I am not a psychologist and I don’t claim to be an expert but I am parent of a teenage boy, who has been coping with dyslexia all his life. His diagnosis led me to do my own research with in turn prompted me to question myself, and the result is I am a mature woman who has lived unknowingly with dyslexia.
My own experiences have defiantly helped me understand what my son is going through. We had fantastic memories, retain huge amounts of information, have a wonderful capacity to think outside the box, are creative and imaginative, and have an amazing way of visualising concepts and ideas.
We can’t spell, are slow at reading and writing, have a big problem with organisation skills (anyone who knows me won’t believe this, I am Miss Organisation but that’s because I over compensate), can’t comprehend time naturally and have so many ideas going on in our heads that we hop from one thing to another and often leave projects unfinished.
When my son was diagnosed he was 9 years old and had just started 3rd class. Up until then we thought he was just a bit immature, not too interested in traditional learning and easily distracted. We always knew he was intelligent and articulate, at 9 he could converse with adults on most subjects, and his input was always interesting and informative. We knew his reading and writing was way behind that of his big brother’s at the same age, and he was often in trouble in school, never for behavioural problems but rather for forgetting stuff, not completing work and not paying attention.
Kade’s 3rd class teacher recognised the signs of Dyslexia. The main one being his performance was years behind his intellect. She advised us to arrange to have Kade formally assessed. We had two choices, wait for an assessment from the department, which would have taken 1 to 2 years, or pay to have him assessed privately, we went for the latter, had the assessment within a month and paid ABOUT €500. Of course to us it was money well spent, the sooner he was diagnosed the sooner he would receive the help needed, but paying for a private assessment is not always an option for parents.
Options are limited for parents who cannot afford to pay for a private assessment, but I know some schools and colleges have funds to help parents. I also know that the parent who shouts the loudest is the parent who gets heard.
Much later we decided to go through the department to have Kade assessed for A.D.D. I rang the physiologist at least once a week for months. I crossed the line from being persistent to being a pest but it worked. Initially we were told he would be waiting twelve months, in the end it took six, so I cut the waiting time in half.
I won’t lie; I was devastated when we received the news that Kade is Dyslexic. We were told not to say that he is Dyslexic, but rather to say he has Dyslexia. I actually choose to use the term Dyslexic. Having Dyslexia sounds like a negative thing, like having a disease, I believe being Dyslexic is a gift and as you follow my articles you will understand what I mean.
Dyslexia is not a learning difficulty, it is a learning difference. Using traditional methods to teach a Dyslexic child is like making a left handed child write with their right hand. But I did not come to this conclusion overnight, it took time, research and understanding.
So now I had a piece of paper which proved that my son was Dyslexic, along with a recommendation that I get in touch with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, to find a tutor for my son. I was overwhelmed and really had no idea what to do next. I rang the DAI and was told they could not give me any information unless I paid a fee to become a member. I hung up the phone feeling angry and tearful.
While in my present rational state of mind I can fully understand that the DAI, like any voluntary organisation depend on membership fees to operate, and I am now a fully paid up member and have found their conferences to be hugely informative, but at that time my thoughts were they don’t want to help they just want money.
My next move was to meet with Kade’s school teacher. She was fantastic, she gave me very practical advice and informed me of the help he would receive within the school. I met with the schools Special Needs Assistant (really this title needs to be reviewed) and his first piece of advice, after a lengthy interview with Kade was that I should tell him that he is Dyslexic.
Kade was clever enough to know that he was different to the other kids. He knew he was very intelligent and he was frustrated that he was not achieving the results that his peers achieved.
By now I was over the upset and had gone back to my usual positive, proactive mode. I presented the news to him in such a positive and matter of fact way that he was relieved to know the reason why he was having difficulties.
I didn’t lie to him, I gave him the facts, I told him straight out that he would have to work harder than other kids just to achieve the same. I also told him that I would help him in every way that was necessary to ensure that he achieved his full potential.
I became Kade’s biggest supported, I fought for him to receive the help he needs, I agreed with him when in his frustrated moments he would express a desire to kick his teacher very hard up the rear, I wrote answers for him when he was just too tired to continue, I wrote excuse notes for him when I knew enough was enough and he didn’t really need to do another 20 sums.
School was, is and always will be difficult at times for Kade, home is and always will be his soft place to land. I never criticise, never give out, and never express disappointment in him, only in the educational system when it lets him down.
If your child is Dyslexic you need to be in their corner, you need to help, support and fight for them every step of the way.
Watch out for my next article Dyslexia What Kade did next