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What it is like to have a child with dyslexia, part 1

Welcome to the hardest blog I have ever written. It's so hard that it has taken me a year to even attempt. Be patient. Be kind. I don't know how to tell this story without airing frustrations, writing the wrong thing (unintentionally) or stumbling over myself.

This is our story of dyslexia. Before I begin, know two things: 1. I don't blame anyone for my baby having dyslexia. 2. I don't write this for sympathy. I write this because there is another parent out there who needs to know they aren't the only ones struggling. I write this because there is a kid, sitting in a classroom, wondering why they don't "get it" and everyone else does.

Josie has dyslexia.

How did we figure this out? We didn't. She did. Sort of. Two years ago, during a skills assessment, Josie looked straight at her teacher and said, "You know I don't learn like those other kids, right?" That began a whole new way of approaching school.

Her teacher, an amazing lady, started working with her a bit differently. We weren't thinking dyslexic. We were just thinking we had a different thinker on our hands. That didn't bother us in the least bit.

Kindergarten started, and we noticed it wasn't just a different thinker. Josie would "read" a book to me, and if I wasn't really paying attention, I wouldn't notice that she wasn't really reading. The girl could pick up a book, look at the pictures and fool even the best of them.

When asked to sound out simple words, she could sound it out but couldn't tell you what it meant. For instance, she would painfully sound out "cat" and not be able to tell you that we were talking about the very type of four-legged animal that she had just finished playing with, on our front porch.

She couldn't tell you how many fingers she had without counting them. She could count moving cattle on the cake line. That's hard for some adults (hellloooo, me). She couldn't get her pole pattern down on foot or her horse because she got lost with the straight line.

Her test scores started rolling in. They were all over the place. One week she was so far behind, I was surprised the kid on the piece of paper could put one foot in front of the other. The next test, she was at the top of the charts. It wasn't adding up. We asked the school to test her. She passed all the tests. It was suggested we wait until she was 10. That just didn't seem right to us.

I am, admittedly, leaving out a lot of the frustrations in jumping through the school hoops. They are there, but I don't think it will serve a purpose for this blog to go through all of that. It was evident to us, the school couldn't or wouldn't address what we suspected. That was dyslexia.

We took Josie to have independent testing run at Fundamental Learning Center in Wichita, Kansas. I know that sounds like it had to have been time-consuming and expensive. It wasn't. It was a ridiculously simple process and cost a measly $150. At this time, she has only been evaluated by professionals. We haven't had a need to have her officially diagnosed. We chose to use the thousands of dollars that would have cost to learn how to teach her.

We live in a state in which the schools don't "recognize" dyslexia. Austin and I knew she wasn't going to learn as she should with the current system. So, I spent two weeks learning how to learn like Josie. It was the most humbling and overwhelming two weeks of my life.

The simulations, in which we learned what it is like to be in a classroom, as a dyslexic, left me in tears. I had taken learning for granted. It came easily to me. How could I have missed this for my daughter? Was it our fault? We should have spent less time loving her love of Blake Shelton songs and more time on the ABCs.

How was I going to help her continue loving learning? We hadn't hit the frustration beyond measure stage and I wanted to help her avoid it. How could we protect her yet, teach her to work with what she was given?

We chose to be upfront about it. We told her why she learned differently. We taught her to use her voice and explain to people when she couldn't understand. She told us that when she asked for the directions, twice, people just got louder. We taught her to say, "I don't understand. I need you to say it a different way." We worked hard to get a program into the school.

Her first grade year was a huge success. She entered second grade, on track. Her reading scores were good. She loved school. It seemed as if there was nothing in the future but success. Things aren’t always what they seem. As we start another journey in this (more about that later), I am certain that we won’t give up. We won’t accept anything but success for all of our kids.

To be continued ...

Watch this space for the rest of Josie's story (thus far).

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