I would like to tell you a story.
Twenty-four years ago when my daughter, Genevieve was in grade two, I was called in for a meeting with her teacher. He told me that he suspected that she had a reading problem and he thought it might be “dyslexia”. I had heard the term when I was in university studying to become a teacher but I didn’t know anything about it.
KAREN AND GEN
He wanted me to talk to the teacher in charge of the program for slow readers. She did some tests on Gen and then told me she was setting up an appointment with a specialist for learning disabilities. More tests followed and then I was told that Gen was very bright and most likely dyslexic. She also said there was no assistance or tutoring help in the school system for her problem.
This was the beginning of a very long and frustrating journey.
The internet was not available back in the 1980’s and very little was known about dyslexia. It was also difficult finding anyone in my children’s education system that really believed it existed. Most teachers, principals and school psychologists who make up the majority of the individuals at an IEP(Individualized Education Program) meeting told me my expectations were too high for my child.
MY EXPECTATIONS WERE TOO HIGH?!!!
I said if she couldn’t read, write or do basic math she couldn’t even work at a gas station! My expectations were too high… can you imagine? I even had one school psychologist tell me about a girl with dyslexia she knew in middle school who was a cheerleader, an artist and very popular. She told me the girl seemed very happy and wasn’t concerned about her spelling and reading problems. I asked her how being a cheerleader, artist and being popular was going to help in the REAL world?
Realizing the schools would be no help I started to look for tutors or specialists in the phone book. I found a a woman who was running a school for dyslexics and had her assess Gen. She confirmed that she was dyslexic. It was explained to me that she needed to have everything taught to her in whole and real images, not abstract. Also a dyslexic sees the complete picture of something first and then the parts. Think of the expression “forest before the trees”. People who are dyslexic would need to understand what a forest is in its entirety before they could identify, see or visualize the individual trees. Learning in whole concrete images or concepts is the key to their thinking and learning style and how a right-brained individual processes information.
So I started to explain everything to her with real life concepts and when I taught her a new piece of information I gave her the whole idea first. I’ll give you an example. One day Gen was working on a arithmetic sheet in grade three. The exercise listed specific amounts of money like $1.00, 75 cents, $1.50, etc. The directions asked what six coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.) would you need to add up to those amounts. This was too abstract for her. She couldn’t begin to imagine what those coins would be. I got her a jar of change, poured the coins out in front of her. She knew what coins were because they were real, she knew what to use them for and how much they were worth because she had bought items from stores with me. I then said count up different coins until they added up to the amounts on her sheet. So a $1.00 could be 3 quarters, 2 dimes and one nickel. She understood immediately and went through the exercise sheet in minutes!
Suddenly after years of confusion she could be taught! This was the start of FINALLY understanding my daughter and how she thinks and how she learns.
From there I found some help from tutors who worked with dyslexics, I read any books on the subject I could find and anyone who had some ideas. I started to come up with ways to help her with her class work and how to work with the left-brained teaching methods she was being taught at school. She was able to follow the teacher by knowing what questions she needed to ask to understand and comprehend what was being taught and what was expected of her.
I also developed methods to teach her spelling, reading, arithmetic, telling time, etc. that helped her stay caught up with the class.
We had terrific success!
Genevieve successfully graduated high school with good grades and the ability to go on to college successfully.
We also had the rest of my kids, my husband and myself tested for dyslexia. We all have varying degrees of dyslexia. Turns out my father, my sister, one of my brothers and many of my husband’s family are also dyslexic. We are all coping with it and many of us are using our “right-brain dyslexic gift” very effectively! I have discovered that being right-brained and dyslexic can be an incredible asset.
My three dyslexic children are now adults starting their own families. They are all doing very well in their fields of work and have overcome the stigma of dyslexia. They all can spell, read and write.
Today Genevieve manages our family fence construction business with 23 employees. She handles all aspects of the business which includes those skills she wasn’t able to do back in elementary school when we first became aware she was dyslexic. She is also married, has a husband and two children and somehow finds time to help family and friends with their problems! Because she is right-brained , Gen has incredible problem-solving skills which is a trait of this learning and thinking style.
Thanks for listening.