From Sarah Janisse Brown
My first child started reading at age three. Homeschooling was going to be easy! Right? My second child, Anna, was born dancing, drawing, and dreaming, but at age nine she was still reversing letters and forgetting how to sound out three letter words! I had started both children with the same reading program, but Anna wasn’t learning to read. I tried several learning programs. Nothing helped. Nothing interested her. Reading was exhausting and confusing. I really began to feel like there was something wrong with my second child, and because we were homeschooling I blamed myself. I was afraid to talk to anyone about Anna’s problem with reading. I never suspected dyslexia. I thought I was a bad teacher, until my third child taught herself to read and write at age five. She would always “play school” with the workbooks that Anna couldn’t use, and we had dozens of those! One fall day, my daughter Anna and I were sitting under the big tree in the backyard working on reading lesson #1 for the 30th time. I was still trying to help her see the difference between b and d… again! We were making a new set of colorful flash cards, but no progress.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes “Mom, there is NO difference! I will never read! Can’t I just be an artist and a mommy when I grow up?”
That was when I looked up into the sky and asked God to show me how to help my child. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t have what it takes to help her, and needed professional help. I had to get over my own fear and pride and ask for help. The 1st reading tutor we hired was mystified by Anna’s problem too, but we eventually found a specialist who understood Anna. It was dyslexia.
I spent the following year researching dyslexia. I learned that children with Dyslexia tend to be bright, inquisitive and creative. Like Anna! They are thinkers, dreamers, inventors, artists and dancers.
They need to touch, taste, feel, experience and manipulate just about everything in order to learn. They think in pictures, movies, music, feelings and movement. They are full of talent, but often feel slow, stupid, different and misunderstood. I learned that Dyslexia is so much more than a learning difficulty related to reading and writing. Dyslexia is a gift. As a parent with a dyslexic child I had the responsibility to provide my child with the encouragement, education, and tools to become who she was meant to be.
So I tried everything that the experts recommended, well everything that we could afford. But nothing really seemed to help her with reading.
That’s when I gave up and said, “Okay Anna, you can be an artist.”
I took her to the art store and bought her everything she wanted, she was in heaven. Day after day she created beautiful works of art, she even won a national art contest. She was happy. Every morning the other kids would sit at the table with their workbooks and Anna would spread out all her art supplies, and sing little tunes while she worked for hours and hours. I knew that she was in her element doing what she was designed to do.
But I really did believe in my heart that she needed to learn to read, and I knew that it couldn’t happen the normal way. One morning I was looking over her shoulder as she finished a beautiful portrait of a woman dressed like a character from a Jane Austin book. I watched as she signed her name like a four year old. “God?” I prayed “Show me how to use art to teach Anna how to read and write. I know that You want her to be able to read the Bible someday. I know that You know everything. I know that You answer prayers. Please show me how to teach Anna to read.”
A few days later I had an idea, so I sat down next to Anna and began to draw a series of little faces. Happy, Sad, Happy, Sad… “Anna, what comes next?” I handed her the pen. She completed the pattern. Perfectly, of course, it was art. For the next hour I played this little art game with her. I would draw a series of pictures and she would complete the patterns. She thought we were just playing a fun little game, but I had a plan.
Eventually I began putting symbols, letters and numbers into these artistic patterns and drawings. I wanted to see if including the letters in the art would somehow help her to stop reversing the letters. Logic told me that she would never be able to move on to reading until she stops confusing her letters. I felt like she needed to relearn the letters in the context of art.
I had a belief that the creative part of her mind could be tricked into reading… without confusion, without reversals, without tears.
At first Anna didn’t even notice that the patterns included letters and numbers. To Anna the symbols were part of the cool design. I watched with amazement as she drew the lowercase bs and ds without any hesitation or reversals. Eventually I added whole words to the art and patterns, at first the words were isolated from their meanings, but overtime the words became meaningful and had pictures with them. She began reading those words as if she had been reading all along. Next I added phrases, sentences and familiar rhymes and Bible verses. She didn’t even hesitate. The confusion was gone. Two months later she was reading comic books and suddenly she was following recipes, writing email, entertaining herself with chapter books, and eventually she began reading from the Bible. She also continued to develop her artistic talents and she dreams of illustrating books for kids, with her sister.
As the years began to pass I began telling Anna’s story, and I discovered that many parents, just like me, struggle to help their dyslexic children.
Many parents feel like the school is failing their child, or even worse, they are failing their children. Often fear and pride keep them from seeking help. I wanted to help.
So naturally I began creating drawing games for other teachers and parents to try with their dyslexic children. I watched with joy as children just like my daughter Anna learned to read by using my drawing and logic games. My little games became popular, so I created and published two sets of activity books for Dyslexic children. We call the program Dyslexia Games, kids call it FUN. Now I am currently helping over 2000 children who are using the program, and loving it! Best of all children who once struggled with bs and ds, and couldn’t even read three letter words, are now reading with confidence!
Your child is a special combination of talents, abilities, ideas, hopes, and potential that the world has never seen. By love, faith, prayer and perseverance you can unlock your child’s unique potential and help him or her to rise above every challenge.
I hope that Anna’s story inspires you to see your child in a new light, I hope you provide your child with a chance to grow in his or her talents, and learn to read and write too!
From Jovan Haye
In my recently released memoir Bigger Than Me: How a Boy Conquered Dyslexia to Play in the NFL, I chronicle the multiple hurdles I overcame in the hopes that my story will inspire others to follow my lead and rely on hard work, determination, and the talents they do have to achieve their goals.
Throughout Bigger Than Me, I relay how I achieved the nearly impossible dream of playing for the NFL. Born into poverty and living in violent, low-income neighborhoods, I suffered abuse at home and significant challenges at school because of severe undiagnosed dyslexia. Yet my natural athletic ability, eventual success in team sports, and what I call my “pure love of football” gave me the confidence to face the other obstacles before myself.
Tellingly, I went on to address my crippling dyslexia and attended Vanderbilt University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree, before being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2005 as a defensive tackle. My career in the NFL didn’t end there; among other teams, I went on to play for the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Tennessee Titans, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though challenges continued to come my way, my faith, character, and critical relationships remained solid.
“Being a former pro athlete, people often see only the surface. My book offers an inside look at who I really am and how I battled and overcame my biggest challenges. I want people to understand that they are not alone. We all have challenges, but with faith, forgiveness, determination, and perseverance, success is inevitable!”
From Peter Spezia
From Theresa Lindsay
We were aware of our sons learning difference very early. I have two son’s with dyslexia. One has faired better that the other, but both have major struggles. My oldest son attended public schools and received special education through resources classes. He was always mainstreamed with his peers. He never repeated a grade. Although he struggled in school, he managed to get good enough grades. He usually passed by the skin of his teeth. He currently is attending a technical college. He has been attending for 5 years. Its a 2 year school. I admire him because he hasn’t given up. He has 3 classes left to complete. He plans to transfer to a 4 year college next year. I’m very excited for him to realize his dream of attending a 4 year university next year.
Our youngest son has had an even more difficult path. He struggled in first grade. His teacher spent most afternoons after school tutoring him. She passed him on to the second grade. We moved to another state at the end of his first grade. In our new location, he was walked back to the first grade from the second grade two weeks into the school year. He received special education resources and was kept in a mainstream first grade class. At the end of his second year in first grade he was not any further along academically.
The public school recommendation was to move him into the second grade, however he would be in a self contained class with 2 to 4 other children. We chose to enroll him in a private school nearby for dyslexic children. He attended school there for 7 years. The tuition was expensive but we felt it was worth it. He seemed to come into his own there. There he was not alone. He was among others with similar struggles. He was motivated, worked hard to complete his work and please his teachers.
His transition to a public high school was horrible. In his freshman year his depression began. It became so bad and he was so stressed that we with drew him from school and home schooled him with a private tutor. The following year he wanted to try different public high school. He did not last long there either. The depression returned and he attempted suicide. He was so convinced that he was stupid and would never amount to anything. Google what the future for a high school drop out is. Chances are you won’t find anything promising or bright.
Last year we tried home schooling again in collaboration with another family. Again that didn’t work. Currently he is working with an academic coach in an effort to obtain a GED. We hope that he will enroll in classes and if needed we will help with tutors.
He is incredibly bright and smart. He is the most visual person that I have ever met. One of his former teachers helped him uncover his talent with photography. We have encouraged him to learn as much as he can about photography and get out and take lots of pictures. We will support him in this or any other pursuit. He just needs to believe in himself and he’ll be half way there.
He feels it’s all a big lie. All of his life he’s heard that if you work hard and try that you can be anything that you want. I want so much for him to realize his dreams.
