Showing posts with label dyslexia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dyslexia. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Exposing the Secrets- My Dyslexia Research Paper


Exposing the Secret

     Growing up I lived a life filled with fear and shame. For eight years I hid my deep dark secret from my parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. My secret came with self-hate. The self-hate began to fester and infect other areas of my life, leading me to fall into a deep depression. I sought relief from pain through drinking, promiscuity, and self-mutilation. What was my secret? I could not read.

     Dyslexia is a disability that impacts a large portion of young students. Robin Boda, the Director of Education at Hope Education, describes dyslexia by saying that “it is a brain difference, neurological brain difference. Often going hand in hand with that, are gifts and strengths” (Boda). Yale’s MDAI, Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative, posted “20% of the population is struggling with this hidden disability” (MDAI). Goldish, author of Everything You Need to Know About Dyslexia, wrote “It is further estimated that 10 to 15 percent of school-age children have dyslexia. Yet despite the large number of people with dyslexia, it is estimated that only 5 percent of dyslexics are ever properly diagnosed and given appropriate help” (Goldish, pg. 20).

      A Huffington Post article said, 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read” (Crum). When Boda was asked for her view of Huffington Post’s statistic, she was not surprised. She described how the majority of her adult dyslexic students made it to very high levels in their high schools, many even graduating. Dr. Greene and Dr. Forster did a study on high school graduates readiness to enter college. They found that “only 32% of all students—fewer than half of those who graduate and about one-third of all students who enter high school—leave high school with the bare minimum qualifications necessary to apply to college” (Greene). Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed.

The Stigma:
     When I was in third grade, I asked my dad to have me tested so I could be in the resource room like a couple of my friends. He responded by telling me that I was not retarded, because no kid of his was retarded. Then he told me that I was just being stupid and lazy to slack off with my friends. That is the moment I realized how disappointed my family would be if they found out just how stupid I was. It was my job to keep my struggle a secret.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed due to the stigma attached with the term dyslexia. People with dyslexia are often seen as lazy and stupid. “Sometimes because dyslexic children are so bright and seem to have all the cognitive "equipment" necessary to read, their continuing struggles are blamed on lack of motivation or not trying hard enough” (MDAI). The MDAI also found that students, thinking that they are not intelligent, often give up on themselves and have no hopes for success or happiness. These false beliefs, lead many dyslexic children to keep their struggles a secret.

     John Corcoran is a dyslexic teacher and an advocate for education reform. When he was young, his teachers told his parents that “he was simply ‘unmotivated’ and ‘immature’ and would learn to read at some point” (Feeney). Corcoran went through life pretending that he could read and even got through college and became a teacher. “Still, he maintained the illusion of literacy, carrying a newspaper or book under one arm and listening carefully to conversations in the teachers' room” (Feeney). When a student does reach out for help, the parent does not believe the student. The reaction of those parent’s and my father was described by Boda, “The parent doesn’t know how to deal with it so they don’t exactly believe the kid. They say try harder and you’re not focusing.”

     While the common belief is that dyslexics are stupid, this belief is completely false. “Dyslexics are not stupid. Most have average intelligence. Many are above average” (Goldish, pg. 20). MDAI describes the talents of dyslexic students saying that they “usually excel at problem solving, reasoning, seeing the big picture, and thinking out of the box” (MDAI). Many teachers, parents, and even students believe the negative stigma on dyslexic students.

The Signs:
     When I would sit down and read, I would spend an hour trying to read the first few words. The letters on the page would begin to dance around and blur into and out of focus, often giving me headaches. I felt stupid and I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. All the members of my family are geniuses, and I could not even read a couple words. I kept my secret until I was seventeen years old. My Spanish teacher was the first person I felt I could tell without a fear of judgement. She supported me and inspired me to be an advocate for myself. She helped me tell my parents and fought for me to get tested.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed because people are unaware of the signs of dyslexia. Dyslexia has many signs including: Speech problems when young, problems with handwriting, bad spelling, difficultly reading out loud, low reading comprehension, thinking out of the box, does not test well, headaches when reading, and even ADD/ADHD. Students often do not have the same signs. “[Dyslexia] appears as spelling errors, but it is far more complex than just switching letters like b and d. There is a huge range of dyslexia and it is on a spectrum” (Boda). Goldish describes the spectrum saying, “dyslexia can range from minor problems with spelling to complete illiteracy” (Goldish, pg. 19). It is important for teachers and parents to be educated on the signs in order to help students.

