How it all started: In our family, we recognized our oldest son’s amazing abilities very early. He was able to emulate the batting stances of every MN Twin’s player. He could drive a golf ball 50 years when he was 2. He knew who won the Sugar Bowl in 2008 and the name of the player that scored the first touchdown and the play that was called (Georgia defeated Hawaii by the way). But, he could not remember the name of the “little f.” He could not rhyme things. When he drew pictures, they were thunderstorms, fireworks, and tornadoes. They all looked the same and he didn’t care. Here’s the thing, I am a teacher. I have an extensive background in Early Childhood Education. I’ve administered these programs for 20+ years. I thought he’d grow out of it. I thought he just was “more interested in sports.” So, I thought that I could teach him. Do what you’re suppose to do; read to him, put together puzzles, play games. So, we did that. We focused our efforts on capturing his interests. We bought him alphabet books with just sports, just Star Wars, just things he loved. He memorized them, but, he didn’t learn “the little f”. He loved them for sure but, never, ever understood the concept that letters make sounds and sounds make words. I was right, he was more interested in sports. He always has been. I have come to understand that for him, and that was essential as well.
By the time first grade rolled around, we already had found The Alexander Center and had a probable diagnosis of Dyslexia. This was in October of his 1st grade year. It was the first time I heard of Orton-Gillingham training. It was the first time that I began researching and understanding this puzzling, frustrating, even maddening condition. And that’s where is started. Our journey into accommodations, IEP’s, advocating, teaching advocating to our son, teaching some teachers, crying in front of most, explaining to my son that he needed to choose friends that didn’t care if he couldn’t spell, trying to balance school-tutoring-homework and always making sure he had time for sports, and raising his little brother in the midst of the learning struggles. We did this and still do this in fact, we are still doing this dance, to this day!
The brother- He’s 4 years younger so essentially a car-passenger in his life for the years that we were discovering our learning struggles. My boys are very different from each other. Opposites in many ways. Brother doesn’t love, or really even like sports. He learned to read without much help. He didn’t have “it.” But, that’s not to say it didn’t and doesn’t affect him. The word dyslexia is puzzling to him as well. He knows it means that his brother struggles but he doesn’t know why. He watches the homework struggles and sometimes he even emulates them. It’s what he grew up with so it’s his reality too. There is a lot of discussion in our house about school, grades, organization, and working with teachers. It requires the little brother, to be resilient as well. Resilient and understand we adore him as much as the older one but that fair means everyone gets what they need in order to be successful and that means we’re working with his struggles more often.
The School’s- I love the quote attributed to Michael J. Fox “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” Sounds simple enough. We’ve been in both private schools and public schools. Both have had their triumph’s and failures. They say that 1 in 5 children are dyslexia and 1 in 100 teachers might know what that means. I’ve also read that the National Institute of Health says that Dyslexia is identifiable with 92% accuracy at the age of 5.5 years of age. This is all from the internet so, it must be true, right? It seems to me, we need our teachers to have better screening tools and more training. To me, Orton-Gillingham should be a word that is as common as “recess” in the schools. After-all, we are talking about 20% of any given population. It seems like we need researched-based curriculum practices that can teach 100% of the children, not 80%. And so, until we can find that in our public or non-public schools, I am here. After years of searching for the best-practices, I think I’ve found them and I’m eager to share them with your 20% club member. I believe that these curriculum methods are the most effective and best practices right now. Meet The Barton Method for Reading & Spelling (an Orton-Gillingham based method) and Handwriting Without Tears. I believe in these programs and I know how to teach them. Ultimately I believe that we need to both fix deficits and to build strength and I’d like the chance to help with both.
Today: My son keeps reminding me to thank him for having these struggles so that I could learn all this stuff and help other kids. We mainly work on building strength now, he’s pretty resilient but needs more gumption to advocate for himself and his learning disability. He has always had his niche in school, thanks to his early onset agility and kinesthetic ability (sports). He wants people to know that’s very important. He does have lots of friends and is planning on going to college and finding a profession that he loves.