by: Staci Stallings
I wrote this article a few years ago when we were just beginning to see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of my son’s dyslexia. To this day, it brings me to tears to think of these precious moments with him as his world began to open up and finally make sense….
My son is amazing. He really is. Even through all of the dyslexia stuff, he has had a way of being able to express what was going on with him. Like that first night I knew it was dyslexia…
As I lay there, putting him to sleep, I asked, “So reading is kind of hard, huh?”
He said, “Yeah.”
I said, “So can the other kids read better than you?”
“Yeah, they brag a lot.”
“They say, ‘I can read this. I can read that.'”
“And you can’t?”
“So when you read, do you guess a lot?” I asked.
He looked at me with a very puzzled expression. “Mom, that’s all reading is is a lot of guessing.”
He’s just like that. He grasps things on a deeper level, and he can explain his experience so I can understand too. Like yesterday… Now that we have the underlying causes of the dyslexia handled (his vision problems), we are working diligently to catch up with where he should be in terms of grade level work.
One of the things that almost immediately snapped to attention was his ability to spell. He has gone from struggling and struggling to being able to do 90% of the spelling list on Monday–even if he’s never studied some of the words for spelling. (Yes, it is a miracle!)
Well, we were studying the four hard words for the week: since (confused with sense), been (that extra e was throwing him), through (those last four letters must be memorized for how they look not how they sound), and Christmas (silent h, and swallowed t). I have come to understand that we spell certain words by how they sound and others almost wholly by how they look. If it’s a sound word, he can do it. If it’s a look word, it’s going to take some work.
So we started with since and through. I’d had him write them four times each the night before. So we were going to see how well he remembered them.
I said, “Since,” and he started to write it incorrectly. Then he stopped.
“Wait,” he said and stared off into space as if trying to read something really far away.
“What are you doing?” I asked to see if he could articulate how he was locating how that word looked in his brain.
To which he said, “Just a second. I’m sorting through all the papers because it’s not on the top page.”
I kind of laughed. “The top page?”
“Yeah, you know, on the top page in my brain. Oh. There it is. S. I. N. C. E.”
Then we did through. Same thing. He had to “search through the papers in his brain” to find it. When he located it, he knew how to spell it.
As I drove him to school this morning, we were etching Christmas down on his brain. We did since, which he spelled automatically, and through which he also spelled automatically.
I said, “So why can you spell those now?”
He smiled, “Because now they’re on the top page. I don’t have to go looking for them.”
I told him that my top page is really long, but under that I have file cabinets in my brain that I can go hunt for stuff that’s not on the top page. He smiled. “You must have a lot of stuff in there!”
Then I asked him if he could tell me what had been on his top page before he’d done vision therapy. He thought for a long time, and then got that same puzzle expression. “Mom, the top page was just blank before.”
Well, no wonder we were having so much trouble!
I think we will get to the point that he has vaults of cabinets with pages stuffed in his brain. The cool thing is, even in third grade he is learning to access those pages so he can use them. How wonderful is that?
Yes, dyslexia has been a challenge in our family, but it has also taught me so much about how others’ experience shapes what they can and can’t do and how simply asking questions to understand their experience can make what you didn’t understand before understandable.
I’m so proud of my son for the hard work he’s put in against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. With a determined mom, a hard working child, the key of vision therapy, and teachers who really care, those obstacles are one-by-one becoming mere learning experiences that have helped us help others than things that stop us completely.
In short, they have become blessings rather than stumbling blocks! How cool is that?
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