“It will get better. Your daughter will be OK,” said a friend whose daughter with a reading issue recently started college.
Many times, throughout the years, parents of an older child with a reading issue like dyslexia would assure us that their kid was doing fine; enjoying college, succeeding in a job, starting a family. Well-meaning friends and families would point out the latest celebrity that came out as being dyslexic.
That wasn’t us. Our daughter wasn’t famous nor was she a genius or a prodigy. We weren’t famous. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone told us we would start to notice. I didn’t see the gift of dyslexia. I saw yet another unwanted challenge. The light still hasn’t come, but it has gotten better.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for us, but our story is typical. Occasionally I meet people who embrace their child’s difference from the get-go and make peace with who they are. They glide through the education system with minimal drama. I respect those parents that keep their grace in the midst of challenges, but it is not us.
The truth is that for years I would get angry, frustrated and sometimes depressed. I felt betrayed by the educational system that I spent my career working to support, and I lost faith in the professionals who I thought were the experts.
In third-grade when our daughter got into a local reading program and starting to receive Alphabetic phonics, a multi-sensory structured reading approach, I was skeptical of what they could teach her.
Once I overheard another student attempting to read one of the notices on the bulletin board outside the classroom. As he painfully tried to get through a word, he finally turned to the teacher and said, “I can’t read.”
She smiled and said, “Don’t worry. You will. I’ll teach you to read.”
I didn’t believe her, and actually, she couldn’t teach our daughter to read, but she did help her more than anyone else could at that point. I believe that if she had worked with her every day instead of an erratic three times per week, she might have gotten further with her.
In fifth-grade, our daughter eventually graduated from the reading program that had helped her improve her reading skills, but school was still an immense struggle. We requested an Independent Evaluation (IEE), and that is when we hit rock bottom. I have written many times about that time in our lives after the neuropsychologist recommended homeschooling or a specialized school for kids with reading differences, but I’ve never described how I felt as a parent.
I went into a hole. A deep hole. Everything seemed futile. It had been years of so many struggles just so our daughter could learn to read:
- Driving to another county for reading services that would prevent her from readily participating in the outside activities she enjoyed.
- Figuring out how to pay for tutors or private school.
- Wondering where she should go to school, and whether we should move.
- Cobbling together a plan for services over the summer with a camp schedule.
I was a partner in a small business in the educational publishing industry, and it seemed like a cruel joke that I was creating traditional, high-level content when I couldn’t even figure out how to get our own daughter the education she needed.
I felt like we were stuck. I would play a video of our daughter running at a track meet over and over and cry at how unfair it was. I didn’t want her to have any more challenges. I wanted her challenges deflected on me. I would go on long runs by myself and bargain with a higher power to take whatever they wanted from me if it would help her to read.
That miracle I was asking for never happened, but it did get better.
How it Got Better
“What do you want for your daughter if she goes to Kildonan?” The Head of The Kildonan School asked me.
“I want our daughter to dream,” I said. What was so heart-breaking is that by the age of 11, she already had limits on herself and that is unbearable to see in any kid, let alone your own child.
Our daughter did learn to read that summer, and everything started to get better.
There were no miracles that summer when our daughter learned to read. It was simple. She is one of the so many kids who learned to read once they received the right services delivered with fidelity. That’s all it took.
THE RIGHT SERVICES DELIVERED WITH FIDELITY.
Why It Will Continue to Get Better for Kids with Reading Issues
Our daughter changed that summer. She became confident and hopeful, and so did we. She continues to improve, and while our story is still complicated and filled with unknowns, I really believe that she will be fine. Matter of fact, better than fine.
I have never been able to go back to who I was before that summer when she learned to read. I have spent close to a year studying literacy, reading difference and dyslexia challenges from high-level policy perspectives all the way down to specifics of the multi-sensory structured reading approaches that help our kids crack the code that uncovers our language system.
Someone once described this area as a secret world, but it shouldn’t be. How we teach our kids to read may not be on our radar like terrorism or an imminent threat, but it is an enormous public policy issue, and we are paying for it as a society. Organizations and individuals are addressing the way we teach our kids to read from the perspective of state policy, education, and awareness. Parents are taking on leadership roles to influence and drive state policy. Our local Decoding Dyslexia chapter is run by three determined Moms who are taking on the behemoth that is New York.
A few weeks ago, I met with a teacher who is a state and possibly national leader in dyslexia awareness and supportive services. We spoke for hours about all of the research, initiatives and what we could do to provide more solutions. She said, in so many words, what several people have told me since I’ve started asking the questions, “I will go to my grave trying to make it better.”
“I will go to my grave trying to make it better.” This I know to be the truth.