"Don't worry, it will click."
Those words were said to me often from the time my very bright son was in pre-K until his 2nd grade year. Yet, for my son, reading never did "just click." The thing that is seldom discussed, beyond the sobering statistics we hear about U.S. 3rd grade reading proficiency rates
, is that for a certain group of children ....reading won't magically click (without a specific type of instruction).
That's the diagnosis we received in October of my son's 2nd grade year when he finally fell far enough behind that the school took my concerns seriously. He has dyslexia. The actual label they told me, at that time, was that he has a specific learning disability
in the area of reading.
Prior to that pivotal moment, I never knew anything about learning disabilities. Yet, now I can tell you all about RTI, OG, IEPs, S-Teams and 504s. I can also tell you that learning disabilities have nothing to do with intelligence, and that it's simply a difference in how the brain processes information. In fact, students with learning disabilities have at least average to sometimes superior IQ levels.
In all of this learning, I also came across sobering statistics, like this one that glared at me from the pages of our public library's newsletter:
"9 years of age is the critical age to retain readers. Research shows that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers." ~Early Warning Confirmed, Annie E. Casey Foundation
My son is 9 years old. I just stood staring at that stat for a long time.
Then, I started thinking .....
I thought about my friend's children, Anthony
, both dyslexic, who have been successful in high school and beyond.
I thought about Dustin Henderson
, who graduated as his class Valedictorian and is successful in college now.
I thought about all the kids in our YES! Program
who are proud of their dyslexia, and who are shattering that statistic wide open.
It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay because my family has the tools and knowledge we need for our son to succeed.
I became an Orton-Gillingham tutor (via Ron Yoshimoto
), he gets Wilson Reading
in school, and he has assistive tech like Learning Ally
audiobooks. The kid is also sharp, and his brain moves fast and will take him far, despite the fact that printed words often get in his way. We'll find ways around that.
Interventions, audiobooks and a champion
- that's what he has in place, and that's what more kids need in order to beat those odds.
I think of kids who don't have that. Kids who aren't identified as dyslexic or whose parents simply don't know how to help. Kids whose schools may even refuse to say the word "dyslexia." And I worry about them.
That's why I do the work I do, co-founding Decoding Dyslexia-TN
and working for Learning Ally
, a national non-profit that helps thousands of kids with print disabilities, like dyslexia. It's personal. We must change these statistics, one child at a time. One school at a time.
We'll get there. Together.
* * * * * *
About the author: Julya Johnson is the social media family community leader at Learning Ally. After spending 12 years as a broadcast meteorologist, Julya changed career paths to help children like her own - children who have dyslexia. In 2013, she co-founded Decoding Dyslexia-TN. She's also a graduate of Ron Yoshimoto's OG International program, and is working toward AOGPE associate level certification under Ron's guidance.