Today I have a special post from a parent of a child with dyslexia. It’s a three part post. If you have a child who is struggling to read, this is a blog series you want to read. Staci explains the struggles and frustrations their family went through as they tried to tutor their child on their own, and then shares how they accurately identified their child’s learning disability, and finally, how they found success. Every parent should read Staci’s story.
The Gifts We Have…
Part 1 – Reading Disability
Every child comes prewired with certain gifts and challenges. For some, personality is a gift; for others it is a challenge. For some sports, academics, or music is a gift. For others one or more of these is a challenge.
And so it was with my youngest son. Growing up he had a vivacious, people-attracting personality. He was just fun to be around (and I’m not saying that because I’m his mom). He was drawing his own fully-thought-out stories by the time he was four. He would bring them to me to write the words, and look out if I didn’t get the dictation right. For days afterward, he would stop me when I got to something I hadn’t written the exact way he had said it and tell me what it should have been.
Discovering the Reading Disability
He was also, to my thinking, a good reader. We would lie in bed at night, and he would “read” to me. At least I thought he was reading, but then again, back then I thought a lot of things that didn’t turn out to be reality.
The first indication we had that something was amiss was during his first kindergarten review. The teacher said that he couldn’t do his m’s. He would make them w’s about half the time, and he couldn’t remember what sound they made. Me, the ever-finder-or-maker-of-a-solution went home and started working with him on the letter m. To my surprise, it took over a week for him to finally “get” m. Now I thought that was strange at the time, but as a mom with experience, I chalked it up to one of those quirks all kids have.
By first grade, however, my son’s school experience turned decidedly darker and much more frightening. Spelling was the loudest rumble of the coming storm. When he would practice spelling, he would copy one letter at a time no matter how many times I tried to show him to copy the “whole thing.” Studying spelling became a nightly ordeal. Even simple words seemed beyond his comprehension, and I couldn’t understand that at all. Meltdowns were frequent, as were time of outright refusal to even try. My normally happy-go-lucky kid devolved into anger and tears more than once, and I was at a loss for what else to try.
He was great with words verbally. He was telling me that spiders were “hideous” and the meal was “delicious,” yet spelling “girl” proved an almost insurmountable obstacle. We studied “girl” with four blocks–g i r and l–literally for 20 minutes straight. It was a mess. There was no rhyme or reason to what letter he put where. When he finally was getting more hits than misses, we moved on to bird, but when we went back to girl in 10 minutes, it was like he had never seen the word!
I remember getting into bed that night and saying to my husband, “Something’s wrong.” But no one could tell us what that something was.
Struggling with the reading disability
We struggled. He struggled. I struggled. The teacher was sympathetic. She said that a lot of kids have trouble spelling and reading in the first grade, and his personality and how he dealt with other kids was great, so not to worry. But I was worried–especially when just before Christmas he started having little black-out spells in class. I was near panic. By that point, God and only God was keeping me together. The doctors wanted to do tests on him, but when we got to the hospital, my son refused to do the testing. So we left, praying for a different answer.
For the next six months we tried everything. Spelling would improve and then fall off a cliff again. I realized around that time just how much trouble he was having reading. We got Hooked on Phonics starting at Kinder year. He couldn’t do it. Sometimes he would say “cat” for “cat,” but he might also say “can’t” or vice versa. Each new lesson was like a battleground.
I’m apparently rather slow because it took four months of reviewing, and reviewing, and reviewing the lessons for me to realize that he still wasn’t reading anything. He was literally memorizing every single page! That’s why I had thought he could “read” before–he was memorizing everything!
The day I “figured out” it was dyslexia, we were trying to read forward to a new lesson in Hooked on Phonics. I had heard of dyslexic children “moving” while they read, but I had never seen it until that moment. He was up. He was down. He’d lean on me. He’d lay on the floor. He’d sit on the chair… It was then that I finally faced the fact. This had to be dyslexia. Nothing else made sense.
So I went online praying for some guidance as to what to do next. That’s when I firmly believe God stepped in with our first answer. It was a program from the website Bright Solutions for Dyslexia by Susan Barton. The first door opened for us with her video about the symptoms of dyslexia. It was 3 hours and 19 minutes long. I thought, “I’ll watch for awhile.” Yeah, 3 hours and 19 minutes later, I was still sitting there, taking notes as fast as I could write, knowing that finally we had found some answers!
by Staci Stallings
Parenting a child with a reading disability continues on Part 2 tomorrow.
If you’d like to ask Staci a question, do so in the comment field below.