From Liz Long
helping them see that dyslexia can be a strength and that it is important to find alternative ways to learn.
The Sad Truth
I am searching and searching for hope, answers, reasons, and HELP. I have found most everything I need but not the help. I am a 39 yr old father of two boys ages 7 and 9. My oldest has struggled since kindergarten with school and behavior issues. This year has been the worst. My son is now on an IEP, and deemed severely emotionally disabled by the school system.
He has always struggled with reading, I actually held him back in Kindergarten just to hope it would help to repeat it. Someone had mentioned that I should see if he is Dyslexic. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. School was so hard for me, I hated reading, I always transpose numbers, certain letters jump off pages for me, and I am the worst speller in the world. My mom had mentioned when I was younger that I may have had dyslexia…. It is highly hereditary, is this what is going on with my son?
I have had him tested, above average IQ, social skills are in tack. What? ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and remediated dyslexia?
Since the beginning of the year he lashes out in school with anger, frustration, and violence. He has medication, therapists, counselors, SPED programs, and resources to help him cope, keep his cool. NOT at home, never, he is calm, a good kid, he wants to be like others. When you ask him, “Why do you act this way in school? When it is time for a test, writing, or reading time, why do you get mad, flip your desk over, kick and scream?” all i hear is “I don’t like school, I don’t like to read, and I don’t want to do it.”
Now what? I am looking for help but I need to sell a kidney for a reading program or a tutor. I have found your site and read several resourceful articles. All of these symptoms, of ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, they all relate, he is frustrated, he doesn’t want to be the stupid kid in class. It kills me, he is so smart! He was a whiz at math… Now the problems are harder, word problems, longer instructions to read.
No help? Nothing for a middle class family? My son is the sad truth of Dyslexia, I am sure of it! I lived his struggles in school and in life. I have told him about his special gift and the amazing potential we have, but we need to learn differently, think differently.. I am left handed, so sometimes I wander if it was easier for me.
The sad truth is, the school has labeled him, wants to put him in a more secure class or school location, high security measures. He cries daily to go to school, worried that he will get mad and mess up today. He starts his day stressed out that the teacher will call on him, he will look stupid. He has come to the realization that he is better off fighting and getting out of the situation that dealing with it and trying to learn. So much stress in third grade already…. He can’t even look forward to going to school to see his friends, the school sees him so unstable that he is no longer allowed to attend field trips without a parent….
I won’t and I cannot give up on him or for him…
I am a 20 year old Art student at UCLA, and was diagnosed dyslexic just
last year. I have struggled my entire life with reading,writing,and
spelling and always thought it just was a difficult subject for me.
When I finally made it in UCLA, (and that was definitely not because of
my SAT Scores,) I took a basic English Composition class, and well sure
enough after the first essay I wrote my professor needed to discuss my
paper with me. After a long talk about my struggles I followed through
with getting tested for dyslexia. Having good grades all through high
school, no one ever detected I had a disability. I just figured out
ways to compensate for the slowness and struggles. Once I was
diagnosed, I really had a more positive outlook on how I looked at
myself, I finally realized my struggles were not because I did not try
Sorry for the rambling story… I just find the movie you are producing
such a wonderful and amazing idea and well, if there is anyway I could
contribute please contact me.
I too was diagnosed with dyslexia in my late 30’s…Yes, in my late 30’s. How sad is that! All those years I could of been feeling better about myself and I never knew. It happened when I had to have my eyes checked. I was having a problem with reading smaller print. Anyway, the Doc said my eyes were in great shape, only it was getting to be about that time for me to start looking into reading glasses. Then she mentioned my dyslexia, which I in turn stated, I wasn’t aware of….but the moment this was revealed to me, everything from my pass started to make perfect since. I have always struggled with reading, writing and Lord knows, ” Spelling.” I just thought I would never catch on like the others in school …you know, a SLOW learner type, that was me! I had ” OK ” grades in school, just enough to pass me and graduate. But I ranked in the low class as far as my scores went. My parents never knew, they didn’t seem to care much as long as I got through High School, that was all that mattered to them. No one ever detected ( or Cared ) that I had some disability. I, like so many others, compensated for my slowness to read, spell or write. “FOCUS,” “Pay Attention,” “Stop Day Dreaming,” “CON-CENTRATE.” These are things I heard often from my teachers and my parents. I found ways to get through in class during reading sessions, by reading everything ahead of time, before the others. Knowing if I didn’t, when it came time for me to read out loud in class, I would somewhat be ready, if not able to do so, I would look stupid in front of the class. I had to work harder, read the materials over and over and when it came time for the test and I didn’t do so well, I felt like such a loser, so stupid and so angry that others didn’t even have to work as hard, only to make a higher grade then I. Because of dyslexia I know now why things were so hard for me, it would of been so much easier for me had I known then. I was so shy, and pretty much kept to myself throughout my school years. All because I felt so stupid, that I would never measure up to the other students, always trying to cover up any problem I was having with reading, writing and spelling. What is sad is it took me 39 years to find out I was dyslexic. 39 years to realize that I wasn’t stupid, lazy or slow, …but dyslexic! I can also remember the first time I realized my father could not read very well…I was a young mother at the time. Now, I too wonder if Dad was also suffering from the same thing as I. Now that I know I have dyslexia, I have more of a better outlook for myself. I have ALWAYS had to Re-read material, but luckily for me, I Love to read! Only now it isn’t because I can’t read it right, I just have to apply more time in doing so. I have always struggled with reading and have always had to try harder then most to get it. But I did it then and I continue to do it now, only now I can smile when I get a word turned around or see it as something else, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I was younger. Ahhh, with age comes grace! I am so glad to see a story about such a thing as dyslexia… I hope and pray you will have great success with it and that it will open the eyes to many who know nothing about it and the pains others have to go through to survive it. Please let me know if I can help more. Best wishes!
I have a subject I think every parent of a kid with “dyslexia” should think seriously about. It is due to an experience we have had with David and his desire to attend a public high school.
David began failing in school. not because he didn’t understand things but because he wanted to get outta that school. He was getting too many services and he started to refuse them. Uncomfortable conflicts happened when he was being forced to accept services he didn’t think he needed but the teachers all agreed he did.
We were told he needed these services so we did the old parental thing of consequences for David refusing to go to school. It didn’t really work and David started going downhill.
He was so seriously unhappy. It was strange because what he felt and what his teachers felt were so different and so – really we could have just believed the school and kept punishing David. The director there pulled David aside to talk with him alone about learning to accept his disability. He needed to learn how to accept that he needed services and that he had to work harder than other people and had to accept that he needed this support.
I saw my kid and thought- even though these teachers appear to have good intentions I need to get another opinion. David has a good rationale for wanting to leave – a mature one and reasonable one.
He told me and his dad that he wanted a chance to be in a school where he only got services if he started to need them. He wanted to be in normal classes with a wide variety of kids- he wanted to see how he would do. He felt like he needed that. He told me ” Mom the only way I can make them happy is to pretend I need what they say I do when I know I don’t need it- I basically have to fail myself to succeed there.” These were not the exact words but close to it- I dont’ remember exactly .
when I talked to his school – the teachers and administration etc they would not accept that as reasonable and they wanted us to be more strict with him and get him to accept these services- he is just going through a teenage stage. IF you let him leave then you will have given into him.
I took all of his testing to another psychologist to interpret for me- someone who knows all of our schools well.
It turns out his written language scores were fine- some were a little low and some were above average. He only really had worrisome scores in math.
She told us he had every right to feel as he did and she supported his perception that he did not need these supports that are required in the special school.
We left it up to David. THis was after christmas break. David wanted to leave his school immediately and go to the public school. We let him do it. He started two weeks into his second semester- knowing no one- starting later than his peers-left a school of one hundred and entered a school of over 800. His history and english almost quadrupled class size.He had never been in a school this large in his entire life.
His special ed teachers at his old school actually told him he would fail. They told me he would never ever be able to function independently in a normal school. One teacher implied he was going to fail in front of all of his peers.
He passed all his classes this year. He really struggled a lot and needs help sometimes but I think it is because he was being trained to be passive in his study habits- he was dependent on systems the teachers provided.
He hates all schools currently but he likes his highschool enough to go every day and face difficult social and academic challenges.
He went back to get his yearbook at his special school this morning and spend the morning there with his old pals- last day book signing etc. They told me to bring him in in the morning when I asked several months ago.
When he got in there they told him he was not a student and not getting any yearbook. he was not going into any of the classes there either because he is no longer a student.
He called me and I went to get him. they agreed because of my force that he could come the last hour and a half of school.
