If you combine the emails I get from teachers with those I get from parents, you can see why so many students with dyslexia drop out of high school.
A caring teacher asked:
I am a first-year 3rd grade teacher.
I have one student in my classroom who is very bright. She does extremely well in all of her subjects, except reading and spelling. Her spelling is atrocious, and so is her handwriting. When she writes the required sentences each week, her sentence structure and words are simplistic and not at all similar to how she speaks.
When reading aloud, she runs over punctuation marks, and she doesn’t even try to sound out unknown words. Even when I help her and eventually tell her the word, she will often not know that very same word when it appears again a page or two later.
Parent-teacher conferences are coming up, and I was wondering if I should warn her parents about the possibility of dyslexia.
Yes, if you suspect a child may have dyslexia PLEASE mention it to their parents. They know their child is struggling because they fight the nightly “homework wars.”
If dyslexia is not discovered and dealt with during those early grades, teachers in junior high often complain:
I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful presentation I attended about 2 weeks ago at my school. I was moved to tears and then later, I became quite angry!
I am a teacher at the school that hosted your presentation. I teach 7th grade English Language Arts, and I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for years by going to conferences, holding discussions with my colleagues, and asking administrators: “What do I do with the students who read at the 2nd grade level in 7th grade?”
I will never understand our approach to education. How can it be that effective reading systems exist, we do not employ them, and yet we are expected to raise their scores and close the gap? (And we call ourselves educators.)
How much longer are we going to allow this farce to continue?
But the real tragedy is what happens to these children in high school. Their parents send me heart-breaking emails, like the following:
My son has dyslexia, he’s 17, and I don’t know what to do.
He can barely read, he can’t spell, and his special education teacher isn’t helping. He’s slipping away, yet he really is a good kid.
He is giving up. He wants to drop out of high school.
Help. I’m desperate!
I am dyslexic, but I did not know it until my 6 year old son was diagnosed with it. I suspect 2 of my other children also have it, and ADD as well.
My oldest is 16, and he’s the one I am most concerned about.
The school has always labeled him a “problem kid.” Over the years, I tried everything the teachers suggested. But when their ideas did not work and I went back to them with my own suggestions, I became the enemy. Nothing I suggested was ever tried or accepted.
He is a junior in high school, but he only has the credits of a 9th grader — so he may not graduate. His teachers give up on him and just push him through. He has very low self-esteem, has been in a lot of trouble, and I just discovered he is starting to use drugs.
I feel like I have let him down. I worry that it is too late to help him. What can I do now?
My nephew, who is 20, has dyslexia but never knew it. School was so awful for him that he dropped out.
He tried to get his GED through a local college program, but it was way over his head. One of the teachers called him “stupid,” so now he will not go back. That is the last thing he needed — as he already had very poor self-esteem.
He has always wanted to be an engineer, but he says he is too stupid to be that — or anything else in life.
I want to help him. If I don’t, he may never be able to get a job, and he will live at home with his mom forever.
All of that pain is preventable if teachers would warn parents when a student shows many of the classic early warning signs of dyslexia, and if parents then got their child the right type of tutoring.
This is why Dyslexia Awareness Month is so important. Please share what you know about dyslexia with other parents — to prevent this:
I am just beginning to realize my son has dyslexia.
It saddens me that I have spent so many years trying to beat information into my son, fighting with him about why he did not understand, frustrated when he did not get it.
Year after year he would tell me, “Mom, I promise I’ll try harder,” yet his grades would still be D’s and F’s and me, of course, letting him know my disappointment.
I feel so very bad about some of the things I have said to him. I even fought with him about why it so hard for him to tie his shoes. “It’s so simple. Why don’t you get it?”
I want to warn other parents so they will understand what I did not. So they will avoid pushing their child to do things they just can’t do, to stop listening to others who claim your child is just being lazy, or who advise “If you take away his favorite sport, I bet he’ll change.”
What hurts me most is that I could see he was such a bright child, very athletic, very creative. Yet every evening, homework turned into fights with me saying things like, “Your brother gets it. Why can’t you?” His self-esteem was already at a low, and all I was doing was making it worse.
It took a huge fight between me and my son late last year, that had us both crying, when I asked him, “Tell me what it is that is so hard for you in class,” and he answered, “I can’t read the big words. I just can’t, and I feel stupid compared to the rest of the kids.” That started me doing an internet search for reading problems, which lead me to dyslexia, which led me to your website. He has almost every classic warning sign of dyslexia. It was as if you had a camera in our house.
I am now going to be the strongest advocate for my child. He is a caring, loving, wonderful soul who wears his heart on his sleeve. He does not deserve the emotional pain that my ignorance caused him.
People have told me over and over again that the day they discovered they had dyslexia was the best day in their life — as this woman shares:
Thank you for your on-line video. I watched it because I suspect my 5 year old has dyslexia. Now I’m convinced. But just as important, I found out that I have mild dyslexia.
I cried when I watched your video because you were talking about my life. I related with everything you said. I was actually a B high school student only because my A+ in Art brought up the rest of my grades.
I was on the 7 year plan in college and avoided classes that required written reports. I still can’t believe you knew that. I had to take an upper-level developmental biology class that had all essay exams. The professor would give me partial credit because he knew I could sit and talk about the material, but I could not seem to get it down in written words.
