I’m sitting here, typing in a state that I can’t quite describe. It’s a combination of utter relief and deep sadness. A sense that we can now move forward and a sorrow that I couldn’t bring this about sooner.
Today (11th January 2017), my eldest son was diagnosed with dyslexia with possible elements of dyspraxia.
I’ve known he was dyslexic since he was 4, I recognised his difficulties with language, phonics, spelling, reading, short term memory and areas of mathematics, as well as many other signs along the way. Unfortunately, others did not. But having someone confirm what I believed all along is both fantastic and guilt inducing. Of course I’m pleased that my mothering instincts are working at their full over anxious capacity, but also my mum guilt is shouting at me…”WHY DIDN’T YOU PUSH HARDER FOR THIS SOONER? BAD MOTHER!”
It’s not that I haven’t asked about it and talked about it with teachers before, I did. And after a variety of responses, ranging from “he will get there, just repeat, repeat, repeat.” to “He’s just being lazy. Why don’t you do more with him at home?” and best of all "here's our dyslexia testing kit, your a teacher, you test him at home and tell us what you think."
I may be a teacher, but I am not a specialist in dyslexia and I certainly would not be assessing my own child. So with my son’s increasing unhappiness, and my increasing frustration, we paid for him to be assessed privately.
I wrote the first part of this post on the day that my son was diagnosed, but I decided to wait a few weeks to reflect on this and what it means for us and his learning style, before I finished this blog.
Before the assessment, a few people asked me what I wanted to gain from “labelling” my child, because fundamentally it wouldn’t change him. Indeed it won’t change him. I don’t want to change him, he’s perfect. But what it does change is the way in which we approach education with him and that could potentially change his life.
In just these first few weeks I’ve noticed so many things that indicate to me that the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the state system is not going to fit him. His brain functions in a completely different way to my own and his learning styles are therefore unique to him. Fortunately, my husband, who is also dyslexic, is able to explain things to me, when my son is frustrated by my teaching style so I can then make changes, a luxury not afforded to teachers in the classroom.
I have to confess, that as a teacher, I do love a good teaching resource and one of the first things that I considered was what resources we could buy or make to help my son learn. I can spend hours on various websites oooohing and ahhhing at the huge range on offer, but really I have no idea which ones would be most helpful.Thankfully Canterbury Dyslexia Centre were outstanding in their advice and support and I have no doubt that we will be using their fabulous services in the future. Arlene, gave us really practical advice and examples of different tools that might help us, and I was allowed to then go shopping online for some lovely resources!
We now have a blue reading overlay, (although getting him to read is still a challenge), we have a fabulous 'smart mat' where he ‘builds’ words as he spells them. This, for some reason, enables him to remember spellings much more easily. He is also using white boards and a pen to write with, rather than paper and pencils and he is transferring his writing onto the laptop.
We don’t do ‘literacy’ every day, because I think that has taken his enjoyment out of reading and writing and it has certainly discouraged him from using his fabulous imagination and vocabulary, because the thought of writing it all down overwhelmed him. However, he’s always reading bits and we write notes for most things. If he’s going to write something longer we do it in short, sharp bursts and then come back to it the following day. I don’t know if this is the ‘correct’ way to do things, but it’s the way that works for us.
I’m really enjoying finding new ways to teach, and I’m beginning to relax a little bit more into this home schooling life style. Of course, being the person that I am, I am now looking at more training for myself in teaching children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. (Because I don’t have enough to do!)
I am also finding that I have a much better understanding of my son now, and that when I’m saying “Have you got your coat, shoes and hat?” for the millionth time and he looks at me and says “I forgot”, I know that he probably did forget. We are in the process of making lots of visual time tables and cue cards to put up around the house. That might help to keep us both on track!
Dyslexia seems to go hand in hand with creativity and inventiveness. My son is very proud of his diagnosis as many of his idols were also dyslexic including Einstein, the Wright brothers, Picasso, Sir Winston Churchill, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney and his biggest hero, his own father. So he holds a very positive view on dyslexia and sees it as something that makes him especially clever.
I will share any helpful hints and tips that we learn as we go along.
Have a great weekend everyone. I’ve got a date with the laminator!