Ya know what? the administration briskly brushed me off. They did not want him there. Ya know why? they didn’t want his peers to see him doing well. I believe that.
I went into his school last month to give a talk about my illustrations and show my work to the art classes. The teacher asked me not to talk about my relationship to David or why he left. She said they are losing too many students and they might get the idea they could go too.
She told me she is not really allowed to have any expectations for assignments in art from the kids because it is too much for them- they have so many academics to do that it wouldn’t be fair to expect this out of them.
So- My son is a blacksmith. He can make knives. He is working with making Damascus steel knives out of railroad spikes and bike chains. His knives are incredible and he has so much skill at forge welding that at 15 years old he assists and demonstrates at the Mass College of Art when his teacher goes there as a visiting artist.
My son rocks!
I wanted you to know- he is making it in a normal high school and he knew he needed to go there.
Parents- you gotta listen to your kids- no matter what age they are- they can guide you. Professionals only know so much but the best of them can be well meaning and one hundred percent wrong- they can also get invested in your kid failing and not doing as well as they really could- just know that.
Sorry so long but wanted to share this with you. We struggle a lot with David- his road has been really rough but he is such a shining star to me. He has no idea just how much I feel this no matter what I say but I am so proud of this guy.
For 39 years I struggled with dyslexia. Advanced in reading and spelling and yet there was no comprehension. Reading things 3, 4 and 5 times was normal. Back then there was no such thing as dyslexia. I was always labeled as ” not applying himself, needs to work harder, pay attention and focus, etc.” Little did they know that I was working harder than anyone else in that classroom. You can tell a student to focus, to concentrate, and all those other things until you’re blue in the face, but if they don’t have the tools to do that, you’re just wasting your breath. I found ways to cope and successfully get through all the confusion I was feeling. Dyslexics can be very crafty in extracting needed information from others. It wasn’t until later in life that I saw my niece and nephew going through the same difficulties and the remedy they found, did I see myself as dyslexic. The total transformation of those two kids from struggling students into self-confident learners showed me the way to the Davis Dyslexia Correction Program. It was a simple, natural method that gave them everything they needed to control their dyslexia. Since their success I have also gone through the program and it has affected my life so much that I changed my career path from a successful transportation executive to a facilitator in the Atlanta area for the Davis Dyslexia Association International in Burlingame, CA. Ron Davis’s books “The Gift of Dyslexia” and “The Gift of Learning” explain it all. It’s all about reactions to confusion caused by various sources, i.e. letters, numbers and symbols in literature, to name a few. I’m not much of writer but I just felt that this method deserves to be given a mention or at least a look-see in relation this great project you are working on.
I began school as a bright eyed blond boy ready to learn. I came home dejected. From kindergarten to second grade – with a stop of in a holding tank called Transition – I was passed along from teacher to teacher with little results. In second grade I had demanding teacher that after two weeks of hitting the brick wall of my brain decided there was something the matter with me sent to get me tested. Something was up with me but they weren’t sure what so the decided it was probably a speech problem. Right. I spent sometime with a speech pathologist to no avail – still couldn’t learn and to this day I find myself stuttering a bit. I guess this is when they decided I was dyslexic. The way the school dealt with this was to send me to special ed for a big chunk of my time every day. Here they slowed everything down so much that I really did feel stupid surrounded by a bunch of droolers. By the time the released me back into the class later that day not only was I behind I felt like I should be behind. Finally my parents gave up and sent me to Susan Santora’s. At first I hated it – 3 days a week of studying – but as things started to click it became like getting bike one piece at a time. Like any kid getting a bike one spoke at a time I was impatient and wanted more. I remember sitting down with books when I could barely read. I struggled through feigning understanding. But the more Susan helped me learn to compensate the quicker things came to me. By fifth grade I was one of the smarter kids in class. But reading and writing still lead duplicitous lives for me they both act as curse and savior, switching their role whenever they want. My brain is temperamental and even though I have learned to compensate with my disability I still can look at page – even a page I wrote- and be completely baffled. Other than that my dyslexia quieted its troublesome voice until high school. Trying to learn a foreign pushed restart on the whole shit show. I limped through a few semesters of French and Latin stopping once it got past the idiot stages. But when it came time to apply for colleges most top tier schools want at least three to four years of a foreign language. I thought I was fine, admissions counselors are suppose to look us disabled folks differently. I applied to University of North Carolina and was rejected only because I had not taken those requisite four years. After a year a University of Colorado I transferred and got tested at UNC to learn that I was supposedly unable to learn a foreign language in a classroom setting. Funny how that works.
As for writing I think I came to wanting to be a writer like a skinny kids gets muscles. These things meant so much the world around me and evaded me. So once I got my muscles I wanted to flaunt them. Plus my writing was different than everyone else’s because I had spent so much time battling inside my head that I had worked a lot of things and stumbled upon other things.
Hi, my name is Catherine and I am 16 years of age. As a child growing up i always had a hard time in school and understanding the information. I would study hours and hours for a test and think that i knew it all but when that day came to take the real deal i would always fail. i never seemed to pass a test no matter how hard i tryed at it. From 1st grade to 6th grade i would spend hours with a different tutors trying to get the help. No matter who i went to no change seemed to be made. I was getting so frustrated and would break down in tears because i would see all my friends who wouldn’t even try and pass with A’s and me who would try so hard staying up late studying and would fail. I never passed a history test with anything higher than a C-. I was lucky to get a C- but usually i would walk away with not only a sad face but a big fat D or F on my test. it made me feel so hurt inside that i almost wanted to give up. I would spend my weekends at home studying instead of going out with my friends and having a good time. I never thought that succeeding in life was possible. I always knew that something was wrong with me but just never quite understood what was wrong. In the 8th grade i was tested for dyslexia and soon found out the sure enough i was dyslexic. Hearing i was dyslexic wasnt the easiest thing to except. i just felt that i was so stupid and would never succeed. i never gave up but a few times i did come close. as time moved on i got into high school. My freshman year i wasnt doing so hot in English i had failed. The last grading period i some how was able to bring that F up to a C+. getting a C+ in English was amazing. all my life i had always failed and to see that i was capable of getting a C+ made me feel better inside, as time passed on i kept trying and trying and doing what ever it took to keep my grade(s). freshman year ended and sophomore year approached i just kepted trying and trying and trying. First garding period grades come out and i fond out that i ahve A’s and B’s! I even got an A in history. i never thought that, that day would come to see that i was really capable of making improvment. the feeling i got was so amazing. everyong around me was proud of my work. a few months later i find out that i am now on the honor roll. never in my life have i gotten all A’s and B’s and definately never on the honor roll. as of today i stand with such confidence and waiting for my junior year to come. It took 7 years to find out what was wrong and 7 years for the confidence in me to come out completely. i never thought that i would experience a day like a do today.
From Cheryl and Kelsey
When I read this page I smiled and cried! I am soooo excited! I can not wait to see this with
My 10 year old daughter, Kelsey. Just last month while working on a book report
(torture for the whole family to be sure) she turned to me and said, “Mom, sometimes having dyslexia just sucks…”
I agreed with her, we hugged and kept working :
We use humor to keep going, to get through the hard days and as a way to laugh-mostly at ourselves.
Like the day we drove past our public library and she asked me what is a pubic liberty? :
Smiles and Tears! We can’t wait to watch!
A million thank yous to you and your crew!
We are very interested in your movie. Both my wife and son are
dyslexic. My wife, Clementine, born and raised in France, had great
difficulties throughout her early education due to reasons that no
one could diagnose dyslexia early on. The local French educational
system at the time had considered putting my wife into programs
designed for the seriously mentally handicapped. Nevertheless, my
wife had eventually left school at age 14, and has been virtually
independent ever since. I would like to add that my wife is one of
the most brilliant people — with enormous human insight — that I
have ever known. She has definitely opened my mind, as well as
having changed my life with her perspective.
Our son, Marco, just turned nine years old, and is in the third
grade. Marco was diagnosed with dyslexia about a year and a half
ago. By way of my wife’s suspicions of Marco’s potential dyslexia,
we researched the internet and found a private tutor — who
specializes in teaching dyslexic children — close to our home. Her
name is Heather Schultz, and she holds a Masters Degree in Special
Education. Her approach to remediating dyslexia is through a
technique as founded by Orton Gillingham.
The great misfortune about Marco’s circumstance is mainly an issue
with our public school system. Public education literally does not
recognize dyslexia as a learning disorder. Our local elementary
school had offered to put Marco into a program primarily designed for
children with ADHD. However, that is like putting a child with
hearing disorders into a program for quadriplegics. The school
system’s paranoia of legal culpability has virtually made their
stance with our child as one of total non commitment.
