Dyslexia

I married into a family of dyslexics, and the dyslexia gene has been passed down to my children. Some days that fills me with huge sadness because of the inherent struggle with all things academic that ensues.. and the fact that so much of a child’s life… and their feeling of success…is dictated by the academic world. It has caused many moments of frustration in working with the oldest. Many hours of worry about whether he will ever “get it” – whether it was reading or spelling, math facts or even cursive hand writing. It means that we have to go beyond the ordinary to make those things happen for him: OT for help with cursive, training for Orton -Gillingham instruction to help him read, working with him on every written paper, money spent on testing and reevaluations to make sure he is getting what he needs.

And then it is hard to preserve sibling relationships when the middle child comes along and is dyslexia free. Everything academic comes easily. His struggles in life are going to come from somewhere else.

But, there is another side to the dyslexic child, and that is the ability to see the entire picture at once. (Being able to see that a b and a d and a p and a q are all the same at once…but not being able to distinguish the difference in their direction quickly enough when reading!) There is a very creative side, which can be celebrated. We celebrated the eldests in the completion of his bench and his plane. We have often also laughed at the eldest, because since time began, he can see an entire “picture” when there is only a small piece showing. For example, driving down the highway, and seeing a helicopter overhead, he instantly knows what has happened. He can weave an elaborate story about a wreck along the highway and how many and what type of cars must be involved, and that this helicopter is the lifeflight helicopter coming to the rescue. All the rest of us see is a helicopter.

Our youngest is just beginning his reading journey. And so far, we think he too has skipped the dyslexia gene, or at least is able to compensate quite well if he does have it. But it is still early days yet. And while sometimes there are signs that make me worry, there are sometimes reminders that if he does end up with dyslexia, that is okay: there are gifts attached.

One such sign is the inability to ‘find’ the word one wants to use. A dyslexic can talk all about a subject, like tornado, but fail to find the right word “tornado”.This is part of the faulty brain wiring and can best be understood by reading Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

This can be very amusing, because it leads the child to come up with alternative words or fanciful descriptions to help explain what word they are looking for. For example, when my oldest was small, about 4 or 5, we had snow begin to fall. He could not remember the word “snow”. So there he was, in all his excitement, trying to tell us the snow had begun to fall, and it went something like this: “Mom, that stuff is falling! You know, that cold, crisp, white stuff, just drifting and floating and even shimmering down from the sky, whispering as it hits … perfect for making balls to throw!” He could get all those words out, but not the word “snow”. Breaks your heart, and yet, how many other 5 year olds could be as eloquent in a description?

All of this leads up to something very trivial really. I am home alone with the youngest this weekend…and one thing he does do, is have trouble remembering the “words” for things. NOW… this is very common for young kids. I don’t want to imply that kids who do this are going to be dyslexic. It is just something I know could be a sign, given our family history. But there are other signs that lead me to believe he will be fine dyslexia free. (AND so will my oldest…having dyslexia doesn’t mean you won’t be fine… it is just a different path. I should change the word fine to “Dyslexia free”)

Anyway, my youngest does this alot. And I try to write down when he does this, because often it is very funny what he comes up with. At least very funny to me! SO this weekend he produced these 2 gems:

He has decided he thinks he is big enough for “serious” books and wanted a “serious” book at the book store. After all, he was beginning to read so much better, and that is when you read “serious” books. So we arrive in the children’s section and I ask him where he thinks we will find the “serious” books. He tells me “oh, we just need to find the Jack and Annie books” because he’s heard that they are good. This sounds a bit familiar to me, but not enough to know exactly where to find them, so I ask more questions. What is the book about, does he know the actual title. He tells me something about a tree house and their adventures. AHHAH! “The MAGIC Tree house?” wondering how in the world he has decided that is a serious book. “YES! magic treehouse. We can get the first in the SERIOUS, and then when I read that we can get the second in the SERIOUS, and soon we can have the entire SERIOUS.” Light dawns.

I tried to get him to say “SERIES” but so far, no progress.

Then this morning, I told him to get dressed. When he came down, he told me he just felt like wearing a blue shirt with his “squaredly” pants. (Not even sure how to spell that one)

Squaredly is apparently the new name for plaid. You know, pants with all the squares on them.

So funny..

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4 thoughts on “Dyslexia

  1. That is a great story about the Magic Tree House! Hels has a girl in her class with severe dyslexia. I have been so inspired by how well her classmates have figured out over the years how to honor her gifts and support her in her reading. Her parents have never wavered in their belief that Waldorf has allowed their daughter to develop gifts in other areas beyond academics that might not have been possible otherwise.

  2. That is too cute! My girls like those “serious” Magic Treehouse books too. And squaredly…that is killing me with cute!

  3. Hi
    I came from Jenny’s blog. I too come from a dyslexic family and I have very mild dyslexia, but I’m creative and very verbal so I got my Eng.Lit degree, my teaching qualification and I got my post graduate work done (I read well and at great speed, my spelling is atrocious and I forget words). My sibling’s dyslexia is more pronounced, however, although she struggled academically (you’re right academia is tough for a bright spld child) she really shone both interpersonally and creatively…it’s a flip side to the dyslexic coin that we often develop heightened creative skills.

    My eldest girl is not dyslexic, but I can see the warning signs in the little one, some speech delay, forgetting words, beautiful drawings and lettering, but still incapable of getting the letters in her name in the right order. We’ll see.

    Anyway, here’s a fun anecdote. When I was teaching, my class and I were doing a character map on the white board. I was writing key words used to describe a certain character in the book we were studying. One little boy put his hand up and said (about the character) “he’s a liar, Miss”. I turned to the board about to write the word “liar” and I couldn’t think how to spell it! I’d just gone blank. So I turned again to the class and said “house point for anyone who knows how to spell “liar”!” I knew that as soon as I saw the word spelled out I could recognise if it were right!

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