Dyslexia: The First Eleven Years
Categories: Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Uncategorized
By Kristin Kane
This is our dyslexia story – Noah and me, and of course his dad and his sisters too. I am dyslexic, my brother is dyslexic, and my first cousin is dyslexic; there may be more. But this story is about my journey with my son through his 11 years as a dyslexic.
Here is Noah at age eight.
Hindsight is 20/20, and what I can now identify as symptoms were masked at the time. Like when Noah was two years old, and his older sister was always eager to “help” him speak. “Just give him a minute to think of the word,” we would say to four-year old Hannah. “He knows it, let him talk.”
At three and four, Noah had no understanding of the difference between a letter and number. But he would explain that there was a difference in gravity on the earth and moon and “just forget about Jupiter, Mom, we wouldn’t be able to pick up our feet to walk.”
Rhyming….. Another masked symptom we missed. I remember thinking how odd that Noah chose the word “train” as a rhyme for knee, bee, and tree.
On the very first day in his kindergarten class (an open house, meet your teacher day), Mrs. Lucas asked Noah what he was looking forward to and his answer was learning to read. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember that day. In kindergarten, symptoms continued to present themselves and be brushed off. Simple word retrieval – this was like a game of Password at our house. “Mom, you know the vehicle that goes on water.” My husband and I were guessing “Battleship, aircraft carrier, yacht”-- only to have seven year old Hannah walk herself into the conversation and announce the word boat. Yes. . . the word Noah was looking for was "boat."
There was a teacher conference to let us know that Noah did not know the some of his colors, like brown and black. I tried to explain that he knows the difference but had a hard time remembering which name went with which color. The same scenario went for the numbers 11 and 12, the days of the week and months of the year. We ended the year with a conversation that let us know that b and d and p and q reversals were quite normal, BUT the = sign going up and down was a bit odd.
First grade was probably one of my son’s favorite years and teachers. More symptoms, more meetings. We received our first glimpse of a test score that validated for us what we knew to be true: Noah was smart, pretty darn smart. A school-administered nonverbal IQ test had been given to all the kids, and now we had a score. But we did not have an answer. A phone call in May let us know that Noah would not reach the first grade benchmark for reading. “Just short,” she said, “a 14.”
The first phone call in Sept from Noah’s second grade teacher began with. “Mrs. Kane, I don’t want you to be upset but I have Noah’s reading score falling in at a level 6 on the DRA.” I was not upset, I felt validated. Someone else who could see what I knew. This is the year we began our trek through the child study, evaluation, eligibility, 504, due process, IEP jungle of the public school special education process.
This was where the school years and the symptoms began to blur and the significant or notable events began to be marked by testing, evaluations, scores, reports, and meetings. It’s where the process became larger than Noah and grade 2. It was not just larger but it engulfed him and us and everything typical about being in elementary school. And even when we had an IEP in hand ready to tackle 3rd grade, we realized there were still no answers or solutions or programs or faculty in place in the public school to go about teaching a little boy with a specific learning disability in reading to learn how to read.
There is a file today that stands well over 10 inches tall. It includes evaluations and reports from both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties here in VA. It includes requests, eligibilities, goals, classroom accommodations, SOL accommodations, report cards, progress reports, an IEE and now even lawyer summaries. Noah has a Special Ed file folder on my computer and a Special Ed mailbox in my email. We have apps and programs and devices. A normal week in middle school averages approximately two to eight emails a week; this is significantly less than what it was 4th and 5th grade. He meets with his private Wilson’s tutor paid for by Loudoun County for 60-90 min sessions, three times a week.
Noah is in 6th grade and he is still learning to read. He uses Learning Ally audiobooks along with his classroom textbooks, literature class requirements and for personal reading. The use of Learning Ally has not only made life easier and reading time more productive -- it has given Noah his independence back. He can now access printed material whenever he chooses and no longer has to rely on others to help him read.
This is where I let you know that Noah is an honor student in honors classes and advanced math. He is in classrooms that are being co-taught to meet accommodations.
This is where I tell you that Noah received straight A’s on his last report card.
And this is where I remind you that Noah is still reading below a 4th grade level, and spelling below a third grade level.
Noah is dyslexic.
Kristin Kane is a founding parent of Decoding Dyslexia Virginia