Discovering My Child has Dyslexia (and ADD)
My child is an angel when he sleeps. Why is he such a terror when he's awake?
When my little boy sleeps, his angel face rises up and down with every small breath. When I come to wake him for the day, he’s warm and sweet like a soft kitten – I just want to smush him up against my face.
And then, he wakes up. “I’m not going to school.”
“Come, let’s have pancakes.”
“I hate pancakes.”
“Ok. How about cheerios.”
“I hate cheerios.”
This is the I hate everything morning, which means I better have another cup of coffee.
I forcibly dress him and while I’m getting my shoes on, he jumps out of his pants, squirms out of his shirt, and throws his socks in the air before hiding behind the couch. My husband hears the commotion and enters the living room like the chief of police looking for his most wanted. I point with defeat towards the couch.
“Come, my son. Let me help you get dressed," he says with his honey voice. "Then we can eat some yummy breakfast together.” Nothing.
“You want to stop at the bakery on the way to school?” No response.
“Maybe we can make a fire and roast marshmallows later. But of course, you have to go to school first….”
Honey isn’t working.
“Okay, I’ve had enough. Get out of there right now or you will lose your Legos for the whole week… Actually, I’m throwing them out.” My husband goes to the toy shelf and grabs the bin of Legos. My son leaps up and starts chasing my husband around the living room and out the front door. The criminal is now chasing the chief of police. Something is not right here.
An hour later, we're in the car on the way to school. My husband carries him kicking and screaming into the school building. His first-grade teacher refuses to take him so we hand him to the principal who knows the routine. He holds my little boy firmly and with a kind voice, encourages him to calm down.
“Hey man! It’s good to see you. We have so many great things to learn today. Everyone is waiting for you!” He shoos us away.
We return to the parking lot, our shoulders hunched forwards, our heads bowed. We have a heated discussion about his academic failures, what his psychologist said, his teacher’s rigid personality, his anger management issues. We wonder if there’s some allergen in the classroom or if he’s being bullied. Then, the principal calls.
“He’s in class.” And at the end of the day, when I ask him about the morning, why it went so wrong, he simply responds, “I was hungry.”
At the start of the second grade, worn out, tired of walking on eggshells every morning, out of strategies, feeling guilty and overwhelmed – we take him for a comprehensive educational evaluation. This time, he is diagnosed with dyslexia with some ADD thrown in.
That means school is a nightmare for my boy. And it goes something like this –
“Please read out loud from the top of page 42.” The teacher points to him. His body begins to shake, he feels his head tighten as he tries to focus his eyes on the words at the top of page 42.
“Uh, the mmm….” Minutes pass. The teacher wants to give him a chance. She really means well. The other kids begin to rustle their papers. Now, she can’t wait for him.
“Joey – please take over from the second paragraph.” Later it’s math. “Open to page eight, read the directions, and do problems six to twelve.” The teacher leaves the classroom to refill her coffee. My son can’t read or understand the instructions, so he stares out the window. Then, he gets bored and begins to scribble all over his math book. Once the teacher returns and notices the graffitied book, she sends my son out of the classroom for failing to follow instructions and for damaging his book. My son sits out for fifteen minutes and misses half the science lesson. When he returns, he’s lost so he begins to make paper airplanes. During English, he throws the airplanes at the white board but one accidently hits the teacher in the nose. The whole class laughs. And by the end of the day, my son is in the principal’s office for detention.
Interestingly, my other children think my son is a genius. He is always “working” on something. He recently created a waterfall with a bunch of plastic containers and some old piping. He builds multi-dimensional spaceships from Legos. He once hammered together a wooden cart on wheels to ride my four-year old in. This week, he dug up a patch of grass and created a small pond for guppies, and last year, he built a model tree house from popsicle sticks with a sliding door.
After a few months of targeted help, we have begun to greet a new kid in the morning.
After a few months of targeted help, we have begun to greet a new kid in the morning. He gets up, he gets dressed, he keeps his clothes on, he eats pancakes, and he gets in the car.
He’s like a normal kid. It is the beginning of a new road, a long one. A more complicated future.
But the angel of the night has begun to appear during the day, and we now have more than hope. Despite his challenges, we have very high expectations for him to make a significant and positive impact on the world.
He just needs the right support, which we finally found.
But more than the professional support, he needs parents that understand – that behind all that bad behavior there’s a kid that really wants to succeed. He just doesn’t know or understand how.
So we’re working on our patience, to calmly tolerate the parenting challenges of the present while maintaining a positive outlook for the future. And with that, we hope our boy will learn the patience he needs to develop himself and to fulfill his ultimate potential.