Monday, February 13, 2012
My daughter has struggled with dyslexia for years. We were very lucky to have her diagnosed when she was in first grade. Most dyslexic students are not diagnosed until third or fourth grade. Since that time, we have worked with tutors, tried to find the best accommodations for her in public school, and most recently, moved her to a private school for children with learning disabilities. In fact, it was my frustration with one of her teachers in the public school that set me off on a rant and got me blogging. So in a way, I have to thank dyslexia for leading me to blog!
My frustration was that no matter what we tried for my daughter, she would master a certain skill, and then later, would completely forget it. As an example, in preschool she could easily count to 20. In kindergarten, she consistently omitted the number 14, as though it never existed. Same thing with simple words that don't sound out, and math facts. She would know them all, so her teachers would move on, only to realize a month later that she had forgotten what she once knew. For 3 years we had her tutored at a reputable dyslexia center in our area. In the end, she really hadn't made that much progress. The tutor, who was in charge of the center and the most qualified person there, said that she had never before had a student who would grasp a concept and then lose it. In exasperation, I have taken to referring to that place as "The Center for the Mildly Dyslexic" which is unfair and mean spirited of me, but whatever. I was led to believe that my daughter is the only dyslexic person like this, and that it is probably something other than dyslexia that is causing her to forget.
Imagine my surprise when Brock Eide mentioned in one of the very first chapters that a common type of dyslexic learner is just like my daughter, and has a hard time holding onto the concepts that he or she has apparently mastered. This was only one of the insights that Eide shared which I had never heard before.
I sort of expected The Dyslexic Advantage to be a list of successful people, with the generalized encouragement that your child too could succeed in these areas. It is far more than that. Eide does look at successful people, and uses them as examples, but his emphasis is not on what they have accomplished, but on what caused them to think in a way that allowed them to find success. Eide explains that there are many different ways that people who have dyslexia think (it's not all the same!), and classifies them based on the ways that they can learn and solve problems. He identifies four brain variations common among people with dyslexia, and discusses the challenges and strengths of each.
What The Dyslexic Advantage is not is a users' manual for parents. It clarifies that dyslexia is not a "one size fits all" affliction, and that each individual needs to be analyzed to see how they learn best. Most of the people in Eide's examples did not find success until they were well out of high school, and still struggling with different learning techniques. When they were finally able to figure out what worked right for them, the success followed. However, this was generally after years of trial and error. There is not a prescription here for parents to follow, other than that we should be open minded, encourage our children's strengths, and see if those strengths can be leveraged into a learning advantage.
One issue that I have debated with myself over the years is whether I am actually helping my daughter by getting her help. When we look at lists of successful people who have dyslexia, the common theme is that they struggled during their school years, and eventually overcame their challenges. I worry that by getting my daughter accommodations I may be weakening her, and not forcing her to face her challenges. This is sort of "what doesn't kill her will make her stronger" thinking, and I have chosen to take the opposite approach. Eide explains throughout the book that dyslexia really can be an advantage in allowing the "afflicted" person to think in a way that is not obvious to others. This allows them to see things in a different light, or think outside the box, without even trying. However, Eide strongly recommends accommodations, and does not see them as impairing the dyslexic advantages, but only of giving those advantages a way to surface.
All told, The Dyslexic Advantage should join Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science- Based Program for Reading Problems at any Level by Sally Shaywitz and From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide by Pete Wright as required reading for the parents of any child with dyslexia.
This is one more down for the Support Your Library Challenge - 20 to go.
Next up on CD: Helen of Troy by Margaret George. This is 30 hours on 25 CDs! I will be saying that I'm still listening to this one for at least the next month.
Still Reading: A Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker