Over the next month, we will publish a series of guest blogs from a teacher, a parent, and a student on the topic of dyslexia. We begin with a submission from public school teacher Chelsea Buchanan, whose daughter has dyslexia. She speaks openly and honestly about their struggles to get proper reading instruction within her own school.
I'm the mom of 4 pretty amazing kids~ all unique and wonderful in their own way. My second oldest, Channing, is a clever, creative, spunky 3rd
grader, and she is dyslexic.
We experience the same things our friends with dyslexic children face. Getting her to read a book is a daily battle. The thoughts of studying for spelling tests makes us all cry. Test anxiety is nothing new under this roof. We have struggled to find the right intervention and teaching approach for her. We have worked hard to cultivate her strengths~ math, science, dance and music.
One thing that does set us apart is that I am a 3rd grade teacher just 3 doors down from my sweet daughter.
We get "you are a teacher and your kid is still dyslexic?" a lot. The fact that reading is my specialty area yields even more questions and funny looks!
I assure people that my teaching license did not shield my daughter from dyslexia. It has, however, given me a very unique outlook: one as parent and one as teacher.
You would think being obsessed with reading strategies that I would have been more aware that my own child was struggling. But, alas, no I was not. I don't think as a parent we want to see it in our own child. So then it happened ~ my husband and I got "the call". Her amazing PreK teacher called and said "something" wasn't right and had we noticed Channing had a lack of mastery of the alphabet. I knew this dance ... I had done this dance myself a few times. I won't lie, I felt sick. I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.
We went in and met with the teacher and she showed us work samples and this time I looked at them - really
looked. Yep, staring at me were all the signs that in my class would be a red flag. I cried right there on the spot.
My first reaction was to be angry at the teacher! Irrational? Yes, it was, but I was mad and I needed someone to be mad at and it sure wasn't going to be my 4 year old. Then I took a minute and realized I had been in her shoes, and I also knew she truly loved my daughter. Just like that, I had a new understanding of how parents of my dyslexic kids in class felt. My eyes were wide open.
I started intensively tutoring and working at home with Channing after school. She did make progress. Always skirting just above the intervention cutoff line.
That too was frustrating because I know my efforts in some ways prevented school from having "data" to prove she needed help, but what kind of mom would I be to not give her 1 on 1 reading at home?? It was a catch 22.
1st grade was particularly bad. I think it was the first year Channing noticed that she had a learning difference in reading. We tried to focus on
open communication with her teacher and she tried to help Channing focus on her strengths, such as math and science.
We have discovered that open communication directly with the teacher is key. If I am annoyed about something that occurs at school I go to the teacher first and give them a chance to address the issue. I know how it feels for someone to go over my head and not give me the chance to address it - it feels awful. It leads to the teacher being scolded and then feeling defensive. I don't want to establish that dynamic with someone that spends 7 hours a day with my child. However, I also realize that me being in the same building also helps foster that relationship, and not all parents have that privileged.
A Front Row Seat
As a teacher I am part of the decision making process in our school's RTI (response to intervention) team meetings. As such, I have a front row seat to see how decisions are made regarding moving a child in or out of intervention. Much of it has to do with data, and once a child is excelling they are often "graduated out" of the intervention program. For example, my daughter was removed from tier 3 intervention earlier this year. I was angry. I felt she needed to remain in tier 3 as that is the tier with an Orton-Gillingham based methodology. If I had not been in the meeting myself, I may have been angry at her teacher who is responsible for delivering the news. "Don't shoot the messenger," is how the saying goes, and it is so true.
In that meeting, I saw her teacher go to bat for Channing and get shot down. Seeing it unfold let me know the process was flawed, not her teacher.
I am well aware tutoring at home is part of what caused this. Her teacher never suggested not help Channing at home and has incorporated intervention methods into small group reading. I know our open dialogue is a huge key to that success, although I am still frustrated that her dyslexia diagnosis, alone, won't qualify her to remain in the school-based program that is helping her succeed.
I want more people to know that as a teacher, I went into this field wanting to help children succeed. Yet, I get just a frustrated with a flawed system as other parents. Even though I work in the school, my own daughter is no longer in a reading program meant for her dyslexia, and most of that is because she was succeeding so much in said program. That is infuriating, yet I know it is a system based on rubrics, data and numbers - and so often the child gets lost when these decisions are being made. Advocating for a child who learns differently is exhausting. For now, I am providing one-on-one OG tutoring at home, but I will continue to advocate for her in school as well. Our story isn't over. Will you join me in helping to raise awareness and create change for all children?
is a resource that is available for parents, teachers as well as students. We're a national non-profit dedicated to helping students who have print disabilities, like dyslexia or visual impairment. To learn more, log into www.LearningAlly.org
is a parent of 4 children, one of whom has dyslexia. She is also a public school teacher with 15 years of experience. She's taught a variety of grades in a variety of settings. These include a grades 3-5 looping teacher, grades 3-5 reading specialist, and a self-contained 3rd grade teacher. To help children like her daughter, she and her friend Christy founded C&C Educational Solutions
in the summer of 2014.