As I was beginning the journey with my son’s dyslexia, I realized that there was a definite need for local support and resources about learning disabilities (LD). The internet was an invaluable tool (or not, if it caused more anxiety and late-night reading binges!), with a wealth of information about what is and isn’t dyslexia, how to treat it and how not to treat it. However, what I needed was a real-live human being to talk to; someone who has walked in my shoes and knows what it feels like to have your world turned upside down.
It can be very isolating when you feel like the only person in the world with a child that has dyslexia. I needed to find out about steps I should take to get a diagnosis, how to find the right tutor and what to ask for in the school system.
Since I was unable to find local support for LD, I contacted a private school for dyslexia for advice. All I needed was someone to assure me that I should run with my instinct that something was not right with my child’s learning, instead of the wait and see that I consistently heard. It was liberating to feel that I was not at the mercy of schools, that I no longer had to convince teachers that there was a problem and that I had some control of the situation.
Eventually, our family made our way through the early stages of my son’s diagnosis and remediation through a lot of sweat and tears, plus two years at a private school that teaches specifically to students with dyslexia. After witnessing how well my son responded to being immersed in an environment well-suited for his learning style, it fueled my passion to increase awareness about this most common LD. I realized a diagnosis of dyslexia was not a sentence to perpetual failure but an opportunity to change my perspective on learning and intelligence.
Once I had made it to the acceptance phase of grieving (and yes, you do grieve over a child’s diagnosis of a LD), I knew something had to be done to prevent other people from experiencing the same heart-break that I had from a lack of local support. With the backing from the assistant director of special education in my district, I sent out an email to people whom I thought would have a similar enthusiasm to serve the community. Thus, the formation of Dyslexia Network of Forsyth County, a group of professionals and parents of children with dyslexia with a mission to provide local support to parents and educators. We are all passionate about increasing awareness and helping others navigate the ups and downs of LD.
Each month, we host free, monthly presentations at our local board of education. Some presentation topics have included: executive function, identifying the profile of a struggling reader, how families and their school system can work together to ensure success for their student, the legal rights of students in special education and a screening of The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia. Members of our group frequently provide emotional support and advice via email and phone. We also make sure that families in our community have access to articles and helpful information about learning and attention issues.
The internet is a wonderful place with great resources, but local support and resource groups have a critical role to play. I highly recommend looking for a local group in your area. If you can’t find a local group that you like, think about starting your own. Knowing that you can change the life of a student by helping a parent or teacher have a better understanding of LD makes this crazy and unpredictable journey of dyslexia worthwhile.
Tina Pryor McGinley is co-founder of Dyslexia Network of Forsyth County and volunteers for Decoding Dyslexia-Georgia. She resides in Cumming, Georgia with her husband and three children.