“I think my child has dyslexia!”
“What can I do to help him? …Where do I even start?”
Many concerned mothers have called or written me over the years to ask about dyslexia. I guess because our son’s struggle was so public (what aspect of a missionary’s life is NOT public?), they know not only about his disability, but about all we did to help him. First, let me say that it was not all our doing. The Lord miraculously brought in the right people at the right time to help us.
We had been living on the foreign field for only a few months when his learning disability became apparent. The year prior our three children went to daycare on the campus of our language school in South Texas, and then we began kindergarten with the older two (6 and 5 years old) as soon as we got our boxes unpacked. Our five year-old daughter sped through her lessons, catching on rapidly. However, our six year-old struggled with every aspect of letters and reading. Finally, one day he was able to annunciate his problem. He pointed to the alphabet I dutifully taped to the wall and said, “I keep getting confused with the ‘dog’ and the ‘pig.’” That’s when the light turned on for me! I have an elementary education degree, but it was of little consolation at that moment when I had no one to turn to, no resource in English to help my child.
I went to the internet (my one and only resource at that time!) and searched for the signs and symptoms of dyslexia. The most helpful site I found was www.dyslexia.com. I read through the material on their site and decided that was what my child needed. Wouldn’t you know it; there was a recently trained Davis Dyslexia correction provider in our home church and we were about to make a short trip back there! Our son met with the sweet facilitator (tutor) who did an informal evaluation. Afterward, she gave me tips in teaching him as well as the Davis Young Learner Kit for Home Use. It was such a relief to return to Argentina with the tools in hand to begin to help my child! (Note the word “begin” – this was only the beginning of our very long journey!)
After working diligently through the entire program, my son finally learned his alphabet (identifying the name and sound of each letter) when he was eight years old.
I integrated him back into regular curriculum, but we hit another brick wall. Two things happened at that time. We were on our first furlough and the Lord brought two more specialists into our lives. One of the ladies was the director of a learning center where they used a computer program to basically drill through letters and sounds like we had done with the Davis Dyslexia program. She worked with our son for a few hours and confirmed, yes, he has dyslexia and it’s severe. We bought the computer program (a $400 investment) and used it, but honestly it was a bit boring and frustrating. I can’t even recommend it if I wanted to because it’s not on the market anymore and there is no tech support. She did suggest an excellently through book on dyslexia called Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.
The second specialist was a supporting pastor’s wife who works at a private school exclusively for children with dyslexia. (Wow! I didn’t even know there was such a thing!) She gave me learning games to use – different card game sets modified with trouble words, and a Chutes and Ladders board game modified with sight words. She also recommended that we drop our spelling and reading curriculum and focus solely on How to Teach Spelling and S.P.I.R.E. readers. Both of these are available from Educators Publishing Services. I immediately ordered the first workbooks for both the spelling and reading and saw instant improvement in his level of confidence! We continued from one workbook to the next until we felt confident he was ready to go out on his own.
From there, I had him use Alpha Omega’s Switched on Schoolhouse because it has a text-to-speech option. This allowed him to do his work in all subjects independently.
When we tried to begin Algebra 1, we realized the dyslexia was affecting this area as well. This site helped me to understand that it’s not dyscalculia, but a processing issue. I determined to step back and punt with basic math facts.
Every child, parent, and family situation is different. You will buy and try some things that will work and other things that won’t. One thing we tried that totally shocked us was music. When our kids began piano lessons, I pulled the teacher aside and explained his disability, so that she wouldn’t pressure him unduly if he couldn’t read the music. Can you believe that in a little over a month that nine year-old who could not read letters from left to right was sight-reading little black dots and making beautiful music? We also began to notice that if he practiced his music before school it helped him to read better. It sounds strange, but it’s the way God created him!
Here are some additional supplements we have found helpful:
- Kindle text-to-speech option so that he can independently read books on his grade level that interest him
- The speech-to-text feature or software on his laptop for writing assignments
- Audio books – loyalbooks.com and overdrive.com is great for this!
- Educational apps for the tablet
- YouVersion or other audio Bible
- For daily devotions, I allow him to listen to Keys for Kids, Your Story Hour, Patch the Pirate or Adventures in Odyssey online.
When I am frustrated, I go back to our one, primary goal for educating our children, and that is that they will be able to know how to use all the resources God has given them in order to do His will for their lives. As a famous educator once said, “You can borrow brains, but you can’t borrow character” (Bob Jones Sr.).
May the Lord bless you as you seek to glorify Him,