For our son’s sake, we have selected to keep him in the conventional
third grade program as to circumvent additional issues of self
consciousness, and lack of self esteem. Our son, however, is a
wonderful child — well aware of his dyslexia — who is coping, so
far, quite well. Marco’s remedial training with his dyslexic teacher
has proven to have yielded remarkable results with his ability to
read and write. Moreover, Marco — like his mother — is an
incredibly intuitive child who shares an acute insight into human
behavior. He has actually guided me with his wisdom and advise of
countless occasions, and I am almost fifty years old.
The sad thing is that public education has not included this type of
desperately needed special education within their scope of helping
children who are in dire need. Furthermore, how many children with
dyslexia are struggling through school, being put into insignificant
programs that are not designed to help them?
We look forward to seeing the final results of your project. In
fact, about 19 years ago, I was invited to the U.S.C. film school
film festival. One of the student films was a full length
documentary on dyslexia. I was overwhelmed with what I had
discovered. I can only hope that your project may promulgate public
awareness of this condition. If we may be of any help, please don’t
hesitate to contact us.
I’d also like to add that the book “Overcoming Dyslexia” by Sally Shaywitz could be a very good source of information for both educators as well as families encountering dyslexia.
Best of success with all your endeavors.
I am a 15 year old at Loyola Academy who was just diagnosied with dislecksia. I also thought it was spelled that way. I have been told that I as well am funny, although sometimes I don’t think it’s ture others say it is. I keep busy by acting. I have to say though, I hate read throughs, and cold readings becuase it is the first time I have seen that material and I am always afraid that I will mess up. One time I was in “The Best Christmas Pagent Ever” and I played Imagine Herdman, at a theatre company just outside of Chicago. It was a good thing that “she” didn’t know much about Jesus and what happened on Christmas becuase during the read through I said Herold instead of Herod. I didn’t know what happened until everyone was laughing and the director said to keep it becuase it when well with the character. I kept it and while on stage it always got a laugh.
I have to say, fortunatly I have never been made fun of. My friends all joke with me but I just laugh with them, I am glad that I finially found out what my problem was.
Good luck with your documentary and if you ever need an actress, you can always email me. I am always looking for more work.
I read on your website that you are gathering life stories of people with Dyslexia. I am a dyslexia mother of a dyslexic son. Over the past few years I have been working very hard getting him the help I never got. It has brought back a lot of memories and in talking about them I realize how different my life has been from most other people and the reason is due to my dyslexia.
I am from a large Irish Catholic family in NY. When I was young I wrote my name, along side my sisters and brothers names, on the bottom of the coffee table. My mother found out and was mad at all of us but only for a second, until she saw that I wrote her name backwards and she started to laugh. I didn’t see why my name was so funny and when I realized it was different I became very embarrassed. That incident started my nickname YRAM which still haunts me even today when my brothers use it.
In elementary Catholic school my second grade teacher told me that using my left hand was the sign of the devil and forced me to write with my right hand. I got my first F in penmanship that year. I was a shy and distant child always afraid I’d be “found out”. I knew I was different, maybe stupid but I didn’t feel stupid, but I knew I was different. My spelling was always bad. My father’s cousin used to correct my thank you notes. “That was so cute calling me Cuzin Peg”. Starting in 5th grade I would go to the nurse every day during reading to avoid having to read out loud. If I had to read out loud I would count the paragraphs to see which was going to be mine and I would stop paying attention just to practice the one I would have to say. I was so anxious I would sweat. I remember the time we were playing spelling bee baseball and the bases were loaded and I was up with two outs. Everyone was screaming that they knew I would misspell the word and sure enough I did – surprise I spelled it with a Z and if not for the spell check on this computer I would still have misspelled it.
I put a lot of effort into my studies but never could get the straight A’s my other sisters got. I’ll never forget in Spanish class the teacher tried to bribe me not to take the regent exam because she knew I would fail and it would reflect poorly on her. I did manage to get into college and told my family I wanted to be a forest ranger – another big joke in the family. I wound up taking Chemistry and switched to Geology. No one in my family even knew what the subject was no less what you do with that degree. I wound up getting a job in the oil industry and have worked here successfully for over 25 years. I am good at visualization and to be a petroleum geologist you have to be able to visualize 2-3 miles inside the earth in three dimensions. I put together million dollar drilling deal and supervise dozens of contractors. Along the way I have met a large community of dyslexic geologists like myself who only realized they had dyslexia because of the research they have done on trying to help their own struggling children.
I can also see the differences in my child with dyslexia. Although he does not get the best grades of the class he can really master a subject that is of interest to him. He is very interested in science and in history. He loves to watch historical fiction movies and listen to family history very intensely. If he is helped getting started, he can write a good research project but he has a lot of difficulty organizing his thoughts. That comes with practice as I now know. He is great at sports and can play any song on his guitar if he hears it once. He will play music for anyone that asks but will not read out loud even when it is a cereal box. He is very discouraged at school and I worry that his defeatist attitude will be his worst enemy in life. We are currently seeking counseling outside of school for this secondary consequence. He is very popular and the other children look to him to lead which may prove to be his best strength if he can find the confidence to augment it.
I hope that you highlight Sally Shawitz in your film. Her book “Overcoming Dyslexia” rang so true to my experience and it was inspiring to learn about her research and her advances in therapy.
I just wanted to make contact and find out when the film will be completed. I am a mother of 4 (18 yrs 16yrs 14 yrs and 12 yrs) dyslexic children (in varying degrees) and the wife of another.
We have tried (unsuccessfully) to put submissions forward to the NX govt and education system to have things changed here in schools (according to NZ schools Dyslexia does not exist and one should not put labels on children anyway).
I will attach my husband’s CV as despite his dyslexia and foreign language he is now sat Medical Exams in 3 different countries in the world (Germany, New Zealand and Australia)
Please keep us informed of your progress and debut.
I grew up in a beautiful small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, called Ironwood.
I have two loving parents , and a caring sister who is 13 months older than me.
I grew up in a time and town before Learning differences were detected,nor to my knowledge even known about. I was in regular classrooms from the start. I realized I wasn’t as bright as other students in my classes early on.
The first time I realized the lack of skills I had was the 1st grade. I remember there was a large chart posted with each Childs name on the Front Blackboard (a reward system) each time a student read a book and wrote a short index report card we would get a star. I remember my stars were few and far in between, I remember wishing I could reach the goal to the end like my classmates and wished for more of those beautiful gold stars, but I think I got maybe 2 or 3. I had to clap and be excited each time others would reach the end and see the excitement on their faces of reaching the end goal. But deep inside I wanted to be the same.
Second grade wasn’t much better. I was told by my teacher “I was a Day Dreamer” and to stop “daydreaming” She believed if I could stay focus and on track I wouldn’t have the learning problems I did “I just needed to stop “daydreaming”, but, daydreaming for me was an escape from the pain of knowing I didn’t get it and I wasn’t able to keep up with my friends-I didn’t get it. I wasn’t like everyone else. I would dream about all the wonderful things I could do & all the beautiful places I would see someday when I grew up. I even dreamed someday I would join the Peace Corps. I was a “daydreamer” it was my escape.
I was sent to summer school after second grade and it took the whole summer to teach me how to tell time-I was sincerely happy I could finally tell time.
In 3rd grade times tables came up and I remember my mom bought me a ruler that would allow me to calculate times questions (I don’t think she was aware of this). It would be the first time I “cheated” just to keep up with my friends. It was embarrassing and shameful, but I did not want to be called “stupid”
4th & 5th grade were a blur. More of the same. I always felt lucky when I had a teacher that was nice, and let me pass just because they liked me, even though I probably didn’t have the skills to keep up with the rest. I do remember my parents especially my dad tried to help me, but I felt I couldn’t understand and I did give up easily. I hated disappointing them. So I just tried to do it on my own, so they didn’t have to deal with my frustration, and I didn’t have to see them work so hard at trying to explain something I knew I couldn’t understand. We probably both were frustrated during the process.
But by 6th grade I started getting migraines. I now realize I was working so hard to keep an average c to c- grade level just to pass that the pressure gave me migraines. They continued until adulthood.
In our small town 7-12th grades were combined. I was trying to find my place. My social skills were severely lacking, I specifically remember our Assn’t Principle pulling me into his office every week and asking me to look at him he said before I graduated that was his goal. My self esteem was so low I had no eye contact. My grades were sketchy at best-and I am so embarrassed and ashamed to admit I did cheat, it was humiliating, and degrading, but I was afraid and didn’t want to get less than a c- so I could pass to the next grade.
