Thursday, April 14, 2011

"What Do You Mean, Our Son Can't Read?"

Had somebody told me that my little boy would "flunk" the first grade, I would've told them they were smoking something. I mean, they couldn't possibly be talking about "my" child? My perfect child. The one whose entire education I had planned in utero. 

In school, I'd held to the belief that if I could start kindergarten, not speaking one word of English, learn to read, and go on to do well in high school and college, that anybody else could do the same (if they really wanted to).

Sure. I'd known that there were "special" classes, for "special" kids, but did I ever spend a nano-watt of brain power considering why some kids needed to go there?


A Little Backstory

Fast-forward, now, twenty years. The husband and I are sitting in those tiny plastic classroom chairs, in front of our son's first-grade teacher, wringing our hands over a less than stellar report card, and she starts with,
"Your son, he's such a pleasure to have in class ... so well-behaved ... well-liked by his peers, but -- " she hesitates, and looks uncomfortable "-- he just seems to be having trouble keeping up with the class. And he's so quiet."
Neither my husband, nor I, knew how to respond. Our son had behaved similarly in pre-school and kindergarten: always on the fringe of the action, never raising his hand. We'd already considered that maybe he was just an introvert, or a little developmentally delayed? So after a long discussion with her, we decided to take a "wait-and-see" attitude; maybe things would improve after the winter break?

Progressively Worse


Things got worse after winter break.

In fact, by this time, last year, our son's teacher described her one-on-one reading time with him as "painful." He could barely sound-out simple sentences and he lagged behind his classmates in phonics, spelling, and math. Not only that, but he wouldn't participate in classroom discussions, did not understand directions, required "teacher assistance" for everything, and excused himself to the bathroom A LOT (enough for the teacher to suggest we get him checked-out for a urinary tract infection).

Homework ... no please ... no ....

I can't imagine how frustrated our son must've been, trying to make sense of school last year, only to come home to more pressure from me, when I'd open his homework binder and find a pile of incomplete classwork assignments, on top of homework. Helping him with it became a chore (talk about guilt), because no matter which approach I took, one, or both of us, would end up in tears.

Turning Point

Hearing him say that he hated school did it for me. I had to uncover why it seemed as if he had gaping holes in his memory, through which everything he'd learned at school, and reviewed at home, disappeared.

I hope that hearing our story will give others going through the same, some strength in knowing they're not alone.

Thank You Bicultural Mom For Sharing This Powerful Video Clip:

Did You Know:
  • Dyslexia afflicts 17% of the population
  • People with dyslexia don't see letters backwards, rather they reverse sounds, e.g. "d" and "b" sounds
  • Dyslexia is a permanent condition, people with it adapt, they don't grow out of it
  • Roughly 50/50 split between boys (who act out) and girls (who become quiet)
Suggested Reading:

PBS: The Facts About Dyslexia
Warning Signs of Dyslexia
Special Needs and Spectrum Awareness

Children's Hospital, Boston
Children's author and illustrator Jef Czekaj's
Junior takes a few minutes to read the poster. ; D