I decided finally to google it. The answer came as a relief. We had been waiting for a teacher to raise the question, but I had grown tired of waiting.
For two years, my twins had struggled to keep pace with their peers in reading. They were thoughtful, clever, often articulate kids—but matching letters on a page to words you said out loud did not come naturally. We had done all the usual things—talked about letters and sounds, gone to pre-school, read books day and night, practiced writing letters and words, read two books every day in the summer between kindergarten and first grade.
At the beginning of first grade, I asked two friends to pray daily for them and their reading. I had exhausted my own prayers and needed reinforcements. I hired a tutor to work with them each once a week. The school assigned them to see the reading specialist two times a week. We had meetings with the school. We asked questions. Everyone was perplexed by their very slow progress.
The teachers kept promising that if they did Raz-kids, that if we read the assigned books every day, that if we kept at it, everything would fall into place. We wouldn’t believe the progress they would make by the end of the year!
Yet the breakthrough never came. The weeks passed and their peers left them further behind. They noticed. They became self -conscious and anxious, not wanting to go to school at all. Their anxiety mirrored my own. There were stomach aches and headaches on their part and endless strategizing on mine.
As soon as I pulled up the first list on google, the answer was clear. They were dyslexic. One was a textbook case, in fact. They not only had the classic signs (difficulty breaking words into their component parts; particular struggle with small sight words), but also the accompanying strengths (great imagination; strong memory for stories read to them). I learned that our school district is dismissive of dyslexia as a category, so we paid for a detailed, private assessment. The results were just as we had come to expect.
Finally, we had the answer to our questions and our prayers. This, of course, was not the way we had wanted our prayers answered, at least not originally. Our struggle had continued so long, though, and the pain had been so unremitting, that any answer became acceptable. In the end, knowing the name of the problem was much preferable to wandering in a fog of dread and uncertainty.
It is hard to fight an enemy you cannot name. While it is not accurate to call dyslexia an enemy, it is certainly an obstacle in learning to read. And we could not surmount that obstacle until we understood its contours. Now we do, and we have a great plan for helping our girls become capable and confident readers. (The research is conclusive and helpful: there is a clear way to teach dyslexic students to read.)
Since neither Rick nor I are dyslexic, this whole experiences has been a surprise. Of all the things we were ready to watch for in our kids (anxiety, flat feet, genuis wit), dyslexia was not on the list. Yet we are learning to embrace it. Some research indicates that dyslexia may simply come from being highly right-brained. When you look at the list of famous people who are dyslexic, it is clear that thriving is possible. That it likely comes with super powers as well as deficits.
It may be years before my girls fully discover their super powers, and those years are likely to contain struggle to get along in a system that was not designed for them. I trust there is purpose in both the struggle and the dyslexia itself. God created them just as they are, with unique plans for them and their gifts. And His plans are always better (and more interesting) than mine.
Prayers and research led us here. And Jesus will lead us forward. I’m counting on it.
©2016, Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things