However, I was talented in music and was accepted into the 9-12th grade advance choral group when I was in 7th grade. I excelled in music. It was my lifeline at that time and was probably the only reason I passed thru high school. I took every choral class I possibly could and I would get A’s. Although I couldn’t read music, I would memorize every note and sound and the rythm came easy for me, it was part of my gift.
I had always dreamed many dreams but in a school setting that didn’t understand my learning style they were continually beaten down. I remember my typing teacher tell me after he was so frustrated I couldn’t keep up with the class (he thought I was making ajoke out of class by being so slow) He said. “Mrs. Nasi (my maiden name) if you continue this you will not amount to anything in life, and I was sent into the hall” I was so emmbarrassed as it was said in front of all my classmates.
My parents never pressured me they accepted me the way I was. I am so thankful they didn’t put pressure on me to succeed in school, like my sister did. I was different, but, I still wanted them to be proud of me too.
Finally, I graduated from High school. I had nightmares I couldn’t make, and without the help of caring kindhearted friends/classmates who I will never forget they helped me pass my classes. With out them who know where I’d be? They were my saviors who saw the face of a struggling student and I know I would never have made it thru with out them. To this day, I will always remember their kindness, and compassion. They would laugh with me at my idiosyncrasies, but also they also saw the pain and fear I had, and that I wanted to pass so badly.
And Yes I did pass. I did graduate high school with my peers and it was a wonderful experience to finally be done.
I did not attend college, after so much struggle and having to rely on so many people, I knew I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t use the money my parents worked so hard for to waste it. The thought I has was “what if I can’t make it and my parents would loose out soo much.”?
So, as I was looking thru the average teen magazines I saw an add in the very back of the magazine for a special school called Patricia Stevens Finishing and Career College an assoc degree I could get in 1 year. I knew I could make this work.
I also knew I needed the social skills and self esteem it would give me, it would help polish my image and at the same time I would get a fashion merchandising certificate. I took the magazine to my parents and said this is what I want to do. I think my dad was perplexed and worried-I mean it came from the back of a teen magazine-but I think deep down they worried about my future, but they supported me and off I went.
To Milwaukee, Wisconsin an all girls very strict dormitory school with curfews, dress codes, and phone time limits. Oddly enough I loved it, I knew I could make it work. Loved the organization, I learned to speak, communicate effectively, and to be professional. I also realized that I would do well in business with these skills. I worked part time while in school and found that the “real world” work environment was so much easier than school for me. I was excited to see that others saw I had talent and people respected my abilities. I quickly was recruited from sales to Mgmt when I was just turning 18. I found out quickly that others saw potential in me and I was just yet discovering it in myself.
I would work extra hard and would spend and hour or two extra trying to balance the days cash receipts/registers-it wasn’t easy, but I did it…but, because my school had a curfew and I stayed too late at my job balancing the registers one time I got a curfew adjustment and was told I needed to be in by 9 instead of the regular 10pm time I had broken curfew to balance registers… It was hard but I made it thru.
I moved to on to Los Angeles Ca, eventually became Assent Human Resource Director of Macys in Century City. All this with out a degree and keep in mind all this with very limited spelling, math, writing, and organizational skills. This was before spell check was invented. I was in charge of schedules/payroll/hiring/firing/benefits, and all over company moral. I loved the human interaction but the paperwork was very difficult. But I did it and rose above my learning difference, although I wonder if I did have appropriate help that things would have been much easier.
I did get married in LA had a beautiful son all when I was 26 and was as happy as can be.
We had moved to Maryland, when our son started school. I had all hopes and aspirations for him as any parent. But deep inside remembering my struggle I purposely put him in a small class size private school in Potomac, Maryland. I thought all he would need is smaller classes that had a caring staff. It was the beginning of understanding what a LD was. By my son’s first grade the “Learning Specialist” took me to the side very quietly, it was kind of frightening, and she said “I think Jeremiah has a Learning Disability”. I had never heard of such a thing. So, I wanted to her to explain to me what that meant, and was he OK? The word disability took me back a bit. I asked the learning specialist what I needed to do. She handed me the number of a leading neurophysiologist in the DC area. I quickly made the appnt and realized it was 2700.00 dollars, testing for one day, but I wanted to help my son. So we brought our son to this specialist, and after all the laboring tests my son had to take the Nuerophycologist calmly explained to my husband and I our son was “Classic Dyslexic” I did not know what this was and he explained it to me it was a learning disability that had nothing to do with intelligence. I cried “not tears of sadness but tears of joy” that through all along my struggles. I really had the potential inside of me, and now I knew how to help my son.
It was a struggle for our famliy to agree on public or prviate school since the cost was very large, my husband wanted to try public first and we did, but after 2 years our son was sinking, and I just could stand to see it he begged me to homeschool him, it ws frightning becuase I knew I barely got by, but, he was slowley falling apart, and I couldn’t let that happen to him. So after homeschooling for about 2 months and rebuilding his self esteem, I reintroduced the idea of school again and researched the closest dyselxic specific school in our area which happened to be 1 hour drive. Of course Jeremiah was so apprehensive after his previuos experience, he cried and begged me not to take him in he even said “If you love me you will not make me go in there” That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I comprimised and said he could go just to try it out for 1/2 the day, I will be near by come back at lucnh and if he didn’t want to go back he would have that choice. And to my surpirse I got their at lunch with a pit in my stomach, and he said smiling “Mom can I stay for the rest of the day”? I said “Sure” walked away until he couldn’t see me anymore and cried.
The school my son attends is the Friendship School in Eldersburg, MD a school for dyslexic children. It has saved his self esteem and has help him beyond words I can describe. He can read, write, spell, and do math that I could have only dreamed of at his age. He has goals & dreams, and he will now he can do what he sets his mind to, and I will be beside him cheering him on all the way. It is a struggle to pay for the large tuitions these special schools have to charge for such individual tutoring and training, but what choice do we have.
Now as a grown woman age 38, I look back at my “Day Dreaming” and I realize there are a lot of chidlren right here who have “Dreams”, I want to try to reach out to as many children with learning differences to let them know they have a gift, and to realize their dreams are important and that they can reach any goal they set their mind too. Most importantly to teach them to be compassionate thru their journey.. That their lives and words may help someone else along the road.
In Conclusion, I will do whatever it takes and use the gifts and talents I been given to ensure that all children with learning differences see they have a “Gift” and with proper support they can have there dreams and still have writting, reading, spelling, organizational, and math skills too. Which make life a lot easier.
I hope to educate government officials, educators, and parents to recognize the “Dreams” of these children and their gifts and to make sure their beautiful minds are cherished and built up.
I serve as President of Dyslexic Dreams Foundation www.DyslexicDreams.org
I am on the School Board at Friendship (It was very emotional for me when I was asked and I I was so very honored) me-on a board of education? It was only in my “Dreams”
I own and manage (by myself) a rental property on Hilton Head Island, SC.
I still drive my son 1 hour each way, to school everyday.
And, I still “dream” I dream of ways to make more out of myself, of others, and the beautiful children I get to see each day.
Always Remember to Dream
(It’s What Dyslexics Do Best)
The Knights Gift
My Name is Jeremiah I am 9 years old and I am a knight. Not just any Knight but a very smart, creative, curious, masterful Knight. No two knights think alike, but, expecailly me,
Because I have a gift. I have the gift of Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning difference. I have been able to master many skills faster than the average Knight because of this gift of mine. Swordfighting, Dragonslaying, Jousting, Chief Protector of the King all come so easy for me because of my gift. I know how to think quickly on my feet. Because I have this gift, my mind works so hard on these other things sometimes other areas take a little longer to work att like Dyslexia also has it’s challenges too for instance reading, writing, and spelling do not come easy for me. When I had to train to be a Knight the book work was very very hard, but like any great and courageous Knight I didn’t give up, and kept at it.
Let me tell you a little bit about how I used my gift to overcome and fight battles that you and I both share.
Sometimes I would fight the Dragon of Backword letters, b and d are very hard so are p and q. They look so much a like to me. And with e, practice and patience I will overcome this Dragon. When I face this dragon, I use my determination, I know I will get it someday.
Sometimes I need to fight the Dragon or Dragons of teasing. For this I use my shield, because I know I am a worthy and honorable knight. And the dragons that are teasing me are really hurting themselves. For this I use my insight to know those kights need to learn more about being honorable.
Sometimes I fight the Dragon of spelling. This one is a tricky one, at times another honorable and worthy Knight will help me.
Sometimes I fight the Dragon of forgetfulness. This one is the most annoying. For this I use my sense of humor, try not to take myself too serious….
