. Later, though, as she calmed down and was able to really sit and work, the differences became more apparent. She has worked and worked, memorized so many rules of phonics, spent so many hours struggling with pencil and paper and beginning readers and letter tiles and still she struggles with reading. She could write simple words and read simple sentences before she could manage to say the alphabet in order. She could add and subtract two digit numbers before she could count without forgetting numbers here and there. She sometimes starts reading at the end of the word instead of the beginning. She writes many letters and numbers backwards, and she can’t tell on her own which ones are wrong. She is embarrassed in Sunday School when other kids are reading things, things she might be able to slowly read herself at home, but is too afraid to try in front of her peers.
My heart just hurts for her. It’s hard to see your child struggle so.
I could tell that this was going to be a problem early on, but it’s hard to get any intervention for a child before about second grade, third in many cases. Before I quit working to stay home and homeschool the kids, I taught…and some of my experience was with kids with learning differences. I have never been more glad to be homeschooling, thinking about what Youngest would be going through in a regular school just breaks my heart. We have had the freedom to keep her learning at the level her little mind wanted, needed, by reading aloud to her, letting her listen in on the older kids’ lessons, using books on tape, and giving her a lot of hands-on learning opportunities. Homeschooling has also given us the chance to work hard on the reading, at her level…using letter tiles, flash cards, writing on the white board, the black board, and paper, reading and reading some more.
Some days it takes us half an hour to read a few pages out of a simple early-reader book. I smile and nod and encourage her all the way through, and praise her for her success. While inside my head, where she can’t see, I cry out in frustration and sadness over how hard this is for her, how difficult and laborious every little step forward has been.
We are now at a point where the difference is clear enough…her peers are expected to read well enough…that it’s possible to get some outside help. Because we are using the K12 program, we have been able to start Horizon Intensive Phonics Online, and we are already seeing some improvement in the month we have been using it. We will also be starting some one-to-one therapy at a learning center soon, and I am excited for her to have this opportunity. We have been blessed in that both programs, while ordinarily expensive, have been offered to us free of charge!
I have been encouraged because this year, even before we began the special phonics work, I’ve seen a lot of improvement with Youngest’s reading. Perhaps the hard work is finally paying off, or maybe there was some brain development over the summer that has helped her put things together. Perhaps she’s gained enough confidence to relax, which helps so much. Perhaps it’s all the prayer that’s gone into it….certainly that has helped. But I have high hopes that she will learn, that she’ll eventually catch up.
In the meantime, we’ll keep working hard. We’ll keep up the good fight, keep working with those letters and numbers until they straighten up and make sense. She is doing well, she is proud of what she’s learning…and I am proud of her! For a child of seven, she is having to learn early that sometimes it just takes hard work…day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes–year after year, of very hard work…to reach your goal. Perhaps that’s one of the gifts of Dyslexia, the lesson of hard work and dedication, which is a gift most people don’t get until later in life (if ever!).
In the weeks to come, I’ll post more on homeschooling a child with dyslexia and share some resources that we have found helpful. I also want to explore the gifts that a learning difference can bring. God doesn’t make mistakes, nor does He turn a blind eye toward His children who struggle. I know that by looking at this “disability” from all sides, you can see that there are some beautiful blessings worked in among the struggles. It’s my heart to learn to embrace this journey and be thankful for it, and to teach Youngest both with words and by example to do the same.