I’ve noticed, on this journey of dyslexia with my children, that all too often the emphasis has been on the disability, and remediating that disability. Remediation is a good thing, but the disability and remediation are not everything. We should not miss the amazing abilities that come with dyslexia.
So, in this blog post I want to highlight and share one of my daughter’s abilities. You won’t mind a proud mother showing off a bit, will you?
My daughter recently won a National Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This award was for a self-portrait in charcoal, that you can see above. First of all, this self-portrait received a Gold Key at the regional level. Approximately 7 – 10% of all regional submissions to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are recognized with Gold Key Awards. This award then makes the submission eligible for national-level recognition. This year, 2012-2013, 230,000 entries were submitted to the national competition. Only 1% of the original 230,000 entries received national recognition!
We have had so many struggles over the years dealing with dyslexia, but in this last year of high school it has been a time to celebrate the strengths. And celebrate we did with a trip to the awards ceremony in Carnegie Hall in New York City! Actually, the highlight of the ceremony for my daughter was the surprise appearance of Usher!
The report that I mentioned in my last blog post didn’t take that long to find! Over the years I have had to supply copies of reports related to my children’s testing to neuropsychologists, educators and others and so I have been meticulous about keeping and filing all paperwork. And, as we moved house last summer, I had already eliminated a lot of junk.
At preschool, my daughter received occupational therapy screening and speech/language screening when she was three years old, and again at four years old. Interestingly, even at that young age her strengths and weaknesses were becoming apparent. Although, it is easy to say this with hindsight. For example, the occupational therapy screening highlighted that my daughter demonstrated particular strengths in construction skills. And these skills have continued to be an area of strength throughout her educational testing. In terms of weakness, the speech/language screening highlighted articulation difficulties with speech sound errors, leaving off word endings i.e. plurals, and omitting some words. Speech and language difficulties fit right in with a diagnosis of dyslexia and these difficulties became more apparent as my daughter got older.
On the report, the speech/language pathologist recommended monitoring and rescreening for speech and language development. I don’t think I followed up with that! In fact, I know I didn’t. I didn’t really take a lot of notice because I thought any speech errors would correct themselves. After all, my daughter was only three years old!
I call this post The journey begins but at the beginning I don’t think our family even realized that we were on a journey–with dyslexia! Around nine years ago, when my daughter was in third grade in elementary school (in the USA), she was diagnosed with dyslexia. But, the journey began before that, back in preschool. From that time until third grade, we were going round in circles rather than moving in one direction.
The preschool my daughter attended offered educational testing. I must admit I didn’t really understand the significance of this testing. I was experiencing first child syndrome, if there is such a condition. In other words, I was green about everything. My husband and I had moved from Britain to the USA when our daughter was only six weeks old. Two years in, I was finding my feet in the USA and raising a child, and so we planned to have baby number two, except baby number two turned out to be baby number two and three. (To be correct I should call them baby A and baby B because these were the names given in hospital until we gave them proper names.) So, as I was juggling twins and a toddler and discovering which way was up, my decision on a preschool for my daughter was based on a friend’s recommendation. She was British, had moved to the USA with two children, and had already experienced placing her oldest child in a preschool in the UK and now in the USA. So, in my world she was an expert on everything to do with children and schools. As it turned out, the preschool was a good fit for my daughter. And, they offered educational testing! I thought this was an opportunity to see I had a wonderful bright child who was benefiting from an early start with education. As it turned out, I think the signs of dyslexia were already appearing. I will write about this in my next blog post. But first, I’m off to searching through boxes in the loft and finding that report…
I have made a very interesting discovery about one of my friends. She has been visiting from England and staying with our family here in New England. We had not seen each other for a length of time for many, many years – since we were teenagers. Then we used to spend most of our weekends together, staying at each other’s houses, and going away together to summer camp. Our mothers were good friends and we happened to become very good friends as well. But, when I left home for university, and my friend left home to pursue a career, our ways parted. Since then, we’ve seen each other only on occasions, such as weddings and funerals. Having families and working kept us busy and leading separate lives, but it never took away our close friendship.
With this visit, we picked up from where we left off as teenagers, but my friend revealed a fact about herself that I didn’t know – she was dyslexic. The words I’m dyslexic popped out of her mouth within a few minutes of her arriving at our house. I was astounded. All those years – the weekends and the summers – spent together and I never knew this about her. I suppose, if we had gone to the same school then it might have been different. I knew her spelling wasn’t that great but she was and still is smart, creative and resourceful. Lots of people don’t spell very well and so it had never occurred to me that she could be dyslexic. But now that she had revealed this fact, we were able to share our experiences with dyslexic – me with two dyslexic children and she with her own experience and that of her daughter. We had much in common in our teenage years and now we shared even more.
My friend’s daughter is at university in England, training to be a doctor. A fantastic achievement for someone with dyslexia! Her daughter is getting support in college for her dyslexia. This of course, with my daughter heading off to college in the Fall, is of great interest to me. When my friend left, to continue her travels in Peru before heading back to England, she agreed to send me more information about these supports once she arrived home. So, I am waiting in anticipation…
We’ve started on the journey of looking at colleges for my daughter with dyslexia.
This summer she is enrolled in a pre-college summer studios program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This is providing her with an opportunity to experience art school and explore different art and design options through electives.
It did not occur to me, or my daughter, that this pre-college art program would involve a lot of reading and writing! My daughter’s comment to me tonight was that had she known this, she would have thought twice about enrolling. If I had known this, I would have enquired about how the program accommodated her disability.
If my daughter is to pursue an undergraduate fine arts degree, then this will include liberal arts studies and consequently include s a considerable amount of reading and writing. Therefore, in our college search, we need to look at the resources offered by each college to help her succeed.
As my daughter begins her senior year at high school this fall, we are entering a new phase in her education. As a student with dyslexia, the road we’ve taken so far has been fairly well mapped out with specialists, educators and other parents explaining the landscape. We’re been able to find our way. But now, we are entering new territory. The territory of colleges is perhaps even more unfamiliar to our family as my husband and I both completed our secondary and higher education in British schools and universities, respectively. Our daughter is also the eldest of our three children and the first to enter the college scene. But, I understand that even for American parents the college landscape can be a journey of new discoveries as they travel it with their children.
So, I will be relating over the coming months our experience as we travel down this road of helping our daughter find a college. Please add comments if you have helpful advice to give to others and me. My next few blog posts will state where we have got to so far in this process. We’ve started on the journey. It will be a steep learning curve, or to use the analogy so far, the road rises steeply ahead of us but I am positive that we are going to enjoy the view from the top and we’ll be coasting from there.