Sometimes I fight the Dragon of writing, for this I use my creativily to think up stories and get it onto paper I will worry about the spelling later. But for now I can think up fantastic stories. Who knows maybe I’ll be a famous writer someday? Imagination
Sometimes I will fight the Dragon of Math. For this I use the super pwer of persistence and I won’t give up, I also use my insight to know I will get it someday J
Sometimes other Knights need a little help with a project they are working on, and because I fight so many battles each day I have enough patience and understanding to give them a hand. It is important to be an honorable and worthy Knight.
Since Desmond’s (Desi’s) birth on September 20, 1994, I have played an active roll in his education. As of first grade Desi’s IQ has not matched up with his grade level and he has been having difficulties in school despite working harder than the average student, extra tutoring, summer school, and special programs such as Brain Gym and Davis Dyslexia Correction Training. Desi has recently tested at working at 3-4 grade levels below his actual grade level, 7th grade. Now at twelve years and nine months of age, I have a clear understanding of how Desi thinks and learns. It was not until Desi was in 5th grade that Desi was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia. In 6th grade Desi was really reaching the end of his limits in trying hard in school, and not having success. At that time I hired a special education lawyer. We found the Gow School for dyslexic boys and Desi applied in April, 2007. In September 2007, Desi started at the Gow School and for the first time in 8 years is enjoying academic success.
Educational Background Information:
Desmond has attended schools in upstate, New York since he was three years of age in 1997. He attended a preschool at age three and four. He was then enrolled in the Elementary School at age five and attended kindergarten. He continued onto first grade, and was retained for another year of first grade. Desi attended second and third grade at Elementary School. At the end of third grade, the Committee for Special Education labeled Desi “Learning Disabled in Basic Reading Skills and Written expression. Starting in fourth grade, Desmond was enrolled in the B School.
The B School is a Montessori School system within the confines of the school district. Desmond attended the B School in fourth grade, fifth grade and most of the sixth grade. Desmond wanted to return to the Elementary school in the middle of fourth grade because he missed his friends, but did not transfer back as the Principal, advised via phone that “Desmond would receive more one-on-one support at the B than the elementary school could provide.” At the beginning of fifth grade, Desmond started off the first few days at the elementary school, but felt overwhelmed, was extremely intimidated of the pace that other student’s were working, and “shut down.” Desmond returned to the B School for the remainder of fifth grade. In December 2005 Desmond was diagnosed for the first time with dyslexia.
In August, 2005, Desmond again, desired to return to the Elementary School. I was also in favor as it was an economic burden for me to pay for the B School. It was decided at the Special Education meeting in August 2005, that Desmond would remain labeled as learning disabled and follow the same IEP that was written for him at the end of third grade. No testing was done in August to assess his current skills. The Committee on Special Education never visited Desi in the B School, nor did they make observations of him at work there. Other assumptions based on what the B School reported on his report card were placed in the IEP, but none were based on true assessments, tests or data that were current at that time. In fact, Desmond had slipped even further behind in skills as the average fifth grader, but this would not be discovered until he was immersed back into the Elementary School.
Desmond did start fifth grade at the Elementary School but he only lasted there three days. He felt overwhelmed by the work load and the pace that the students were moving. He could not copy information off of the board as fast as the other students, and he reported that the aids were doing all of his work. He was upset that it did not work out at the Elementary School and conceded to return to the B School for the remainder of 5th grade. He also attended the B School for most of 6th grade.
In October of 2006, I started having meetings with the School system and their committee on Special Education again with the intentions of getting Desi back to the Middle School in 6th grade or no later than the start of 7th grade. I requested information on what specific and scientifically proven methods using Orton-Gillingham ideologies and programs the School was using to aid students with dyslexia. Thee Director of Special Education Services could not come up with any programs in place at that time. but agreed to train two teachers in a scientifically proven method to teach reading skills to dyslexic students. That training was to occur in February, 2007 for the Wilson Reading Method.
Desmond started back at the Middle School in sixth grade as of January 2007. Desmond was anxious to be back with his friends at School. The special reading program would begin for Desmond in February 2007. Desmond’s teacher, Mrs. W and I were very apprehensive to place Desmond back in the Middle School. We were afraid that they would not be sensitive to his needs, and his writing and math skills were very low. I advised that “Teachers should be aware and sensitive to Desi’s stress levels in order to prevent him from shutting down.” This was even placed in his current IEP. After one month of school at the Middle School, Desmond felt overwhelmed again by the workload and the pace the other students were moving. His self-esteem was falling low. An incident over dice caused Desi to “shut down,” and simultaneously the special reading program was postponed indefinitely.
Desi returned to the B School for most of the remainder of the sixth grade. He began extensive testing with psychologists and other educational evaluators. The last few weeks of school Desmond was home schooled due to economic reasons in paying for the B School tuition. With no solutions in sight coming from the School system in educating Desmond, I looked for other institutions that may meet his educational needs. Desmond applied to the Gow School for dyslexic boys and was accepted to the school in April 2007.
Factors Leading to Academic Stress and Psychological Issues:
Desmond was born on September 20, 1994 in Ankara, Turkey. He was an 8 lb., 21 inch long, healthy baby, born after a full term pregnancy with no complications. Desi was a happy infant and toddler. Desi enjoyed being read to as an infant and toddler. When Desi was 3 years and 11 months old his parents divorced. Desi was happy and successful making friends in preschool, and kindergarten. Desmond’s kindergarten report card stated, “Desmond has mastered nearly all of his upper case letters and about half of the lower case. Desmond is a wonderful little boy. The growth he has made this year is phenomenal.” Desi was beginning to attempt to write words on his own. The summer after his kindergarten year, I worked through the ‘Hooked on Phonics Program’ with him. Desi was beginning to read.
In first grade when Desi was six years old, he developed anxiety about going to school. He did not want to separate from me in the hallway at the school. I was forbidden to walk near the classroom. Desi cried at night about school. Desi would not eat full meals. His appetite diminished and he became very thin and pale. He was frequently late, absent, or left early from school. Academic problems began to surface quickly at the beginning of the year. By January, 2001, Desi’s reading teacher noted: “During a recent literary screening, Desi was able to name about 16 of his 26 letters of the alphabet correctly. He missed or did not know q, r, u, f, k, t, y and confused b/d and j/l… When he read the word ‘and” he was stressed to try to wrack his brain to come up with the proper name of this word (which happens to an automatic sight word for most first graders at this point.)… Desi is still confused by print. His literacy abilities, at this point, are more indicative of a beginning to middle year kindergarten student that a first grader. He is overwhelmed by his current grade placement. The frustration from this situation is evident in his emotional and physical state, despite the fact that his academic programs have been amended in an attempt to meet his needs.”
This reading specialist could not recognize that Desi was showing clear signs of dyslexia at his point in time. The confusions with getting letters b/d and j/i are a classic clue that dyslexia may be present. And the word “and” although an automatic sight word for a non-dyslexic, is actually a common “trigger word” for a dyslexic who causes confusion and disorientation. Ronald Davis, author of the Gift of Dyslexia (Copyright 1994) states that since a dyslexic person perceives information multi-dimensionally, a common word such as “and” cannot be given a “mental image of what the word represent,” like a “tree” and so the mind goes into disorientation. “Disorientation is the natural function of a normal brain. It occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the different senses and attempts to correlate the information.” The reading teacher was frustrated in teaching Desi which even added to Desi’s levels of disorientation. She never stopped to think that perhaps an alternative way of teaching may best meet Desi’s ways of learning. Ronal Davis teaches through his Davis Dyslexia Correction methods ways to make the word “and” a permanent three dimensional image in a dyslexic’s mind.
The first grade school year with Desmond never got better. Attendance was blamed for his poor progress. During the month of February we considered placing Desmond back in kindergarten, but the school psychologist did not agree with this decision and felt that the problem was not due to Desi but should be placed on the school. Because no changes were made in the way the teachers were teaching Desi, there were no changes in his behaviors either at school. The reading teacher reported on June 2001, “One of the most distressing problems that Desi seems to have is his nervousness and insecurity when being asked to complete certain academic tasks such as reading and writing. Recently, while he was in the Reading Lab for our “Can Do Detective Club,” Desi was biting his wrists and sucking his thumb. These are behaviors that we have never witnessed before. To address some of his emotional issues, he should probably receive some sort of counseling.” The school environment was stressing out Desi more than ever at this point in time.
