This story, while mine, is more my daughter’s. I’m sharing it with her approval hoping it will shed some light on something that goes undetected in many people. I wish we’d known the signs and had been able to get her help sooner. I’m so proud that she feels comfortable enough to let me share this. She agrees that if we can help one other kid, it’s worth it.
After years of bullying with no help from the school to stop it, we made the decision to put my daughter into a private school for high school. This was not something we’d planned on financially, but it was our best option. We researched all the schools in the area and she was accepted into a prestigious preparatory school. We were awarded financial aid to make it manageable. We knew it was an excellent school but had no idea how it would change our lives. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices to make it work. When she first started, we were very excited to see her confidence increase. She made friends with an amazing group of kids.
Part way through the year, we started getting calls and emails from her class dean about issues with her school work. Her school is a difficult one and many kids struggle getting used to the change, but this was something more. She had been “forgetful” about projects in elementary and middle school, but nothing major. She was not doing homework or projects and her grades were dropping FAST. She had never had an F and now she was getting multiples. We were angry because we were working hard to pay for this school and felt she was wasting our money. There were threats to pull her from the school. There were tears and promises, but it just got worse.
Her class dean thought maybe it was stress and suggested she meet with a counselor. After just a few meetings the counselor asked her, “Have you ever been tested for dyslexia?” This was something that had never been suggested before. So I started doing my research.
The first article (The Undiagnosed Teenager with Dyslexia by Abigail Marshall) I came across sounded like everything she was going through:
- Your child must repeatedly read and reread material in order to understand it
- Your child has extreme difficulty managing and keeping track of homework assignments and deadlines for his various classes
- Your child repeatedly reports that he was unaware of assignments and deadlines because the teacher “never told” him what was required
- Your child has unexpected difficulty with learning a foreign language
- Your child struggles with higher math, such as algebra
- There is a significant discrepancy between your child’s school performance and scores on standardized tests, including college board tests such as the PSAT
After having her tested for dyslexia, we found she has what’s known as dual exceptionality. With this, she over-compensates in some areas which masked her disability. She excels in math and visual spatial skills. She tested greater than grade 18 in math. It also showed she has a “learning disability in the area of reading.”
Dyslexia is a disability that is very misunderstood. Most think it’s just flipping letters or words. It not only affects the processing of writing and reading; it can also affect verbal communication and processing. In hindsight, I wonder if her communication issues contributed to her being bullied.
Dyslexia is also not recognized as a learning disability that schools are able to get funding for. The only way to get around this is to categorize it as a “learning disability in the area of reading.”
With the diagnosis we had mixed emotions. At first she was glad to finally have that missing puzzle piece. She always knew something wasn’t right but she never knew what it was or how to explain it to us. It made me realize that when she was talking about words being fuzzy it was not her eyesight; it was her brain having processing issues. When she said the teacher never told them about the assignments it was also a processing issue. When she chose not to do an assignment it wasn’t because she was being lazy, it was because she didn’t understand and it was less frustrating to avoid it.
In my research I was able to find and share with her that several great minds have been or are dyslexic…to name a few, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Schwab, Henry Ford, Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, George Washington, Will Smith, and half of the Shark Tank- Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary.
This past year, she’s had a wonderful learning assistance teacher who’s helped so much. I only wish she’d been diagnosed earlier so we didn’t have to cram so many new skills into a single year. Her grades improved from C’s, D’s and F’s to A’s, B’s and C’s.
The best part is that her confidence has increased. She ran for student council. She joined several clubs. She recently found she wants to start playing softball. This has been a learning experience for all of us. She has had to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I cannot imagine what her college career would have been like if we had never known that she has dyslexia. With the skills she’s learned, she’ll have the confidence I don’t believe she would have had before all of this. I am so thankful for the counselor who asked whether she’d ever been tested for dyslexia and that we chose to switch schools. It has been worth all the tears, frustration, and stress.