M mother still teases me that I was in my 20’s before I knew my left from right. I knew the days of the week, but struggled with the months.
I still remember her trying to teach me to spell, telling me to look it up in the dictionary, but me not having a clue as to the first, second, or third letter.
My writing was in run-on sentences (still is, sorry). I knew the teacher wanted periods, then a capital, so I would go back over my work and if a sentence looked too long, I would take out a word and put in a period.
Because of your video, when I make word substitutions when reading to my girls, I will no longer cringe when I realize my mistake.
My dirty little secret in life is, of course, that I can’t spell. My husband can’t either. We have worried about the day our kids will find out our “secret.” Well, it is not going to be a dirty little secret any more.
I am not embarrassed to send you this awfully written note. I am not going to rewrite it 3 times, then wait 24 hours, and read it again before I send it — as I usually do. I can stop beating myself up thinking I’m stupid. I’m just mildly dyslexic. Too bad I had to be 42 before I figured that out.
Even though you don’t know me, I am so relieved that there is someone in the world who understands me, and I don’t have to feel crazy or retarded because I can’t spell, write, or read out loud.
I have to look at my whole life differently now. I have lots of new questions, like: is dyslexia why, after 30 years of keyboard use, I still have to look at the keys?
Thank you for giving me the answer to my question of what’s wrong with me. My head’s a little higher today. I think you healed 40 years of emotional scars in the few minutes it took to describe an adult with mild dyslexia. Amazing what putting a name to a condition can do.
Children with dyslexia will often NOT qualify for special education services when tested in first or second (or even third) grade. Yet as the following parent shared, the classic warning signs will already be there, and that’s exactly when a child should start getting the right type of tutoring.
I am looking for someone who can give me a second opinion on test results of an evaluation done with my 7 year old son, who will be starting 2nd grade in 2 weeks.
First grade was a hard year for him – lots of tantrums and self-esteem problems. We could not figure out where all his anger was coming from until last December, when he started to fall behind in reading. In February it dawned on me that he might have dyslexia. I felt we needed an evaluation so we could start helping him effectively right away and not lose valuable years of reading training.
We had him privately evaluated by an educational psychologist to check for a learning disability because the public school said he was not doing poorly enough for them to do it.
The examiner found a “severe discrepancy” between reading achievement (23 %ile) and IQ (75 %ile), but he did not find a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes, which is why we did not receive a diagnosis of a learning disability.
He did test quite low in auditory processing (19 %ile). He actually scored even lower (at the 1 %ile) in the word discrimination subtest, but the examiner thought that might have been a fluke – because he scored so high in thinking and reasoning (91 %ile) and in the visual-spatial stuff (91 %ile).
The examiner felt my son was a very bright boy and that he would catch up in reading as he matured. He claimed his tantrums were just a cry for attention.
Despite that, my husband and I are still concerned. I really would like someone else to look at his scores for a second opinion because I have read several books and researched dyslexia online – and I see lots of the warning signs in my son.
Is it possible that he still could have dyslexia, but is not far enough behind in school yet to get a diagnosis?
I would really like his teacher to realize he is not being lazy or not paying attention.
I also want to be able to give my son a reason for his difficulties so he’ll know he’s not dumb. We have told him how smart he is, of course, but when he sees how well other kids are reading, he gets frustrated and feels stupid.
Parents often don’t believe me when I tell them that most school psychologists have had no training in dyslexia. But I get emails like this every day:
From a school psychologist in New York:
I would LOVE to attend your Screening for Dyslexia conference.
Our number one question during RTI meetings is if there is a possibility a child might have dyslexia. This topic is vague to me even after years of reading and doing independent research.
Yet as the “expert” at these meetings, I struggle with remediation techniques that may work after I screen a student and determine deficits.
Or from this school psychologist in Colorado:
I am a school psychologist in Colorado. I agree to your notion that we have no specialty in diagnosing dyslexia, however the prevalence of parents’ requests seems to grow and grow. Unfortunately, when parents cannot afford outside assistance, we are the only ones that are left.
I have been to several workshops, symposiums, etc, yet do not feel completely educated on the subject. Do you recommend any books or specific journals on the topic? How about books that may target age groups lower than 8 years old in looking at dyslexia?
That lack of knowledge causes this:
My son just finished second grade and is dyslexic. I am sure of it. His father is dyslexic, and his father’s father is dyslexic. He has almost every single warning sign listed on your website and in many of the books that I have read.
Yet when he qualified for special education services in May, they classified him as having an “Emotional Disorder” — even though his reading scores were really, really low. The school considers “average” anything from the 16th percentile to the 85th percentile, and his reading score was exactly at the 16th percentile.
The school psychologist told me that my son’s anxiety and depression were “off the charts” and that he CAN read — but his anxiety gets in the way and he becomes “too stressed out” to read.
When I tried to explain that he was most likely anxious and depressed because he CANNOT read, the psychologist just flippantly said, “So it’s one of those which came first things — the chicken or the egg.”
They never looked at his spelling (which is horrible, with all of the classic dyslexic spelling mistakes) or asked him to write anything (he HATES to write, even a few sentences).
His IEP only lists services for emotional issues (meet with the counselor once a week). What do I do? Just let him flounder?
He won’t be able to read the board or any of the books used in third grade. Do I just let him founder with no accommodations? That seems so cruel.
He already hates himself for being “stupid and different” — his words, not mine.