Parent Stories: Dyslexia is Not a Thinking Disability

girlreadingNot so long ago I worried Annie would never, ever love to read the way I love to read.

I have adored reading books for as long as I can remember. My absolute adoration of books fed my desire to be a writer. Although sometimes I ponder what my life would have been like if I had become a doctor, this other life path idea didn’t crop up until I became a health writer. Then I realized the teacher who begged me to take anatomy — telling me I would love it, please sign on — was totally right. If I had listened to him, would I have chased a different dream down?

I doubt it. This love affair between me and writing is strong, so strong. My friend Astrid would say writing is my soul path. I think of how the word genius began: that a genius lived in your studio walls and sometimes she poured inspiration into you. Great thoughts came not from the writer, but from the genius who occasionally visited you. Sometimes when I write, I feel that pouring in of genius from who knows where. Astrid believes writing is like meditating for me. And if this divine writing helps another human being, well, maybe it’s OK to be a writer instead of a life-saving, money-making doctor.

But I digress. Isn’t the point of blog writing to digress? I was talking about my girl. When I first realized Annie had a learning disability, I met a woman who has two dyslexic children. She told me she grieves over the idea that her severely dyslexic daughter will never know the joy of reading.

I said, "That may not be true. She may read for pleasure one day."

"You may be right. I never think like that," she said.

But as I began to see how difficult it was for Annie to learn how to read, I began to worry in a similar fashion. I heard Annie loud and clear when she became annoyed with family reading time. “This is so boring,” she would say. “Why do you all like reading so much? It’s boring!”

I thought, what if my girl never feels that reading glow? I said to myself, what if her brain is hopelessly stuck or when she finally learns to read, this task is still too difficult for her to take any pleasure in it?

But it’s two years later now. No, she is not a girl who reads easily. But she has figured out that it’s OK to just read the pictures. Her teachers have told her that this is a way to read books. Annie can sit for at least 30 minutes and read this way. Better yet, she has started reading words all by herself with no prodding from others. During the last two weeks, I have heard her try to read action words out loud from her beloved comic books: “P..f…ooo…f! Pf..00f! Pfoof!”

Sometimes she found Chris or me to ask if she read one of these action words correctly. And Chris and I glowed every time she asked one of these questions. Two years of hard work and finally there is some excellent outcome. It’s hard not to cry tears of joy as I write this.

And I think about a Huffington Post Education blog I read yesterday where educator Kyle Redford writes, “Dyslexia is a mechanical disability, not a thinking disability.”

I think I was worried about Annie’s thinking ability. But the girl constantly amazes me with her smarts. Reading that her disorder is a mechanical disability tells me all we need are the right tools to help the girl climb through the disability part of dyslexia.

Redford writes about her own dyslexic son, how he is a master at using big words. My Annie is the same. She blows my socks off almost every single day. Last night she pretended to be Obama, and Obama kept saying everything was “splendid.” At dinner a few days ago, Annie asked me not to “antagonize” her.

This girl thinks and thinks and thinks. This mom is glad that her preconceived notions are falling by the wayside, one by one by one.

nancyschatzalton_headWriter, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of her memoir about the beginning of Annie’s learning journey. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two elementary-age daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words.

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