|Posted on May 21, 2016 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
Sharing our story with you is difficult because it makes me relive years of frustration and pain. But if it spares other families from having to go through the same experience, it’s more than worth it.
Heidi was a pro at preschool! She loved everything about it. With Kindergarten began the use of written language and our struggles began. From the middle of that year until the end of 4th grade, there was a steady apparentness that Heidi’s intelligence level did not match her ability to read and spell. We noticed it, the teachers noticed it, and, most of all, Heidi noticed it. Beginning in 1st grade, she was sent to the reading specialist. In attempts to “fix her problem”, we were given fluency packets where she would read the same paragraph over and over to increase the number of words she could read in a minute. What actually happened is she read through the paragraph so many times that she would memorize enough words that she was able to move onto the next paragraph. In third grade the reading specialist added a computer program on fluency. Heidi would go early every morning to work on it before the other kids got to school, missing both morning announcements and time with her friends. After discussions with her teachers and not being satisfied that fluency was her problem, we talked with the district special education coordinator. She sent in the school psychologist who observed Heidi for 15 minutes and concluded she had ADD. In fourth grade we hit a new low as her social studies teacher marked every word wrong that was misspelled……..even if the answer was correct.
Heidi was a trouper through it all. She tried her hardest and did everything that was asked of her. Many times she broke down and asked why she couldn’t be like all the other kids. Then she would pick herself back up and give it her all. There were tears beyond number on her part and ours. Heidi’s self-confidence continually took a beating as she did exactly what was asked of her but saw no improvement and was humiliated because of something she could not fix. I remember a specific instance where Heidi brought home a spelling test on which she had received an “F” and the teacher wrote a comment that Heidi might want to study a little for the tests. In actuality, Heidi had studied spelling for 6 hours that week. I cannot put into words the helplessness and frustration you feel as a parent when you don’t know how to help your child. Our spunky, clever, tenderhearted girl was slowly being worn down because no one knew how to help her.
May 31, 2011 was the first day of summer swim practice. Another mother and I introduced ourselves to each other and started chatting. We discovered we’d both already had our kids doing schoolwork that morning so that our kids would not fall too far behind during the summer. When I shared some of our struggles with her, she suggested I go to a particular website and read the symptoms of Dyslexia.
A 5 minute conversation. At the pool. With another mom. That’s what put us on the path to helping our girl. When we talked with Heidi and explained what we thought she had, you could see the weight fall from her shoulders and the strain and frustration leave her face. We learned everything we could about Dyslexia and started Heidi in the Barton Dyslexia tutoring levels. We requested a 504 plan at her school and were told that her grades were not bad enough to warrant any accommodations. In the fall of 2012 we had Heidi officially tested and diagnosed with Dyslexia. We once again requested a 504 and were able to get that put into place. She has now completed the 10 levels of the Barton system, she has blossomed in jr high and high school, and her goal is to be a first grade teacher. We know Heidi will never be “fixed” and there are still many challenges, but we are working with her to give her the tools she needs to
manage her disability. I want to repeat: it was a five minute conversation at the pool with another mom that answered our questions. Not a teacher, not a school psychologist, and not a reading specialist. As little as watching a 45 minute video online would give every one of our teachers the awareness of what Dyslexia is and the ability to suggest that parents consider Dyslexia as a possibility when their child is struggling with reading and spelling. In my opinion, every teacher in our state should have a basic knowledge of the signs and symptoms of Dyslexia, every reading specialist should certainly know about and be trained in working with a learning disability that affects 1 out of every 5 students, and every administration in our state should include Dyslexia screening for children entering first grade.
Thank you for allowing me the chance to share our journey. I hope and pray that it will be a small part of a catalyst to better awareness and education for all students in the state of Illinois who have Dyslexia.