The Shame:
     Exposing my secret to my parents was one of my most terrifying experiences. To my surprise, my parents did not react as I had assumed they would. They were supportive and immediately got me tested. My parents were shocked to discover that I tested at a third grade level. They sacrificed their time and money to get me specialized tutoring. After a year and a half of intensive tutoring, my reading level went from third grade to high school, it gave me the coping skills I will use for the rest of my life.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed due to their deep seeded shame. Clinical Psychologist, Gershen Kaufman, studied shame in adults and found that “adults who have not learned how to read and write feel acute shame over their deficiency” (Kaufman, 1992, 199). Boda found that fear and shame were so common that they were the two things she had to overcome with every student she has. She said, “They try to hide it, cover it up, don’t seek your help” (Boda). When John Corcoran exposed that he could not read it “marked the end of shame, anxiety, and ingenious evasions and the beginning of a crusade on behalf of literacy and education reform” (Feeney). 

     Sonya Bridges is another inspirational person. She is also a teacher and she also discovered that she had dyslexia when she was an adult. Even though she had to work harder than most of the kids in her class, she persevered and did well in school. Bridges was tested when she was an adult, after years of wondering if she was dyslexic and “when the results finally came in, Bridges was relieved, but embarrassed. She kept her findings secret for a while” (Graham). Shame is a powerful force that is very common in the life of a person with dyslexia.

The Solution:
      Five years ago when my oldest daughter was in first grade, I discovered she is dyslexic like me. I refused to have her live a life of shame, low self-confidence, and hating school. When her teacher and counselor at school said she was too young to test, we pulled her from public school and began homeschooling her. She goes to a tutor once a week and we work with her throughout the week. Over the few years, she has caught up to grade level reading, a passion for learning, and a high self-confidence.

      Dyslexic children do not have to go undiagnosed. While there is no cure for dyslexia, fortunately, there are ways to greatly improve the life of dyslexic people and to empower them to reach their full potentials. The first step is to educate parents on dyslexia. About thirteen years ago Mary Buchanan discovered that her teenage daughter could not read. Parents often do not realize that their child has dyslexia. “Unfortunately, teachers and parents do not always notice that a child has a language disability” (Goldish, pg. 9). Boda describes the reason parents don’t catch their child’s learning disability, “A lot of parents trust the school to take care of all of that. Parents go many years without listening to them read, or if they do listen to them read they will listen to them read stories that have been read to them many times that the student has it memorized.” (Boda).  I was able to catch my daughter’s dyslexia and get her help, because I was educated on the signs of dyslexia.

     Mary Buchanan described her feelings as shocked and saddened. She was shocked at how she could not have known and was sad to think of all the years and the lost opportunities. When asked about what steps her husband and she made to help their daughter, she said, “We went and got her tested and paid over $9,000 to get her tutoring.” She also said that it “would have been helpful to get info out to parents to know what to look for, signs to watch for” (Buchanan). The sacrifice she and her husband made have had a huge impact on her daughter. I know this impact because she is my mother. If it wasn’t for the way they responded and fought to help me, I would not be about to graduate from college and the cycle would not have been broken for her granddaughter. A parents love and support are key to a child’s success. “Because of the love, encouragement and academic help from her mother, Bridges endured the bullying and laughter of classmates, and worked hard to become an achiever” (Graham).

      The second step to helping dyslexic children, is to adjust their education to encourage their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses. In order to find the student’s strengths and weaknesses, it is important to test them young with a non-standardized test. Since dyslexia is inherited, it is especially important to test if any other family members are dyslexic. If a student is diagnosed with dyslexia, the school needs to find ways to educate within that child’s learning style. Many schools are trying to fit students into a box, and dyslexic students often don’t fit. For example, standardized tests might reflect the knowledge and understanding of many, but dyslexic students do not test well. Dyslexic students also need more time in getting the foundations of phonics and reading. To push the student along in hopes that he or she might catch up, will actually hinder the student. “The existence of other social problems does not excuse the public school system’s inadequate performance” (Greene). Boda believes that we have to do school differently. She describes the importance of having a high standard but a different standard for each student.

     While the tutoring helped me read, it was not a cure. When I became a student in college, I assumed that I would hate school and would get bad grades just as I had done growing up. I was shocked to discover that I was able to get onto the honor roll and even ended up being honored as an Emerging Scholar at a banquet. I will always struggle with my dyslexia, but I am now empowered to succeed. I am finally starting to break from the chains of self-hate as I am discovering that I am a strong, talented, and highly intelligent woman.


