I’ve had my suspicions. But when I figured out last year that B had ADHD, I thought that explained his problems with reading. I didn’t know that anyone who flipped any of the letters, even if only two pairs, is dyslexic.
Duh. I’m feeling a bit embarrassed about it, being a certified teacher and all. There really should be required class or two on learning disabilities in college teacher programs (maybe some colleges/universities do).
My lightning bolt moment
How did I come to this conclusion? As I mentioned in this post, B recently had his first serious encounter with doing copywork as punishment. At first, I was going to have him copy the subtraction facts from a paper where I had previously written them out. But he had to constantly look back and forth from his paper to mine in order to write the facts. After fifteen minutes, he hadn’t even gotten three done. He kept making mistakes and erasing. And, as usual, he wrote with the speed of a snail on superglue.
Not wanting him to completely hate math because of his infraction, I told him to just write the numbers from one to 100 until his time was up.
With great relief he did so, and as I watched him I realized that his difficulty in copying number facts went beyond the effects of Irlen Syndrome. I had been wondering off and on if he might be dyslexic, since J has always described himself as “mildly” so.
That day, I had to face it: our son is dyslexic. And more than mildly.
So, I bought a book about dyslexia
A few hours later, I had purchased the book The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis.
Not too much later, I was experiencing great relief. Really, I should have been crying about it. Contrary to popular belief (which most teachers, including Special Ed. teachers, hold), dyslexia is not a learning disability. It is NOT caused by brain damage or nerve damage.
In other words, I DID NOT CAUSE MY SON TO HAVE DYSLEXIA BECAUSE OF MY SEVERE MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY DURING PREGNANCY.
You could almost see the load of guilt fly off my shoulders and bust a hole in the concrete ceiling of our house.
Dyslexia is an innate talent
Dyslexia is not a learning disability, says this author who – what do you know? – is dyslexic and suffered painfully and deeply because of it when he was a child. People with dyslexia are able to perceive the world in different ways in order to cause it to make sense. This is a gift that leads to genius (or near-genius) abilities like those manifested by Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.
Yes, they were both dyslexic. (So is Whoopi Goldberg. Did you know?)
The problem comes in when dyslexics have to deal with symbols on paper. Their attempts to view the world in multiple perspectives do not work there. Instead, they cause letters and numbers to reverse, dance around, or even fall off the page.
Dyslexics think in pictures
In the book, the author shares eight abilities that all dyslexics have in common. One is that they think in pictures.
Think in pictures? Really? I’ll see a picture once in a while when I’m thinking, but mostly I think in words. My inner dialogue is just that, a mental conversation with words I would use when talking aloud.
Well, guess what? I’m not dyslexic!
As soon as I read these eight abilities, I asked B, “Do you think in words or in pictures?”
“I see pictures,” he said without hesitation, “and they’re very realistic!” (This added with more than a touch of gleeful pride.)
If my suspicions hadn’t been confirmed by that point, they would have been then.
This thinking in pictures thing is a great thing for words like “elephant” and “house.” But non-picture words like “the”, “an”, “and” cause huge problems for dyslexics. Unless they are taught to do otherwise, they expend painful amounts of concentration on such words. This slows their reading down to that superglued-snail’s pace I mentioned earlier, and prevents comprehension.
Time to buy some Polymer clay
The author provides exercises that break the bad habits that dyslexics have gotten into – mental crutches, as he calls them – that cause symbol interpretation (whether letters or numbers) to continue to be arduous and painful. The first is to have the person make the uppercase and lowercase alphabet out of Polymer clay and drill him about the letter placements and appearances until he can literally recite the alphabet forward and back without using “The Alphabet Song.”
I have ordered the clay. When it arrives, I am going to drop the reading program I have been following until I do every single activity with B that the author says to do.
I will definitely keep you posted on how it goes.