Dyslexia and the journey to the magical world of reading

Dyslexia and the journey to the magical world of reading

Almost every parent who joins our support group expresses fear about whether their child will ever learn to read. By the time they reach our group the education system has failed them and their child. The parents are quite distressed because they have a broken child and don’t know what to do.

The answer we give them is YES, with evidence based intervention, they most certainly can learn to read. With systematic explicit instruction in Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency and Comprehension many children would never even see themselves labelled with Dyslexia or require intensive intervention.

My daughter now reads the same books as all her friends for pleasure. A little slower perhaps but she has a slow processing speed. Though the journey to the love of reading was a longer road than it should have been.

My daughter was read to from infancy. Books were how we would calm her, get her to sleep, comfort her when she was sick and bring her out of a rotten mood. We journeyed as parents with her to many far off places. Her first sentence was “read dis book yep!”. She would say this when she learnt to walk and would toddle around the house all day carrying a book and demanding its secrets to be revealed!

Hit a road block

So she went to school, with a bounce in her step, adoring books and ready to read! Despite a lovely Kindy teacher she hit a road block. She hit a road block that so many kids will hit, Dyslexic or not, when instruction is not explicit or systematic enough for quick reading development.

Intensive explicit literacy instruction from a specialist tutor in year 3 taught her to read and write. The tutor 2 hours a week supported by daily hone reinforcement achieve what 3 years of school did not.

Tutoring by a structured literacy tutor was in no way a quick fix but she finally broke the code needed to make her a reader. Unfortunately because intervention was delayed she had developed a fear of reading. The fear and negative associations that had been fostered by poor literacy instruction in a “Balanced Literacy Environment”.

But now …

In the end her love of books and the skills she has learnt from her tutor outweighed her fear of reading. My daughter, at age 12, will now disappear into the world of books quite often. She reads when she is angry, bored or anxious. She reads to help her sleep. She says she prefers books to movies. We have a chuckle every time I have to say “put the book down” because she is late to dinner and school because its always just one more page. We both know how hard the journey has been.

As my daughter now says “books are the portal to magical worlds!” We need to give all children access to the same magic.

Children with Dyslexia, with appropriate evidenced based instruction, can and most certainly do learn to read. Dyslexia is no excuse for a child not being able to be taught to read.

If a child with Dyslexia fails to learn to read we should be looking at educational practises rather than using Dyslexia as the “get out of jail free card” for ineffective teaching methods. Children at risk of reading failure must be identified early before secondary issues manifest and before they are so far behind the reading gap becomes a insurmountable chasm.

By Belinda Dekker – Dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com

Never give up and never surrender

Never give up and never surrender!

To all the parents who are on the start of their dyslexia journey.

  • Seeking answers.
  • Finding the right path.
  • Fighting for help.
  • Struggling to take a breath.
  • Heartbroken over their child’s suffering.
  • Crying themselves to sleep.
  • Navigating snake oil.
  • Waking in terror of their child’s future.

It certainly feels like I’ve been travelling the bumpy dyslexia road for a lifetime and sometimes it feels like an eternity.

I wish, I regret….guilt

  • I wish I had listened to my inner alarm bells sooner. I was a high school teacher. I trusted the knowledge of the primary school teachers.
  • I wish the school taught explicit systematic phonics and structured literacy better so she didn’t get so far behind.
  • I wish they had identified and intervened earlier with evidence based methods. Reading recovery was a smoke screen which gave us the impression she could read but in its wake was a child who still could not read with no self esteem intact.
  • I wish I took her to a psychologist sooner as I had no idea how bad her anxiety had become. Paralysing her every moment at school and seeping into every corner of her life.

Parental guilt can eat you alive. Don’t let it. It is the school’s responsibility to teach your child to read. They are suppose to do this! They are suppose to know how to do this! The important thing is that you are fighting for your child now with every inch of strength you have.

Arm yourself with knowledge! This is your weapon! If the school doesn’t know what should be done then it is knowledge that will give you power to demand what your child deserves! Every child has the right to an education!

My daughter has come so far that I have to remind myself where she used to be. It is not about comparing her to others but it is about how much she has managed to achieve despite the odds. She is unrecognisable to the scared and broken child she once was!

Dyslexic children can learn to read, love books and be happy to go to school. All I ever wanted was to pick up my child from school and see a smile. Nowadays that happens most of the time. My daughter has dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety and maths difficulties. So school is still tough some days. But she is moving forward and we have way more good days than bad days. She reads and writes for pleasure and with enthusiasm.

It has taken a lot of sessions with a structured literacy tutor, assistance and understanding from the school and some wonderful teachers willing to learn and listen! These days I ring and write to the school less! We have far more wins than losses! It has taken over 2 years to build up her self esteem and overcome the learned helplessness. Teaching her to read took far less time than putting her back together.

We used to hear my daughter say frequently the words no parent wants to hear;

  • I am stupid!
  • I am dumb!
  • I can’t do anything!
  • I don’t want to go to school!
  • I hate myself!
  • There is no point trying!
  • I give up!
  • I hate reading!
  • I will never learn to read!

My daughter now believes in herself. She now believes;

  • She is smart and talented.
  • She has strengths and weaknesses like anyone.
  • She is capable of learning anything but sometimes she just has to work harder.
  • She can manage her anxiety demon and push through the hard times.
  • That being dyslexic is awesome and she has been empowered by being a member of an amazing dyslexic community.

You will be proud of them everyday because every little thing they will have to fight for and work hard for! They will come out the other side strong, resilient and capable.

You will cry. You will cry together and you will cry alone. You will cry with each success and with each set back.

One day they will look back on their school days knowing that their parents never gave up on them. They will understand one day how much you fought for them and how you could always see their brilliance!

Never give up on your child! Never let them give up on themselves! They will do amazing things. It might just take them a little longer or they may go down a different road.

Never give up and never surrender!

By Belinda Dekker – Dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com