We Whisper Dyslexia

Sitting across the desk from my son’s neuro-psychologist, I finally understood. This is what people are talking about when they hear news, but can’t process it. I knew he was talking, but the words didn’t make any sense.

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“This took him so long.” “And this one, it took him much longer than it should have.” “I finally moved on to something else because it was taking him so long.”

My mind was processing, processing…what was he trying to tell me? Was there some sort of cognitive disorder that had to do with time management?

Why did it matter how long it took him to copy a word? When he was done it was very beautiful, wasn’t that a good thing?

Apparently not.

“So, wait, I’m not sure I understand. Are you trying to tell me he’s dyslexic?”

The Doc tilted his head and looked at me a little funny, “That’s what I’ve been saying.”

You say tomato I say potato I guess, because somewhere among so slow, so slow, so slow, I missed all the other stuff.

And so, he started from the beginning.

 

Have you ever felt as if you had two minds in your head? One that is sure of something, and the other that is sure of the exact opposite thing. 100% sure. On both sides. Totally different.

That was me. I was sure Isaiah was dyslexic. So sure, that I decided to have him tested.

I was sure that as a homeschooling mom, I was doing a horrific job teaching him to read, and that was why he couldn’t read. So sure, that I decided to have him tested.

 

What I wanted, more than anything, was for the doctor to tell me it was my fault. My fault, and we could fix it by getting him a “real” teacher to teach him to read.

While we were waiting to find out, I researched what it would mean if my son had dyslexia. And what I read did not comfort me.

“He will never read at the same pace as his peers. He will always need assistance, even in college,” said the Doc.

“Aren’t you happy you know that it’s something real?” Asked everyone. I know I should be. Right? But I’m not.

I am not happy that he will always struggle with reading. I am not happy that you cannot “fix” dyslexia. I am not happy that he will need help to get through college. I am not happy that someone else will have to teach him to read. I am not happy that this is one more thing that makes him feel different.

He feels different. He thinks people won’t like him when they find out he has dyslexia.

“But dyslexia is something that is just a part of you, like the color of your eyes, or having food allergies. You wouldn’t not like someone because they were allergic to peanuts, would you?”

 

I am passionate about reading. I am always reading. My family? We are readers.

Like the Jewish families in Woody Allen movies who whisper the word cancer, as if by saying it out loud you might catch it, we whisper the word dyslexia.

 

But I shake it off, because this is our new reality.

I will change my definition of reader. I will change it to encompass my glorious voracious reader of a boy. Yes, he is a voracious audio reader.

While I have not been able to pass on my passion for the written word, on paper. I have passed on, quite successfully, my passion for the telling of the tale.

In the car, my first choice would be to listen to my Pandora “Girl From Ipanema Mix,” Isaiah’s first choice is an audio book. It always has been, and I have never denied him that.

The minute we get in the car in the morning, it’s a race to see who will ask if we should “listen to our story.” Because, of course, I am enthralled as well.

We will redefine what it means to be a reader in this family.

And given that new definition, have the ability to take advantage of all the resources that exist to help a person with dyslexia become a successful reader, by any definition.

 

 

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  • I love your honesty, seriously. I was nodding my head when you said you felt like you were in a fog when the doc was talking to you about Isiah. That he then restarted the conversation to make sure you were hearing him….awesome. I know you will make Isiah a reader, it just will be in the Isiah way.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Kerri, I wasn’t sure how people would take this. But it’s honest, it’s how I felt. I know we’ll get there!ReplyCancel

  • Even if it’s an audiobook, it’s still reading. And there are programs and exercises that will help him read more easily. I have a dyslexic friend. Who’s a doctor. You got this.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Chrissy, I know you’re right. We’ve been spending a decent amount of time talking about all of the famous people who are dyslexic. I think he’s going to be the next Steven Spielberg 😉ReplyCancel

  • Halfway through your post, I was thinking of my Dad. He’s in his 70’s now, but 15 years ago when my boys were small and first struggling with learning to read, we discovered Audio books. Man did it open up a whole new world to my Dad – who has struggled with reading his entire life. Now it’s not just me and my mom – both avid readers – who have our favorite authors, my Dad has his own favorites too. I love it that your Isiah gets so much pleasure from Audio books too.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      That’s a great story Vanessa. Audio books are perfect, and I love them too! We listen in the car and sometimes I can’t wait to get back to it.ReplyCancel

  • Jen, this made me cry.

    My son, Little Dude, has his issues. For so long, I struggled to understand them. When doctors finally give you a diagnosis that helps you understand why your kid is different, it’s NOT a relief.

    Because our kids are our HEARTS. We want life to be smooth sailing for them. Without any extra challenges.

    You love him so much, and yes, you will redefine whatever you need to, to see him as the beautiful and perfect boy that he is. You will prevail.

    And so will I. xoxoReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Samara, thank you for sharing with me. You are right, we are still working through it all over here, but we have love and we have each other….ReplyCancel

  • Valerie Bender-Werth

    I’m dyslexic, and I needed help- even in college. I took all my tests in a special office with headphones and an audio track of a volunteer reading out each question. None of my tests were timed. I graduated with a doctorate. There is an HBO documentary on dyslexia that you should totally watch. Dyslexics are awesome- we are neuro atypical very much like people with autism. We think different and learn different and different is good. I suck at reading. I suck at writing. I love stories. I love learning- I love discovering. Dyslexia nslowed me down but didn’t keep me back. Let your son be himself and he will do just fine.ReplyCancel

  • Kate Hall

    Loved this too, Jen!ReplyCancel

  • Cassandra Delusion

    Dyslexia was less of a shock for us, as my son’s father is dyslexic and is a very successful chemist. So we know that he can be whatever he wants to be. It will just take a little more help with the reading along the way. We were also lucky enough to learn that our son has 99th %ile intelligence along with his dyslexia, so he has the tools he needs to overcome the trouble spots.ReplyCancel

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