Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dyslexia and Success

When my daughter was in first grade, she couldn't read.

First day of 1st grade.

Lot of kids are learning to read in first grade, but my daughter was still having difficulty with basic sight words.  And spelling them?  No way.

In kindergarten, she had scored very high on the district's Gifted and Talented assessment.  When we read stories out loud to her, she understood everything perfectly.  And she could easily guess a word's meaning if it were in context.

"Mom, I got this.  You can go now!"

But show her a single word, and she couldn't even sound it out.

We knew something was wrong.

We talked to her first grade teacher.

She said, "It's too early to tell if a child has a reading disability.  It usually 'clicks' for kids by the end of the year."

It didn't 'click'.

We talked to her second grade teacher.

We said, "Juliana's reading isn't up to the same level as her other work.  We really think there's something wrong.  Maybe dyslexia.  What should we do?"

He said, "She's doing pretty well.  Let's see how the year goes."

First day of 2nd grade.

By the end of second grade, we decided to do something about it - ourselves!

We got Juliana tested through the Reading Center in Rochester, MN.  Sure enough, she had (and will always have) dyslexia.

We were relieved to finally have answers to our questions!

It's very stressful when I know something's not right, but I don't know what it is exactly or how to deal with it.  When I finally get an answer - good or bad - at least I know in what direction to focus my energies.  So getting the confirmation of dyslexia helped propel me to the next level.

We set Juliana up with tutoring, with an awesome woman named Patti, 2 days/week for all of 3rd grade.  Then 1 day/week in 4th grade.  It was a big time (and financial) commitment, but worth every minute and penny!

But not everyone has the ability to set up their own testing and then pay for tutoring.

Parents have to be their child's advocate BIG TIME when it comes to learning disabilities.  It's super important to catch a learning disability like dyslexia early.  I wish we had pushed harder way back in first grade when we first knew something was wrong.  I tell parents now, "If your gut says something's not right, then you have to speak up!  You have to keep saying it over and over until someone listens."

* * * * * * * * * *

This Friday, Juliana graduates from 8th grade and will start High School in the fall.  Last night was the Junior High Awards Ceremony and I was compelled to write this post.

Juliana received many awards, including "A" Honor Roll and "Excellence in Science."

But it really hit me how far she's come when she received the "Excellence in Challenge French" award.

Most people with dyslexia have great difficulty with foreign languages.  Juliana was no exception.  But she was determined to take Challenge (accelerated) French.  And it was a challenge.  But she loved it and ROCKED that class big time!

In fact, she was the only student in her grade to receive the "Excellence in Challenge French" award!

She will never be a great speller.  Who am I kidding?  Her spelling stinks!  And it always will.

But, there are ways to deal with poor spelling.  Like practice and Spell Check and Mom.

So imagine spelling a French word when you can't even spell the English equivalent.  Tough!

But, learning French is more than just spelling words correctly.  And even those tricky words got easier and easier for Juliana.  She ending up loving French class, Madam Fair (her teacher), and the French language and culture.

Last night as Juliana walked across the stage to receive her awards (in WAY too tall platform shoes, I'd like to add), I was so HAPPY for her!

She has come so far.  Dyslexia and all.

8th grade Awards Night

Dyslexia and Success can go hand-in-hand.

It just takes a little patience, a lot of perseverance, and bucket loads of love.


  1. Dara, kudos to you and your hubby for advocating for your child. You are so right, you have to listen to your GUT!

    Gorgeous pictures, so exciting about the awards, I am sure you are SO PROUD! And I am guessing there were maybe a few tears too?

    A friend of mine, who was a top executive at a major corporation before retiring, was diagnosed with dyslexia just last year, she had brought her son in concerned he had some issues and found out she had it. She had struggled her whole life, and was still able to overcome her obstacles and be successful. But now that she knows she has dyslexia, she can stop beating herself up for not being able to spell, etc.

    Great post!

    1. Oh my gosh! I am so glad to hear about your friend! I think there are successful adults out there who've always struggled (and beaten themselves up) without knowing that they actually have a learning disability! I'm so glad she found out.

      One of the biggest reasons early detection of dyslexia (and other disabilities) is so important is SELF ESTEEM! If you know from early on that you just learn differently, that there's a reason you struggle with something, it helps you realize you're not a "failure" and that it's not a matter of not "trying hard enough."

      Thanks for sharing her story with me. And thanks for your kind comments!

      P.S. I hope your back is feeling better!!

  2. Great Post. My daughter also has dyslexia and will be a sophomore in high school. Her determination and work ethic have allowed her to make high honor roll. I could relate completely with your journey.

    1. Thanks for the comments! Kids with dyslexia are usually so bright, they just need some extra tools, support and determination. Then they're on their way! Im happy to hear about your daughter! I'm a little nervous as she makes the leap into high school this fall. But, I believe it will go well, overall.