“I’m a teacher. I’m his mother. How did I not know? “
– Maggie Harr
Maggie just wrote a wonderful post at Love What Matters.
“Smart. This was the first word that people would use when they met my son Aiden. He was precocious and funny, assertive and confident, and yes, very ‘smart’. He had a love of nature and animals, regularly engaging in conversations about adaptations and habitat destruction that would leave adults at a loss for words…” and that was just kindergarten.
Having trained as an special education teacher, Maggie was unprepared for what she saw when she started volunteering in Aiden’s class at school:
“I began noticing that despite his many strengths, he seemed to struggle more than his classmates. Sadly, he noticed that too.”
She sprang into action, doing all the things she had been taught in Education school, like flashcards with sight words, but was startled when her 5 year old kept struggling with words that he had seen so many times – like “the.”
“‘Oooohhhh- I know this. It’s a digraph, but which one is it?”
I was honestly confused and thought, at times, he was acting out or trying to be silly. For example, when we would try to rhyme simple words, he would say things like ‘bat’ rhymes with ‘bed’ or ‘dog’ rhymes with ‘kitten’. I noticed that he had to say the alphabet in his head to recognize and recall letters. He often confused letters writing them backwards… even in his own name.
Yet, at the same time, he displayed incredible comprehension of the stories we read before bed. He sorted his home library into fiction and nonfiction categories. He capably explained to me why realistic fiction was tricky, distinguishing a third category. He had these fun moments of brilliance that demonstrated his understanding of complex concepts.”
Listen to my interview with Maggie below. Because she was such a good observer and a special educator, it’s an especially sensitive account for the process that so many children go through – but thankfully Maggie and Aiden found their way to intensive remediation (Orton-Gillingham / structured literacy) and in his case in particular Barton Reading.
LISTEN TO MY INTERVIEW WITH MAGGIE HERE:
Aiden still has a lot of hard work ahead of him, but he’s reading on grade level and now making gains in writing. He and Maggie are now powerful advocates for dyslexia awareness because they saw for themselves identification and remediation made the difference.
I’m glad that Maggie and Aiden’s story allowed me to share their story here, but it highlights just how difficult it is to recognize dyslexia. This pattern – advanced vocabulary, unexpected difficulty with short words like “the”, and then the emotional toll, is some of what we see over and over again in our dyslexia clinic. It can be difficult to sort out because students may compensate well to hide their difficulties. Children who work hard at reading and are able to memorize words – may continue to be missed because they may improve a little, leaving parents and teachers “hoping for the best”, or feeling like they’re expecting too much or pushing them too much.
Aiden’s breakthrough ONLY happened when he began an intensive structured literacy program that taught him to how to decode words based on their component sounds. Even after Aiden’s parents decided to test, after the dyslexia center at their university told them how long it would be on the waiting list to test, Maggie broke down in tears.
Because of comprehensive testing for dyslexia typically takes hours (and then hours more to generate reports), the waitlist can be many months or even years.
I told Maggie that the delays and costs of comprehensive testing were why we have worked on an affordable iPad-based dyslexia screener through Neurolearning SPC. It can assess children age 7 and up, teens, and adults, and it even has a component to look dyslexic students who also may be gifted. If a waitlist for comprehensive testing for dyslexia may be out to a year, then the app, which comes with a report base on test findings – may help speed the process, getting dyslexia on the radar and supports in place. Dyslexia is difficult to identify. If this story sounds familiar, don’t wait!