I am not sure where to start with this one as I have had the whole gamut of feelings about Dyslexia and what it means for my child. What I want people to know is that it is O.K. to have varied feelings and maybe, just maybe it is those feelings that empower you to be your child’s advocate. I have cried, felt frustrated, angry, very very proud, immense love and amazement. How is that for a mixed bag!
I clearly remember my first meeting with the class teacher, learning support and the head of curriculum (yes I was the painful parent who requested everyone be in the same room at once). We had decided to go outside the system to have our child assessed but I wasn’t prepared to wait til then to help my son. My son was in Grade 2 and on a Level 7 pm reader. Everyone advised me that getting him to a Level 10 by the end of term 2 would be a good goal. Being a teacher I suspected that Level 10 by mid year was not enough to set him up for Grade 3 and this is the one question I asked that made me angry, empowered me, motivated me and completely threw me for 6.
“What level reader does he need to be on to go into grade 3 as an average reader?”
The answer was Level 20.
That was the night I sat on the couch and cried. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think that Dyslexia is something terrible for a person to have, actually I strongly believe it will probably be the making of my son but I am not going to lie either, I cried. I felt completely overwhelmed and many thoughts and questions filled my head.
- How can our system think level 10 is O.K?
- Catching up 13 levels is a huge ask for a child.
- I am not sure I am good enough to help him………O.K. this one is selfish but true
- How do I help him when I have two younger children to care for?
- If we cannot help him to catch up, his choices are limited and it will impact his self esteem and confidence.
I am a teacher I have seen first hand what it is like for the kids who get behind and how it can impact on them. I call is the snowball effect. I was going to find a way to help my son become an average reader by the end of grade 2 because at the end of this I wanted him to be able to make what ever choices he wanted as he grows and decides about a career. I didn’t want him to be boxed into making choices that were based on his literacy levels rather than his interests and knowledge.
Then and there I decided it was O.K. to be sad and cry but what started to boil underneath was anger. Right then and there I decided I would find the best way to teach my child to read and that he would go into grade 3 as an average reader. And yes that was daunting!
I spent hours searching the internet, I rang SPELD QLD’s advisory line and straight up said I am a qualified and experienced teacher but I am not sure how to teach my own son and I slowly started to pull information together so I could get into proactive mode. And no it didn’t happen over night. It took at least two to three weeks to work through my emotions and gather all the information I needed (at the same time of just doing the family life thing that we all do everyday) and to slowly feel a little confident that as a family we could do this. I was still feeling daunted but at least I had a hit list. My list looked like this
- Buy and read Helping Children with Dyslexia
- I had book marked websites that were based on sound research that could assist me. This took me hours and hours, there is so much stuff out there in the big wide world of google but I was lucky I had the advantage of being a teacher and I was adamant that I wasn’t going to waste our time on false promises I wanted evidence based research.
- Have my son assessed so we could work out his strengths and weaknesses
- Start to work with my son using a multi-sensory approach
- Look at our daily life and work out where we could schedule a block of 30 mins reading activity time each day
How much better does a list make you feel!
For me it really helped me to break down something huge into achievable goals that I could chip away at. My sons assessment wasn’t for another 6 weeks but again I wasn’t waiting and with what I had already learned I decided on the “something is better than nothing approach” and we got started. Let me tell you getting started had its ups and downs but that is a whole other post.
By the end of term 1 my son had achieved a level 11 reader and we were on our way. Yes a term early!
I still have many moments. Moments of frustration and anger, moments of immense pride, complete and utter excitement for my child, moments of wonder and joy and moments of complete and utter exhaustion. But over time I have learnt to tell myself it is O.K. to feel like that and let those feeling pass or use them to make changes to what we are doing, how we are working with the school and do something positive like create this webpage to hopefully help others on this journey.
Over the coming weeks I will share more about our journey. I hope it helps you or someone you know.