My oldest son has severe dyslexia. I suspected it for awhile after he struggled and struggled and struggled to learn things that I knew he should, developmentally, be able to learn. Letters, sight words, our phone number, his birthday…they were all a challenge and I couldn’t quite figure out why at first.
We were very blessed that my husband’s friend from college, Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley, also just happened to be the co-founder of The Dyslexia Training Institute. Coincidence? I prefer divine intervention. She recommended that we have him evaluated and off we went to Widener University’s Neuro-Psych Testing Center. Sure enough, dyslexia was the diagnosis.
He’s been receiving Wilson Reading tutoring since then and he’s doing well. He still struggles, but he has amazing accommodations through the online charter school that he attends (from home). Dragon Naturally Speaking for voice-to-text, Wynn Reader for text-to-speech, Learning Ally, Bookshare, and Audible for audiobooks, and a slew of other accommodations give him access. Ironically, shortly after he was diagnosed, my husband got a job as the Disabilities Services Coordinator at a local university. Again, coincidence? Hardly. The amount of information that we’ve learned about dyslexia and disabilities since the start has been immense. And we keep learning, because we want to be the best advocates for him so that he can learn how to advocate for himself.
Needless to say, going through the entire process has left us with a slightly skewed look at reading. I guess that’s why it amazes me that my middle son and my daughter are such fluent readers. The ten year old devoured Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in January, wrote summaries of each chapter, created a PowerPoint, and has since read five more books in the last four months. And when the six year old picked up the first of The Magic Treehouse books today and read the first two chapters aloud with very little assistance? I was blown away. I no longer take reading for granted or look at it as a skill that everyone does, and does well.
Because I’ve seen the truth of dyslexia and it’s not pretty.
Stories are a gift. Reading is a gift. Learning how to enjoy stories when reading is nearly impossible? That, too, is one of the greatest gifts of learning. So, cherish your enthusiastic and fluent readers, and give your struggling readers support and access. Give them tools to help them get to the heart of what reading is really about – the story, the message, the information. Give them the gift of reading too…just in a way that they can access it.