October is a very important month to my family! It’s Dyslexia Awareness Month, and dyslexia is our everyday life. It’s important to know the facts, signs, and myths of dyslexia. I am actually just excited to say the word because it still isn’t allowed to be said in some states. Too many mothers, fathers, and teachers across this country feel like we have our mouths taped shut. I will shout dyslexia from the rooftops if it can help other children get the help they desperately need! In order to do that, I need to tell our story.
My son started Kindergarten in Alexandria, Virginia. He did well in preschool, so I had no idea there was even a problem. My husband deployed in the fall of his Kindergarten year which created so much frustration and confusion for him. The pressure to read at a Level D by Christmas was very real. He was labeled as behind. His teacher had almost 30 kids in her class. I was beside myself trying to help him, but with his father gone, our focus was on his mental health and understanding daddy will come home. When did Kindergarten become a reading factory?! What happened to learning letters and sounds and basics? I finally told the teacher and the reading specialist to back off. I was told he had ADHD and was “encouraged” to get him medicated. I should have pulled him then. Who labels a child so quickly? There wasn’t any encouragement to get him evaluated by a speech therapist or occupational therapist. I am in the medical field, so I immediately got him into an OT. We had all ready been seeing a speech therapist.
My son has a history of apraxia and I wanted his motor skills tested as well. What we discovered is my child had some sensory processing issues, with some ADD. When my husband returned from deployment, we moved overseas to Germany. It was a magical time for all of us. The school was amazing! His first grade teacher is one of my closest friends to this day. By the end of 1st grade, his teacher and I knew he was facing something bigger but we couldn’t put our finger on it. I thought of dyslexia but wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until we were at the table one night for 2 hours doing homework where we were both at the verge of tears. He knew the answer just a few minutes before, and it was like he had never said it. We took a break and jogged around the block. He sat down and said the answer. From that moment, I knew my kid learned differently. I knew he learned through movement and activity.
We went on to second grade. He had an IEP that gave him OT and SPED services. RTI was their method of working with the kids. We went on to find out he had dysgraphia and had some trouble in math, which has turned out to be dyscalculia. We had an amazing teacher who gave him multisensory work. I then went to the school psychologist to get him screened for dyslexia. They couldn’t do it. It wasn’t an accepted “diagnosis” anymore, so they gave him the generic SLD or specific learning disability diagnosis. We continued OT in the school and outside as well added a low dose ADHD medication. His self esteem was starting to be affected and I would do anything in my power to help him.
Third grade was a disaster! We had a brand new teacher. While she was sweet, I am not sure she knew how to help Evan. I would watch him in class and he seemed like he was in another world. I loved his SPED teacher, but she was not trained in Orton Gillingham methods so I feel like it was a waste of a year. It was no fault of the teachers. They tried. If they don’t understand dyslexia and how you teach someone with it, it is pointless. My child’s self esteem plummeted, and I knew that was it for us. We were moving back to the states, and I was determined to get my diagnosis.
We made it to Louisiana in the summer, and I immediately put in the paperwork to homeschool. I also got him an appointment with a physiologist who told me that dyslexia isn’t an “accepted” diagnosis. Despite my annoyance, I had him tested. I about fell out of my chair when I got his results. It read, “Extreme dyslexia.” I have never felt more validated and angry in my life! I knew it! No one would listen, but there it was in black and white! I was now on a mission to find out all I could about resources to use for homeschool and tutoring.
To my surprise, I found a dyslexic tutoring foundation where we live. My mom and I took my son for his initial evaluation. She actually ended the testing early, and said the following words to us, “Your son is a textbook dyslexic.” I immediately started crying. I don’t know if it was all my frustration pouring out or if it was someone just acknowledging what I all ready knew. It’s a moment forever etched into my memory. It was the moment that changed everything for my son. From that day on, we have been going to Kid’s Choice Foundation in Shreveport, Louisiana, for tutoring in the Wilson Language Program. It’s an Orton Gillingham based program that has taken my son over 2 grade levels in 1 year! He has confidence and a love a learning again! The tutors are retired teachers that have extensive dyslexia training from Landmark School in Boston. Kid’s Choice was founded by a mom just like me who had a son with dyslexia. Her foundation has saved my son and our family! I can never express the extreme gratitude I have for this mom. My heart swells just thinking about her and the amazing staff at Kid’s Choice. If I have ever met angels on this earth, it’s these ladies.
What I want everyone to know about kids with dyslexia is that they are extremely intelligent. They do learn differently, through movement, experience, and visual prompts. They aren’t your typical student. They may struggle with reading, writing, and spelling. I call it the dyslexic triangle. Some of them may even struggle with math. No matter how many times you put the flash card in front of them, it won’t stick if it isn’t presented in a multi-sensory method. Orton Gillingham is the proven method to help these kids learn. By not acknowledging dyslexia in schools, we are handicapping the students and the teachers. Why would we not want to help these kids? Why would you continue methods that don’t work?
Did you know that 1 in 5 students have dyslexia?
Here’s a chart from Learning Ally that breaks it down.
Author: Betsy Ramirez
Betsy is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, homeschool mom, & fairy tale junkie, who loves getting crafty. Being on my bike and lifting weights are my therapy. Thinking outside the box is my jam!