OUR FAMILY'S STORY
Our family includes twins. Perhaps being able to compare two children of the same age or perhaps my interest in special education made me suspect that one of the twins, our daughter, had difficulty with certain learning tasks.
At first we noticed little things – things that were not so different they couldn’t be passed off as normal. Our daughter had trouble tying her shoes. She swapped syllables saying “mazagine” for “magazine”. She couldn’t pronounce certain sounds. Like many parents, we put her in speech therapy.
As Kindergarten started, we noticed that our daughter had a harder time than her peers learning her colors and letters. During first grade, my husband spent hours and hours working on spelling words with her. The next day she’d ace the test — but by that afternoon, she couldn’t recall how to spell those same words. This was beyond frustrating. She was a whiz at jigsaw puzzles but couldn’t tie her shoes. She could recite, word-for-word, the TV dialogue but couldn’t remember the months of the year in order. We knew she was smart – but something was amiss.
During first grade, we noticed our daughter was having a hard time learning to read. I began to research possible causes. My background in healthcare and psychology, and my husband’s medical training, made us both suspect dyslexia. It was our “gut instinct” but we had doubts. We continued to notice small oddities like her “mirrored” handwriting – her name spelled perfectly backward. Her teachers told us not to worry, she was working near grade level and she’d catch up.
We all experienced so many emotions – frustration, sadness, anger, hurt, helplessness. Like any child, she wanted to please us and we suspected she was doing her best to cover up her lack of ability in certain areas. She was getting more and more frustrated and started acting out. I began to wonder what I had done wrong. Did I push too hard or not push enough? Did I do something wrong during pregnancy? Why did this happen? How could we fix it? How could we help our daughter?
We finally took our daughter for specialized testing. The diagnosis was dyslexia. We took this new and scary diagnosis to the school and asked “the experts” for help. We were told, “She’s working near grade level. She doesn’t need special programs. You’ll have to work it out with the teacher”. After all we’d been through; after all the anxiety, worry and exhaustion, to have my bright, funny, intelligent daughter brushed under the rug by the public school system simply took me to tears.
By the grace of God there was a school for dyslexics not 10 minutes from our home at Ft. Shafter, Hawaii. While we would have preferred to keep her in the same school as her siblings, we felt we had no choice but to send her to this specialized school.
Our daughter entered ASSETS School in the second grade. She spent two wonderful years learning how to read and spell despite her learning disability. She also learned how to use the new tools she was learning to compensate for her areas of weakness. Doors started to open for her. She was finally able to access and learn from all the written knowledge the world has to offer.
The nagging worry was that I knew we only had 2 years in Hawaii, as the military would soon be moving us to who-knew-where. I also knew that you don’t “cure” dyslexia. While our daughter may have “caught up” to her public school counterparts, new challenges would arise as subject matter became more challenging and she was no longer learning-to-read but reading-to-learn. Since we could not count on continuous access to expert assistance for our dyslexic child, I set out to become the expert. I had two years. I worked hard – motivated both by my daughter’s needs and my love of learning. Through extensive course work I earned membership into the Academy of Orton-Gillingham in 1996. I also joined and became active in the local branch of the International Dyslexia Association.
We were indeed relocated — and sure enough no dyslexia help was available in our new hometown. By this time our daughter was able to be mainstreamed into public school and I could now offer her continued training and tutoring. Together we worked through her elementary and middle school years.
I was now hooked – I wanted to help others. I had the knowledge, training and practical experience. I took more training and achieved the level of Certified Member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham in 2005. I found a business partner and set up a tutoring center. I was able to not only get my daughter the assistance she needed but help other dyslexics and struggling readers as well. And I have continued to learn new techniques as the research has continued to improve our understanding of how children learn to read and spell.
Our daughter continued her tutoring into high school. Sure, we hit bumps in the road but with perseverance we were able to work through them. Our daughter not only learned tools and techniques to help her throughout her life, she has learned how to ask for the additional assistance she needs.
Today her future is bright. Our daughter graduated from college in the spring of 2010 and is an intelligent, articulate young woman. The world waits at her doorstep.
Do you suspect your child may have dyslexia, a learning difference or learning disability? Don’t wait. Contact Educational Therapy Center to schedule a Skill Assessment.
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