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Dyslexia: A Grandparent's Perspective

“Boys will be boys” is how I explained it to myself and to others. My precious, brown-eyed, rambunctious, always-moving, LOUD grandson who roared into every room (and into my heart) from the moment he was born. I explained away his tendency to knock over furniture and interrupt every conversation with an eye roll and a smile. After all, as the mother of a girl, what did I know about boys? Aren’t they just different? As my grandson grew older I watched my daughter struggle with discipline. It seemed that no matter how many times she gave instructions they were not followed. He constantly asked “why?” to every answer and never seemed to be interested in doing “normal” kid things. I remember thinking that my own parents would have never stood for such behavior and that parents these days are too soft on their kids. Kids need discipline. Discipline changes behavior. End of story.

I watched as my grandson started preschool and the struggles got worse. He was not able to pay attention and learn letters and colors. My daughter had to pick him up early every day because he could not sit quietly with a book while the other kids napped. I still didn’t understand why no one had what it took to get this child under control. Please don’t misunderstand, I loved my grandson's energy, creativity and love of life. However, I was becoming concerned about the type of person he would become if no one could make him behave and learn.

It was about half way through kindergarten when my daughter started to understand that there might be something else going on. Beginning the second week of school, she was in constant communication with my grandson’s teacher. He would not sit still. He wasn’t learning. He couldn’t write his name. He wandered off during circle time. He hid under the lunch table to “get away from the noise” and was starting to be angry at other students. My grandson hated school and was sick almost every day when my daughter tried to get him ready.

I could not understand what was going on. My daughter had LOVED school and excelled at it, easily making the honor roll from first grade through her senior year and going on to a 3.5 GPA in both her college and master’s degree program. I was always so proud of her academic success because school had constantly been hard for me. I never caught on to reading in elementary school and spent most of my time ashamed and in remedial reading class. I started out behind in school and ended school that way. I didn’t want to see the same thing happen to my grandson.

After months of various tests, my daughter ended up at the Fundamental Learning Center. The results from assessment showed that my grandson had many of the characteristics of dyslexia (such as):

  • confusing left and right, up and down

  • following spoken instructions

  • inability to learn reading

  • difficulty spelling

  • erratic illegible handwriting

  • finishing tasks in the allotted amount of time

As she went through this list and the assessment results with me I could hardly hold back tears. “This is me”, I remember saying. And then it hit me — all the things my grandson was thinking and feeling were the same I had felt so many years ago. The frustration, the shame and the hopelessness were all things I remembered from my own school years.

My daughter and I started learning as much as we could about dyslexia. We attended lectures at Fundamental Learning Center and each time I walked away thinking how much I wished someone had known all this when I was a child. I learned that there is a specific method of instruction, called Alphabetic Phonics, that has been proven effective in teaching dyslexic kids to read, write, and spell.

That was four years ago.

Today, after four years of Alphabetic Phonics instruction, my grandson loves school and learning. He is reading on grade level and enjoys reading to ME. I may not always love his choice of books (looking at you, ‘Captain Underpants’) but I will listen to him all day. If he will sit still, that is.

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