Work Cited
Boda, Robin. Interview. 21 July 2015.
Buchanan, Mary. Interview. 21 July 2015.
Crum, Maddie. "The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn't Changed In 10 Years." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 July 2015.
Feeney. "The Teacher Who Couldn't Read: John Corcoran." Biography 3.10 (1999): 82. Middle Search Plus. Web. 25 July 2015.
Goldish, Meish. Everything You Need to Know about Dyslexia. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1998. Print.
Graham, Charlotte. "Dyslexia hits home for former local teacher." Laurel Leader-Call (Mississippi). (September 19, 2011 Monday ): 1305 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/07/25.
Greene, Jay P., and Greg Forster. "Public High School Graduation and College Readiness Rates in the United States. Education Working Paper No. 3." Center for Civic Innovation (2003).
"Illiteracy Statistics." Statistic Brain RSS. 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.
Kaufman, Gershen. Shame, the Power of Caring. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Pub., 1985. Print.
"MDAI: Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative * The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity." Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative * The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Web. 29 July 2015.





Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why I HATE Reading To My Kids

I remember the days that my daughter would return from school with little notes to all of the parents. The reminder was that we should be spending at least 15 minutes a night reading to our child. While many mothers saw this as a kind honorable reminder I saw it as a personal attack for a few reasons. The first reason was that I already knew the importance of reading to my child. I see the signs, hear the PSAs, and am even reminded by doctors and teachers. This was not a new concept to me. The second reason was because the note made it seem like they were saying, "it's only fifteen minutes of your day, isn't your child worth it?" It wasn't only fifteen minutes a day, to me it was FIFTEEN MINUTES a day. The final reason was because the picture of a mother happily and lovingly looking over her child's shoulder as he sat quietly and peacefully in her lap was in no way my reality.


So today I thought I would put a new spin on things and tell you why I hate to read to my kids. I hope that by the end of this either you will find some comfort in the fact that you are not alone if you also hate it, or to help you understand why some parents don't read to their children so you may better support and encourage them.

Why I hate reading to my kids-

It is Frustrating... As I sit trying to read the story Abigaile becomes fidgety. She starts to pick at her fingers and her skin. I try to focus on the book but my eyes keep being pulled to what she is doing. I lovingly place my hand on hers, our little sign that she needs to try to stop fidgeting, and search for my place in the book. She begins to gently  tap her pencil on the table and I again loose my place. I then ask her to stop and she having not even noticed her actions quickly sets the pencil back on the table. I find the word I ended on and try to begin again but can not seem to get my eyes to focus. I notice that the entire time I have only been repeating the first few words and I can't seem to continue. I feel like a scratched record that continues to skip. I am filled with frustration and shoot her the good ol' mommy scowl, but my frustration is soon turned into guilt because I know that it is not her fault that I can't focus.

It is Anxiety Provoking... As Elizabeth proudly and excitedly brings me a book her eyes beg for me to read to her. I agree and make room for her on my lap. I open the first page and boldly read the title page. When I flip the page I notice an avalanche of words pouring from each page and trapping me. I am filled with anxiety just at the thought of trying to read all of the words. I had hoped that since it was a child's book there would be more pictures. I try to decide if I could make up a story instead and lie about what the book says but it is too late. I am frozen in fear of the idea of climbing out of each page and making it to the summit. I close the book and pray that she will be distracted by another simpler book.

It is Embarrassing... As I begin to read I feel confident in my abilities. I have already pre-screened several books of which my daughters could choose, many of which I am very familiar with. I begin with a good pace and sail smoothly through the words and pages. Then it happens... like a wave crashing on board a ship I am caught by surprise and stumble on a word. I quickly recover and continue on with my face slightly flushed from the embarrassment of the error. As I continue to feel embarrassed I seem to have lost course. The words seem to become more and more choppy, like the the uneasy sea throwing a boat around. I begin to doubt myself and my skills as a parent wondering "What kind of parent can't even read Dr. Seuss to their kid?" I begin to wonder if they notice how much I am struggling and most of all I wonder if they are embarrassed of me as well.

This is what reading to my kids is like. This is the struggle of a dyslexic parent. It makes me wonder how many of those parents who don't read to their children are secretly facing similar battles. If that is the issue for someone.. I promise a little friendly reminder to read to their child won't help. They may need encouragement or help with their own struggle. I hate to leave things on a negative note and I wanted to offer comfort to those who also hate reading to their kids.

