I blog to promote literacy in marginalized children, particularly those who are of color or Native American and this covers a lot of territory including everything from representation in books to technology and media literacy. It also includes impediments to developing literacy skills.
Several days ago, I was having a rather intense conversation with my youngest son, Evan. We were discussing many issues of the past, present and future and almost out of nowhere he says “I’m dyslexic”. HUH???
He went on to tell me that as a young child, he told a trusted adult relative that when he reads words or numbers, they move and change and this made it difficult for him to understand what he was reading our to complete math problems with any accuracy. This adult told my son he was lying and that he was simply lazy. After he was denied any credibility by this adult, Evan decided not to tell anyone else. His last years of high school were a nightmare. Everyone knew how smart Evan was, but he wasn’t producing any work, leaving him inches from not graduating high school.
I’m not bragging when I tell you my son is brilliant. See the photo of one of his bookshelves? He loves to read, to know, to imagine and explore despite the difficulties he
has. Imagine going to dinner one evening after work with your son and he wants to talk about the concept of time, eager to explain how artificial this concept is. Or, taking him to presentations at the local library and he asks questions using vocabulary that you yourself have to look up. Yes, he’s brilliant.
And, here’s the part that really infuriates me.
Years, later this same adult told Evan that he too, suffered from this exact form of dyslexia.
That hurt me to my heart.
Evan says it can take him hours to read a single page in the Bible, but he spends that day reading that page lacking the tools or resources that he should have developed years ago.
Clearly, dyslexia and other disabilities are unrelated to intelligence. It is a physical condition in which the brain and the eyes do not coordinate. Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Muhammad Ali and Leonardo de Vinci are among the famous people who have this disability. I almost said ‘who suffer with this disability’ but, when I asked Evan if I could share his story, he asked that I share The Dyslexic Advantage, a book, website and Youtube channel that promotes “positive identity, community, and achievement among dyslexic people by focusing on their strengths.”
I started telling my sister about this and she said “I must have dyslexia!” She said that she often transposes numbers, particularly the last two in a set. I’m certain that my inability to proofread my own writing is dyslexia as well. I often manipulate word endings as well as think I see words in sentences that are not there. My sister and I started discussing patterns in what we do and how we can prevent errors in our professional work. I’ll proof this article 3 types using various copy editing techniques but, you’ll probably still see errors in this post.
Other visual dyslexia problems readers my face would include seeing mirror images of words or seeing a black page with white print. While there are numerous symptoms, they can easily escape busy working parents who are just too close to see the forest for the trees.
Traditional educators are not always training in looking for learning disabilities. If your child is having problems at school, ask them what they see when they look at a page in a book. Given that there is also auditory dyslexia, you might ask what they invite them to repeat why you say or see how well they can remember what you tell them orally. Make a game of it and be amazed about what you find out about how your child learns. As you can see from my experience, these conversations can be critical.
If you uncover difficulties, your school should have special education resources to help your child overcome them. I personally do not believe that requiring schools to make adaptations is the way to go. I think children are empowered when they learn how to overcome obstacles. If your school does not or cannot support your child, talk t
o your pediatrician or contact an organization such as the one in Indianapolis.
Don’t assume the worst of your child, but don’t make excuses for them either. If they tell you there’s a problem, get it checked out because there are too many resources out there to support our children in the learning process. So many of them have so much working against them, let’s do what we can as parents and educators to help them succeed in school and beyond.
There is help for those who don’t realize until they’re adults that they have a reading problem. It’s never too late.