In this Parent Perspective, Julie, the mother of a middle school student with dyslexia, discusses how her son Scott’s attitude and achievement levels began to improve after he began attending a school that was Orton-Gillingham based. Julie credited the positive changes in Scott’s personality and schoolwork to her son’s hard work as well as the staff and resources at his school.
They do happen! Be brave! Stay the course! Many of us as parents are fearful when our son or daughter is diagnosed with a learning disability. Will they succeed in school? At work? Will they make friends? What does it take? My son, Scott, is currently 14 years old and in the 8th grade at a school for children with language learning differences. He was identified at an early age as being severely dyslexic, dysgraphic, and having significant visual perceptual difficulties. Intensive intervention was recommended — but no one knew how or where to get the appropriate help.
Getting the right kind of help, at the right time, and with the right people, is essential to seeing progress. Scott’s current school and tutoring is entirely Orton-Gillingham based. He is completing his fourth year of this specialized education. This school is an answered prayer — a miracle for him. Not a day goes by that his parents don’t breathe a sigh of relief, and feel grateful. But that was after many blind alleys.
When Scott started fifth grade, he was falling behind miserably. He was performing at least two years behind his peers. He went to school every day with a headache and a stomachache. Often there were tears, and he even went to a doctor to see if he was clinically depressed. Since pre-school Scott had received special help in classes, but it wasn’t the right kind of help.
He was labeled by the public school system as mildly mentally handicapped, and was placed in a cross-categorical classroom for most of the day. Joining his regular class sporadically was difficult. Friendships were difficult, as he felt different than the other kids. Scott experienced so much stress during the day that he was exhausted after school and withdrew from social situations. Outside activities just took too much energy. In the fourth and fifth grade, I would re-teach him concepts covered during the day, and then homework would last up to three painful hours – with much frustration for both parent and child.
After just a few months at his new school, Scott’s personality began to emerge. He looked forward to school, and his energy level after school sky-rocketed. He now lifts weights. He’s part of a swim team. He has friends both at school and through his after school activities. His homework is actually done without any assistance from me. He is self-assured and comfortable with himself. Reading is still hard work, but he can read anything he might need to in the future. His written expression is coming along nicely, and his confidence continues to grow.
He is optimistic and hopeful about the future, and not ashamed to be dyslexic. It’s simply one aspect of who he is. He hopes to be a psychologist with prison inmates, or the next Dr. Phil, as he identifies with people who have obstacles to overcome and desires to lessen their struggle. Due to his difficulties, and then being given the tools to unlock his potential, Scott has developed patience and compassion towards others and himself. He is now eager and ready to try his wings in a regular school setting.
Scott is a testimony to the change that can happen when children with learning disabilities receive the right kind of help, in a timely fashion. Be committed to finding the right resources and people who see the potential in your child — and stay hopeful!