Why I make myself read to my kids-

They are Rewarding... I get to see my children's passion for reading grow. I have never read a book just for the fun of it, but to see my child do it is an amazing feeling. When I ask them questions about what they have read, their eyes light up and they so clearly articulate all the fascinating things they learned. My oldest daughter also struggles with dyslexia and I am able to watch her push through and learn to read. There is something so beautiful about watching your child overcome something you yourself have battled with.

They are Understanding... I often have to remind myself that my daughters don't care if I skip words, make up words, or even mess up words; they are just happy that I am trying to spend the time with them. For them it isn't about the book, it is about us being together and going some place in their imaginations that we could maybe never go in reality. I am truly my harshest critic and my children are my biggest fans.

They are Loving... I have learned just how loving they are through my transparency with them. I have learned to openly tell my oldest daughter when I am struggling with reading and together we push on and continue. It gives me a chance to also teach her that we aren't defined by our struggles but by how we handle them. I hope when she is struggling with reading that she can remember that she isn't alone. She gives me so much encouragement when I have a difficult time reminds me that her love for me is not based on how well I read to her.

The biggest reason I make myself read to them is so that they won't hate reading to their kids. I hope to break the chain. I also hope that they will not just tolerate reading but will find their own passion for it.

I have found that through making myself read to them it has gotten better and I have begun to enjoy it more. So I say out of a place of understanding and love, read to your kids. Not because you love it but because you love them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Labels

So often we label ourselves as certain things and with certain thing. These labels can be good and they can be bad, it all depends what we do with the label once we stamp ourselves with it. 

Flash back to eight years ago:
"I have Bipolar." The words stung. I had been fearing saying the words out loud with the fear that once I put them out into the air they would become real. Once they I said it I felt the immediate need to try and grab them and pull them back. Take back what was beginning to unravel me. I felt my confidence in my identity begin to be stripped away. I was exposed and no longer was able to hide behind the my walls of humor, false happiness, and confidence. I had been hearing my doctors and my parents saying it for days but I hadn't been able to mutter the very same words. They seemed to be an object that I could not understand or grasp, a hologram in my midst. I would now have to go through the process of finding out what it truly meant to me, to society, and to those around me. The label had been set, and it was a dark label of violence, of chaos, of defeat. The label "bipolar" was looked at as someone who gives in to impulsivity. It was seen as someone who hurts themselves and those around them. It was one with no room for hope. It was one that could not be removed. 

Flash back to seven years ago: 
"I am an adulterer." There was not scarlet letter upon my chest, but I could feel it written all over me. It seemed like the whole world could see it. I feared that my husband would never be able to see anything in me other than it. The label came with chains of shame, disgrace, and self hate. The label seemed larger than me and was pulling me in and swallowing me up. This too comes with defeat... once a cheater always a cheater, right? 

Labels like these can pull us into a place of defeat. I often takes over our entire identity and we lose part of who we are. They distract others and ourselves from seeing the truth. They not only put us in a box but they put God in a box. 

Flash back to seven years ago... a little after the affair:
"I am Forgiven." I am able to let the blood of Christ poor over and cover all of my labels. I am not bound by any chains, but have the power to break free and to follow God. This label my friends, brings hope. It brings grace, mercy, love, power, and it gives us our TRUE identity. We are transformed into new creations. 


Instead of labels being what defines me... they are hurdles that I can conquer and overcome with God. I can take all of the negative condensation and rise above it. Are there still struggles? Sure there are, but the struggles are not as big as my God is. Now labels just give me a new challenge to face. A new way to see God working. 

Flash back to this year... 
"I am dyslexic." I have known since I was a junior, but I allowed to let the label have power over me. I have been able to learn techniques to help me and to be successful, but the negative view of it still wouldn't allow me to say the words. I feared how badly it might hurt. Surprisingly, I found great relief in saying the words. It was something that God is already helping me adjust to. It is something that my God is bigger. It doesn't mean that I am stupid or lazy. It just means that God created me a little differently. God is true, fair, and loving. He is not surprised about this fact. Instead of overpowering me, the label empowers me to push myself to new levels. To seek God more. To learn about how God created me and what a great gift he has blessed me with. It is a blessing not a curse. One that my daughter might share with me. God has shown me that with Him, nothing can hold me down. 

Labels can be bad, but with the label of being a Christ one those same labels can be amazing. God can use them to further His kingdom and to show His power. 

Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!"

Ephesians 4:20-24 "That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."