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A Pediatric Perspective

Dyslexia is Not a Gift

Published January 31, 2014 10:55 AM by Wendy Spoor-Hof

I've always said that if I was going to write a book about my son's struggles with Dyslexia it would be titled "Dyslexia is not a gift." I know that the belief behind dyslexia being a "gift" is that it allows those individuals who have it to look at the world in a different way and be able to use skills they may not have otherwise used if it weren't for the Dyslexia. Now that is a very good way to look at it - when you're an adult - but not a good way when you're a child struggling to fit in and praying every school day, in every class that you won't get called on to read.

When my son was in preschool, I began to notice that he was writing several of his letters backwards and mislabeling those letters (b was d, q was g, E was 3). I was concerned about the possibility of him having Dyslexia. I would bring this up to his teacher's attention and was told it was "typical at that age" and to "give it time. I brought it up again in Kindergarten and was told the same thing, "give it time."  I volunteered in his Kindergarten class on a weekly basis and would notice him listening eagerly during circle time until it came to the letter recognition and simple math they would do at that age. I watched as his peeked interest would go from bright eyed and excited to turning and looking out the window. I mentioned this to his kindergarten teacher (who was new) and was told that he was just being "lazy." She felt that when the work got too hard he just couldn't be bothered to do it. I never believed this for one moment but felt maybe he did just need a little more time.

And so he was given more time and I brought it up to his 1st grade teacher, his 2nd grade teacher, and each time I would hear those words over and over until he was in 3rd grade and falling behind in anything that had to do with reading and/or math. I asked for him to be tested for Dyslexia, as I was sure he was showing all the signs of having it, but was told by the school that they do not test for that.  They would offer him reading help but when I asked if it was "research based" I was told it wasn't but that the program they used was shown to be effective with their students who fell behind in reading.

So I watched as my youngest son who loved going to school, and would go eagerly each morning, came home every afternoon looking like he had just battled all the WWF wrestlers he loved to watch. We worked on his homework and he struggled. Words he had known at the beginning of the assignment he would forget by the end of it. Our nights turned into nightmares as he felt stupid and couldn't understand why everyone else "got it" but he didn't. I lost my patience more times then I care to admit.  Gift?  No, not by any stretch of the imagination was what my son had to go through a gift. 

To make a long story short we paid to have the testing done. Took money out of our retirement fund and paid a Neuro-Psychologist to test him over a couple days' times. We were not surprised when his test results showed he had a fairly moderate case of Dyslexia that resulted in impaired reading and math skills. With report in hand we went back to the school. It took a year and the threat of bringing in our lawyer before he was offered the reading help he needed. 

He started the Orton Gillingham reading program in the 4th grade and continued it throughout elementary and middle school.  He made really good progress and is age level with his math skills but he still struggles with reading and I can't help but wonder how much stronger his skills would have been if he had received the intervention earlier on rather than later. 

The sad thing is that our story is not an exception - our story is being played out in schools all over the states.  It is believed that 1 in 6 children have some form of dyslexia. Very few of those children are getting the research based reading program help they need to become good readers. Many children give up and feel "stupid." They are the ones who start acting out and causing trouble because they would much rather be thought of as the class clown or class trouble maker than they would the kid in class who can't read. And if they don't have the parent support at home and the school isn't required to test for Dyslexia and offer the appropriate intervention then they often become the kid that drops out.

I'm sharing this with you because recently Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La) has introduced a House Resolution (H.Res 456, 113th Congress) that is "calling on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed."  H.Res 456 is asking that Dyslexia be recognized and the right research based interventions be put into place to help those that have been properly diagnosed.  The Resolution points out how significant this issue is (1 in 6 children) and that it is proven early intervention can help these students to be better equipped to handle the struggles associated with Dyslexia when the proper strategies are put in place. 

This Resolution is so important that the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity is asking the community to reach out to their Congressional Representatives and ask them to please sign this Resolution.  Their website is providing the contact information for each State's Representative and even a sample letter to help you know what to say when you contact your Representative.

Dyslexia is not a gift. Not to a child struggling with it, not to the parents trying to get their children the help they need. Not to the Therapist and Special Education teachers trying to work with the students without having the right interventions available to them.

So if you have a few moments, please take a moment and write to your local Representative and ask them to vote for H. Res 456.  My son and I would greatly appreciate it - as would 1 in 6 students who struggle with it every day. Thank you.



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Thank you Katherine!  Please continue to share what you have learned about Dyslexia and the strategies you have found helpful.  I feel so bad for the children who are struggling but not getting the help that could make a difference.  The more people who know about Dyslexia and who are willing to step up and help - the more children will find they are not alone in their struggles.

Wendy Spoor-Hof February 1, 2014 12:49 AM

Wendy, Thank you for sharing your personal insight into Dyslexia.  I have become so enlightened about it as I've worked with students and their handwriting needs.  I have also found that it is a misunderstood condition and one that is not given much attention in schools.  That's probably because it is so mysterious, so it gets pushed to the side.  I have found that a complete vision assessment by a Developmental Optometrist can uncover these needs as well.  I will share and write and try to help to spread the word.  Thanks, again!

Katherine Collmer, Pediatrics - OTR/Owner, Handwriting With Katherine January 31, 2014 12:29 PM
Tempe AZ

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