The reading teacher blamed Desi’s behavior on him, or me, but never her. The first grade teacher stated in a meeting in May that other children were going for additional emotional help, but Desi needed so much that he could not attend those sessions. She was also quoted by the elementary school principal for providing Desi will extra help and accommodations. But these were never explained to me when I asked what they were. The reading teachers were all uninformed, unqualified teachers. The National Institutes of Health have estimated that 15% of the population may be dyslexic. Why was further testing not done at this point in time to determine Desi’s difficulties with the English written language? How could these teachers who had been teaching for years are so incapable of looking beyond there traditional teaching and not explore different avenues of instruction? This was not the time to blame a child’s performance on anyone until further testing was done to completely identify the issue. Sally Shaywitz, M.D., in her book Overcoming Dyslexia states:
Desmond’s first year ended with a very disturbing comment on his report card. The first grade teacher wrote in June 2001, “It saddens me to see a child apparently unable to learn. Desi has made minimal progress this year. Given excessive absences and emotional turmoil, I cannot recommend strongly enough that some testing/counseling be sought. He is an affectionate child and very sweet but he needs some help beyond the classroom. I regret that I am unable to promote Desi to 2nd grade.” Unfortunately, I agreed to their recommendation and allowed them to hold Desi back for another year. Now that I am better informed I understand that that was a bad choice. The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Dyslexia, by Abigail Marshall, states that “grade retention is almost never a good idea for a child with dyslexic, as the possible negative consequences far outweigh the benefits. Dyslexia is not something that can be outgrown or cured waiting for a child to mature; repeating the same curriculum a second time around with not help your child improve his basic skills. Retention is far more likely to hurt your child than help him; this is especially true in the early elementary years. Dozens of research studies conducted over 25 years show that students who are retained because they performed poorly usually fall even further behind over time.” (p. 176)
Because the Elementary School did not realize that Desi was dyslexic and seek instruction that works for dyslexics; Desi in essence wasted a year of his time being educated again in the same manner as the previous year. And on top of that, he lost friends that he had known since he was three years of age who were promoted on without him. To this day, he still missed those friends, and seeks to play with them still. Also, Desi’s self-esteem went down after he was held back. The Special Education committee made a poor recommendation for my child, and again did not seek alternative ways to teach.
I wrote a series of letter to the principal about my dissatisfaction with the first grade teacher throughout the year, and her unprofessional comment on the report card. The principal defended the first grade teacher for doing a good job. She stated there would be a meeting with the three of us, but never did schedule one. Many of questions of mine were left unresolved and unanswered. In a recent note, the principal stated she wanted to see attendance improve. Attendance improved to the point where Desi was not absent one day in 3rd grade, but with hard work and determination his reading and writing skills did not get up to grade level. Desi’s 3rd grade teacher reported, “Desi comes in each day smiling and ready to go.”
Desi attended the B School in the 5th grade. His teacher Mrs. W insisted that Desi concentrate on reading instruction. Desi was reading up to 3 ½ hours at school per day, including one hour working along with a reading specialist, Amanda. This was a very positive year for Desi with growth in his reading skills. The B School did try their best to help Desi succeed in school, although they were not versed in multi-sensory techniques. And thankfully, they did not damage his self-esteem. Desi started the 6th grade at the B School, but I knew I would have to transfer him back to the CCS, as B ends in 6th grade…
A Special Education meeting was scheduled in October to start to get program that would meet Desi’s dyslexic needs. I gave a letter stating the type of multi-sensory, research based teaching techniques I was interested in. Mrs.W attended the meetings with me as she was very concerned about Desi. I poured out my heart and soul and explained all that Desi had endured in schools, the hard work he had been putting forth, yet he still remained behind his classmates. I felt like the director of special education was listening and really concerned. She was certain that the remedial reading program that the reading teachers followed for the University of Albany would meet Desi’s needs. But I insisted it would not, as I have a Masters in the same program, and worked extensively with Desi daily without getting the results that I should have attained.
The next meeting in November 2006, the director of special education, agreed that the University of Albany Reading Program was not scientifically proven to work for dyslexics. She agreed to visit a teacher in the Albany area that was using the Wilson Reading method with success, and announced that two reading teachers would be trained in the Wilson Reading Method in February, 2007. The reading teachers were actually telling me under their breath to keep on fighting. They were obviously so frustrated not having the right teaching methods to meet the special needs of some kids.
The special education director and the other remedial teachers urged Desi to come back to the School District. They told him his friends missed him, and he needed to be back. Desi wanted to be back so badly. He felt isolated going on the little bus that met him at the Elementary School each day, as his friends walked into the school. Some kids teased him for going to the B School. Others called him “stupid” for going there because it is known for being a pre-school. Desi agreed to start back at the Middle School in January 2007. He transferred to the school charged up and ready to go. He learned quickly how far behind he was from the other students. He found that the Resource Room personnel did not have time to teach him, but instead just rushed him through homework assignment to get the done. In math, the teacher realized he was not up to level, but would not take time to help him. She just wanted him out of her class. A resource room aid frequently made Desi feel badly about learning. On January 30, 2007 I emailed, the Middle School guidance counselor and reported that Desi was upset due to:
“Mrs. M yelled at John because he did his homework on the opposite side of the paper.”
“Desi also said she is negative and keeps on telling the kids, “You are in 6th grade. You should know this by now.”
I asked the middle school guidance counselor, “If someone could gently tell her that the kids feels bad enough that they have to go to the resource room, and that comments like that do not help, I’d really appreciate that. Yes, they are in 6th grade and still struggling, that’s why they have her to help them out, not make them feel badly.”
I reported the same common incidences to the director of special education, who responded to me in a phone conversation, “She is only an aide.”
February 6, 2007
Email sent to middle school guidance counselor:
“More on Mrs. M. I get a story every night from Desi. I don’t want to sound like a rat. I am keeping notes on these stories. Desi is a very sensitive boy. Yesterday something happened with John that made him cry. This made Desi very sad again. I fear that being with Mrs. M is not a positive learning environment for Desi. Also, yesterday Desi told me, “Ben and I are the dumbest kids in 6th grade.” I want Desi to feel positive about learning, not horrible.”
February 27, 2007
Email to middle school guidance counselor:
“Desi is very distraught about an incident that occurred in school, and stressed over his ability to handle the work load. He is having a melt down and so am I and I really don’t know what to do right now or how to handle this.”
(This was mailed after the ‘dice’ incident. I never got a call or message back. The school’s computer had many problems this last winter.)
Basically, that was the end of public school for my child, Desi. Instead of school being a fun, safe place to learn, it was a nightmare since first grade. The school just kept on playing games with us to make us believe that he was getting the best education. They insisted on keeping blinders to problems and not addressing them. They really did not care if a child failed or continued to go through school not learning how to read.
If you know that the school is not working for your child, you must be your child’s advocate. Insist on further testing until you discover what is really going on. In May, 2007 Desi was tested by a PhD, in Education in an Independent Educational Evaluation. It was discovered that Desmond was double-deficit dyslexic. It was getting late for the school to come up with a program now that Desmond was entering 7th grade. I had to avoid Desi going through further psychological trauma. I opted to find placement elsewhere and fight the school system. It is worth is already to see Desi have success for the first time in him life at school at the Gow School. The battle has not yet ended, and I do not know what the outcome will be, but I do not regret being proactive for my son and his best interest in education.
I heard about your film some time ago last year. I have been waiting eagerly ever since to watch it. You see, not only am I a film maker too, but I am also dyslexic myself. My story is rather complicated; I was born and raised in Lebanon…. during the civil war. my first few years of elementary schooling took place at the German school. it was obvious that I was struggling even back then. I seemed bright and smart and very much like a sponge when it came to learning new things. However, my spelling and my hand writing where atrocious, not to mention my math skills at that point. It was my 1st grade teacher who back in the early 80s suggested to my mother that I may have dyslexia. However, trying to find adequate support and counselling in the middle of a crippling and bloody civil war, was an exercise in futility…. also Lebanon was lagging behind at the time; parents were unwilling to accept that there might be something “wrong” with their childe… especially when it came to “mental conditions”… even though my mother was concerned and wanted to know more and find a way to help me, the tools were not available. And my dad could not be bothered at that time… “There is nothing wrong with him… He is just lazy…. all he needs is a little push and incentive”… Often the little push and incentive basically meant sever beatings for my failings… I find it ridiculously hilarious that people never clue in that their method simply does not work. I am sure my dad meant well and that he was only mimicking what most parents do or did at that time… it has more to do with what he was exposed to during his time as a student (education systems where much more sever in the past.. you know.. that whole “spare the rod spoil the child” adage. I am sure he thought he was doing the right thing but honestly it hurt me and made me regress even further.
A couple of years later my parents decided to transplant me from a German school to an American school. I had to take an entrance exam.. In English… everyone thought I would not do well, but it was expected of someone whose native tong was Arabic and whose education was in German and whose family spoke French, Armenian and Russian most of the time, to not do so great.
