Saturday, September 10, 2011


My friend Emily, is a 3rd grade teacher, has also taught 1st grade, and been the reading specialist at her school. She did her Masters Thesis on teaching methods for dyslexic and learning disabled kids, and she also has dyslexia. She read with Kate on Saturday, and feels certain that she has dyslexia. She asked her if she sees letters moving around on the page, or coming up off the page, and I was shocked to hear Kate say 'yes'. She described seeing letters move like on Electric Company, when Annie Scrambler messes up words. I had never thought to ask her this, because I didn't know that can happen in a dyslexics brain.

Emily said that dyslexics see words in 3D, looking at them from the side, from behind and from below, not just straight on. This is why their letters flip sometimes. This is also the reason why dyslexics are so spatially oriented and why they are so creative. Fascinating, isn't it?

Emily has a pair of violet reading glasses, because her brain does not see that color, and since black is a combination of all colors, the missing violet can make the letters appear to move. We need to figure out if Kate has a color problem as well, and get her a filter to read through.

She also has a speech impediment, if you remember her "wylly wylly", she can't say her 'r's. This affects how she hears and processes the sounds, and makes phonics difficult for her, especially blended sounds. So we are having the speech therapist listen to her, and she will probably have some therapy for that soon. *Sigh* I really think the way she talks is cute, and I'll be sad to 'hear' that go... but, if that is one of the things that will help her read, we have to take care of it.

Emily gave me some methods to use to help Kate. She wants me to teach her sign language. She does this in her class, because a multi-sensory approach helps so many kids, especially dyslexics. I'll also have Kate make her letters out of play-doh, draw them on my hand, or in salt, and she'll have pictures and colors associated with every sound and letter. All this will hopefully help her to learn the sounds.

She's giving me a set of textured, colored sound tiles that Kate can manipulate. In my research, I've learned that Kinesthetic approaches are especially good for dyslexics. Kate will also draw pictures to go with her sight word flash cards, and use a bookmark when reading, because she 'scoops' letters from the next line down and inserts them into her words.

Emily will check up on us once a week, and readjust our approach as we see what works and what doesn't. She also said to have her tested by the school psychologist, because that will tell us what her strengths are, as well as her disabilities, and will help us build a method specific to her gifts.

We talked to Kate about this, told her what dyslexia was, and more importantly, what it wasn't-- It does not mean that she is dumb. In fact, most dyslexics have higher than average IQ's, and have remarkable gifts. We told her she'd have to do a few more tests, and that we'd be doing her homework differently from now on. She seems ok with it all, and the promise of a treat, after any kind of testing she had to go through, hit the mark.

I hope she'll be ok. I hope her self esteem won't suffer because of this. My biggest fear is that she'll wind up thinking she's 'just not smart'.

I had an interesting conversation with Chris' mother last night. I told her about Kate, and was surprised by her reaction. She shook her head and said, "She gets that from me. I had a very hard time learning to read. I just wasn't smart." I argued that she was in fact very smart, very creative, had a head for quilting and piecing and sewing like few others, and while she agreed, she still had a very dejected attitude about her intelligence. She even listed all the 'brown-eyed grandchildren' who'd inherited it from her and had struggled in school. (One is a very intelligent chemical engineering student, one a gifted artist, and one a talented machinist, btw. They did struggle in school, but they also have gifts and talents that help them to excel in their fields.)

It made me so sad, here she is, 79 yo, and still has the feeling that she is 'not smart'. It makes me sad, mad, and determined. Determined to make sure Kate does not grow up with this attitude.

Emily warned me it is going to be a long hard road, and that it would not ever 'go away'. We'll have to deal with it for her entire life. I don't feel weighed down though, I feel optimistic. I think I can help her, I will certainly die trying anyways. I've already gotten 4 books on dyslexia that I will be studying for the next little while. Understanding is the key right?

Her teacher has also been very supportive, and so we'll keep her in school for as long as that continues to work for her. I'm not ruling out home-schooling her for at least part of the day though, if that will make it easier on her. Going to school all day, only to come home to 2 hours of homework with Mom will not make her happy I'm sure. None of my kids would go for that. I wouldn't.

So we'll just take it one day at a time. Learn to learn Kate's way by trial and error. At least she has Chris to identify with. She knows he has it too, knows he's a good reader now, and I think she knows that it's not the end of the world. It's a challenge for her to rise above. I know she'll do it.

Wish us luck.

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