To everyone’s surprise, I passed the entrance exam adequately enough and demonstrated that I could read English… barley… but I could read it… what everyone else did not know is that my exposure to a certain English animation program supplied by my grandmother’s South African missionary neighbours helped me tremendously to learn the language… my grandmother, being a teacher of English herself, took it upon herself to translate some of these programs to me as we watched them.. And thus I learned how to comprehend English… At the American school, still during war time, I struggled tremendously… I would do good in one subject and then crash in another.. I picked up my grades in the subjects that I was not doing so well in, and then the ones in which I was doing well started to drop. it was hell. Finally the war was over and I got to high school… still struggling to keep up with the class.. At that time I thought it was normal for everyone to pick on me… heck.. I was picked on in kindergarten.. And the fact that my father used to beat me up for stupid reasons, like not being able to cut in a straight line to say the least, probably made me accept the fact that I was different.. and that it was normal for people to pick on me… including teachers. I was called anything from stupid to lazy and retard.
Year after year I barley passed my classes and always had to take remedial classes and summer school and private tutoring… but none of these methods worked… I did not improve… I did not advance… And the beatings and punishments got worse… Then something wonderful happened. at age 16, my favourite English teacher came across my History teacher and me in the corridors and noticed that my history teacher was berating me for my poor spelling and grammar. She stopped him and said he should not be doing that to me since I am dyslexic. “erm.. what is dyslexic?” I asked. “You mean you do not know?” she asked. I shook my head. She took me to the school consoler and I was assessed and diagnosed with dyslexia. My life changed ever since.
Suddenly my grades went up. I had more respect from my pears that had made fun of all those years. And I graduated from high school. I did not achieve high grades, but because of my multiple endeavours at school; starting the astronomy club, organizing earth day, my involvement with the drama and journalism clubs, starting the environment club and my extensive community service efforts and much more… I was given a honorary send off; I was presented with an award for all the things I had done. To everyone’s surprise (mostly my dad’s surprise) I was accepted to university. I chose filmmaking as my subject of study and I could not have been happier… of course.. my dad chose that moment to abandon us and I was left partly in charge of the house and my sister along with my mom who went through a hellish time after he left…
Many, especially my father, said I should not get in to a field that is not a bread earner and that I would fail. though I had a hard time in collage, (teachers who had no concept of what dyslexia is –and who insisted that they could “fix” me, in all the wrong ways I might add.. and other issues, mainly financial but also related to people’s understanding of dyslexia.) I still managed to graduate from university to a standing ovation from my pears and several of my professors.
I would never have done so well had I not had the support of my grandmother, mother, my sister and a few wonderful friends (including my boss whom I worked for as an assistant at university and I should not forget the counsellor who helped me also. Ever since I graduated with a BA from university, I have been trying to find my niche. I do not like making commercial type films.. I like to experiment and tell my own stories in my abstract way.. I was extremely successful as an editor and was thought after because of my reputation alone. Alas, I was still not making films (other than the 2 short films I made post graduation) my purpose was to one day make a movie about my experiences as a dyslexic. I am still writing that script…
Perseverance, is probably the thing that kept me going the most… I refused to be seen as a failure.. I worked hard to distinguish myself and for the most part I have succeeded. I finally immigrated to Canada and expected maters to be different here… I expected people to have a much better understanding of dyslexia… my wife always told me not to have too many expectations… while things in Canada are far better than in Lebanon.. I feel that awareness of dyslexia is not what it should be and the fact that you guys are making a documentary to help fix that problem is a thought that makes me feel proud… I am glad that someone is doing something about it. but to get to the point of this section… after all the hard work i have done.. the levels of stress under which I can function impeccably… multitasking all the way to the finish line.. I am now exhausted.. I may be not more than 32 years of age but I am exhausted and I have slowed down much to my dismay.. My dyslexic symptoms, the ones I thought I had overcome, have now come back to haunt me… I am struggling with sever depression and high anxieties.. After all I have accomplished, I feel like a failure. The worst part is I cannot give an answer as to why I feel the way I do… some have attributed my feelings to post traumatic stress (you know because of the war and all the other hardships I had endured) to some extent I believe it… but I feel there is more to it than that.
Being dyslexic is not an easy thing. I feel tiered because I have to work 10 times harder than everyone else just to function like a “normal” person in this cruel world that has a limited understanding of dyslexia and dyslexics… it frustrates me that people think dyslexia is just a developmental issue… that you can be cured of it.. That dyslexia is limited to spelling mistakes, horrible handwriting and poor reading skills… I had a few people say “but you are an adult.. Dyslexia is something that affects children”… sigh… how do you explain to someone what it means to be dyslexic… the images my mind plays back for me to taunt me… why taunt?.. because images do not translate in to words all that well.. And when people see my film or theater work, even though they love my work, rarely do they comprehend… then there is work… Somehow I do not feel dyslexics where meant to work a 9-5 job.. That although they can do it (probably better than most because of their compensation skills) a 9-5 job limits dyslexics from being the best that they can be. I don’t mean that I am lazy and do not want to work (ALL my pervious employers where very sad when I left and ALL claimed that it would take 10 people to replace me for the amount of work and quality I produced) Dyslexics are highly imaginative people… dyslexics can solve problems in a way that others would never dream of… dyslexics have so much potential if only they are not tied down by boring routine…. but alas.. There are bills to pay… and “day dreams” do not pay the bills… and I hate myself for saying it. Currently I am still struggling to finish my script (the sad part is I no one is willing to collaborate with me on writing it.. I haven’t found anyone willing yet.) But I know that I will eventually finish it.. And that one day I will direct it. for the time being i am stuck in mud and my wheels are turning aimlessly.
Right now my mind is all over the place and I am trying to coop… but things are getting better… I hope to one day be able to go back to university and become a counsellor for dyslexics. i also one day wish to be able to start a foundation for dyslexics, a foundation that would provide scholarships and other forms of assistance to dyslexics. a foundation that would fight for the rights of dyslexics all over the world and promote awareness through films and technology and other means.. a foundation that will also create products (software, hardware and other stuff) specially geared for dyslexics… i dream a lot…
For now… I am just content that my wife has agreed to come with me to a specialist and be assessed herself… I have observed her long enough to be certain that she is somewhat dyslexic herself. And though the outlook of my filmmaking career seems bleak at the moment… somehow.. deep down inside… I know that if I am patient (though waiting frustrates the hell out of me) I will one day make it…. one day… I wish you luck with your documentary and I am waiting in anticipation to finally see it. walk with the universe
Dyslexic, some say it’s a blessing and some say it’s a curse. Like all things in life, it is what you wan’t it to be. It’s how you see it. Growing up you go with the flow, you go from school to school not thinking about it. Later on you start to get complexes. When your 9 years old and can’t say out loud the Alphabet or even spell it. That hurts you but you burry it.
Life is pretty hard, you beat yourself up, when you make a mistake you get out your pencil and erase the whole line and do it all over again. Life becomes frustrating and you keep wanting to be perfect. But this is human nature if were bad at something we strive to improve ourselves. One person said ”Dyslexic teaches you to work hard, to never give up” that’s true to a certain degree. i’m lazy as hell, but when I put my mind to something It usually get’s done. But sometimes doing basic task are so hard you keep trying and trying then leave it alone.
There nothing wrong with not being good at something. Yes there dyslexic in so many different fields many from actors to boxers. I say if there not dyslexic or jewish there not an actor/comedian.
Mabye there English wasn’t the best in the world, you could say they gave up and found different areas and excelled in. Maybe that is the problem people think you have to improve your dyslexic, what’s wrong with not writing the best English essay in the world? If your good at other things isn’t that what matters?. We all give up and why should we have the pressure of fixing this curse (sometimes).
I’ve noticed that to accept my disability and appreciate it don’t like in ignorance i’m dyslexic and proud. And don’t believe that being dyslexic gives you special talents just cause your dyslexic doesn’t make you a painter or an artist. It’s what you fell inside, by not expressing yourself in words maybe your reply on other ways to express yourself.
Some say your being lazy and giving excuse, my advice hand them a Chinese manual or any text from a foreign language and ask them to read it.
They might say ‘I can’t read it, doesn’t make any sense” welcome to our world, well maybe not that extreme but you get my point.
Dyslexia is an problem not an excuse yes we just have to work harder but please understand we aren’t pretending or doing it on purpose.
Being dyslexic is being human and humans are complex creatures. We suffer the same insecurities like anyone else. We all have a complex and are all weak at something.
Just be proud of who you are and if people don’t understand you just smile. They got there own complex and issues.