Caterpillar Stickers (the story behind the book)

11/15/2012 | By More

When Sierra was only 9 months old she said her first coherent word. She has never stopped talking since. She has an enormous vocabulary. I knew she had a genius hiding inside her tiny body. Always bold, unafraid and still never gives up on anything, a true perfectionist. I should have paid more attention to the question she answered with her first word but I was too shocked that she answered me. We had just completed viewing and reading story books. Sierra appeared disinterested. I asked, “Don’t you want to read anymore?” Sierra answered emphatically “NO”.

Her pre-school teacher recommended we hold her out of kindergarten saying she does not know her letters and numbers and was not ready. Sometimes we regretted not holding her back, while she was ready socially, she did have this problem but we were certain she would grow out of it. It was much deeper seeded then we imagined.

We had lots of advice. We took her to see many specialized doctors for intensive hearing and eye tests thinking that maybe she can’t hear or see well. After thousands of dollars and lots of frustration, nothing seemed to be working. We tried bifocals at the 1st grade level then really expensive Prism rainbow glasses, neither worked. The hearing tests revealed she was ultra sensitive and pretty much hears EVERYTHING. At school being in an open classroom was full of distractions. She would hear the teachers speaking in the hall or next door or the toilets flushing in the nearby bathrooms and all were reasons not to pay attention. All along, I knew we were not getting to the root of her problem.

I was convinced that Sierra was very intelligent. One day I was just tired of all of it. How many hours can you force a child to do something they hated. I was frustrated not knowing how to help her. I felt helpless and could not begin to imagine how Sierra felt. I prayed for an answer. She hated school and reading books. She looked for every excuse not to have to go to school. The only thing she seemed to like was television. She was sad because her friends were excelling and she was trailing further behind each day. I am not sure what her early teachers really thought but they would send all daily work home. After an entire day of frustration she had to come home and finish the incomplete centers along with her regular homework.

I began researching her demeanor, moods, attitude and behavior on the Internet and borrowed the book Right Brained Child in a Left Brained World, by Jeffrey Freed, from our local Dallas library. After reading many different books and articles on behavior and ADHD, ADDD, and Dyslexia, and being sure she was not dyslexic, I skipped over much of that reading. I was still oblivious, because I thought dyslexia was only mixing up letters like b and d. I decided to try one of the tests from Jeffrey’s book. I held up a magazine and asked Sierra to look at the word on the top, this magazine happened to be the MONEY magazine. I said “Now make a picture of this in your head”. I let her look for about 20 seconds, then I put it down and asked her to spell the word in her “picture” BACKWARDS.
She did it and I was shocked!
I asked “What do you see?” She said “It’s easy, a hand holding a dollar bill”. I looked at the magazine. I was only seeing the title MONEY but below was a graphic of a hand holding a dollar bill! She memorized the whole picture and was able to tell me the letters YENOM in order.

I telephoned the author, Jeffrey Freed in Colorado. I was confused and left the most embarrassingly long voice message on his phone. He graciously called me back and said, “I know what is happening with your daughter. She has Dyslexia.” I was puzzled and he went on, “There is no doubt in my mind based on your description”. He offered to come to Dallas to work with her and we were trying to see how we could manage it financially.

We ended up seeking help at her school and requested that they test her at the end of her 2nd grade school year because she was turning 8, and that was a pre-requisite for testing. They did test her and found she had “tendencies towards dyslexia” as the school cannot diagnose. Honestly, it was such a relief to finally be able to understand what was happening, because now we could attempt to help her. If you don’t know the problem, how can you solve it? Sierra began special education classes in 3rd grade. She falls under the Texas state laws which allow her added classes with some accommodations in certain scenarios, such as spelling lists etc.

She spent Saturday’s at the Shelton School in Dallas as they specialize in dyslexia among other things. She also went there the entire summer of 2011. This last year while in 4th grade, Plano ISD changed the curriculum for dyslexia using what the Scottish Rite hospital developed and Sierra really learned how to read, It was so amazing! She struggles still and cannot spell the same word correctly over and over and thus writing down her words is a trial. But hearing her say she likes books is music to my ears.

I couldn’t understand why she could never read little tiny words like “the, of, to” etc. but today we do understand it was because she could not associate a picture with that word. A dog, cat, or squirrel can be associated with a matching picture. Obviously Sierra has a great mind because she can memorize so well. It took us a little while to catch her tricking us into thinking she was reading. “Read it out loud, Mama”, and so I did. It only took one time and she had it memorized.

Dyslexia is not just about reading but it truly affects writing and spelling. Sierra sees everything in pictures. She says letters look like numbers. Phonics made no sense to her at all. Today she asks how to spell almost every word. We purchased an iPad for her to use the Dragon dictation and audio book functions, to give me a bit of time off. But she much prefers to write it out while we spell it aloud for her.

There are many “side affects” along the pathway. Mostly it’s frustration which causes much anger and tears. Sometimes it’s not only her frustration. For the longest time she had problems with clothes. Sierra would not wear jeans until this year, 2012. Many materials and all tags bother her. I have learned just to cut the tags out if she says something, it saves on wardrobe changes! She has major hair sensitivity. “No brush shall touch syndrome”, is there such a syndrome? I had to keep her hair short until now as she screamed if you brushed her hair. Funny thing is she literally laughs uncontrollably from being tickled if a hair stylist runs the water spout over her head. She’s a funny little girl.

Another unfortunate side affect is her balance. My dear child falls a lot! On the soccer field almost every game, she would fall or trip herself. She is accident prone. I am always afraid when I receive a school call during the day. It’s usually the nurse and she’s never running a fever it’s always some odd ball accident. She fell off the monkey bars the 3rd day of 3rd grade, the nurse stopped calling me about some things like scratches and cuts…. Every now and then, I get a call to warn me of her appearance. The last one I remember had to do with her hand being smashed by a ping pong paddle, on the ground, and she was nowhere near the table…how does that happen?

We were at a Girl Scout, mom and me camp, with her troop and the girls blew their whistle, screaming for help. Immediately I jumped up and thought oh my what now. In the distance, we saw her friend bent over and someone said she was getting sick so her mom ran out to help. The next thing I knew the friend’s mom was carrying Sierra on her back! Sierra had those brown burr type thorns in her feet. I saw a few and started to pick one out of her heal and then a couple from her toe. Then I moved all the way around her where I could see her entire foot, I nearly fainted. Her foot was brown with burrs. I had to try to keep composed so she did not realize how bad it was, but I was freaking out. Both of her feet were covered with thorns. How does someone walk both feet into a rug of thorns? My angel girl did. Thank God for her friend’s mom as she is a practitioner and picked every last one of those thorns out of her feet. Sierra was very brave I was not. There are dozens more stories and probably some I could not think of like the elevator incident… but we’ll leave that for another time.

Sierra and I worked together in every course of publishing this book from completing the manuscript, planning the illustrations, format, layout, fonts, etc. She explained to me that the picture needs to be on one page without the words. “Keep the words on a separate page so they don’t mess with the pictures. The letters and words need to look normal and big.”

Recently we were looking at some Facebook postings and there was a page script of smashed letters and numbers mixed together, but if you looked carefully your brain would help you read it. Sierra was able to read it quicker and better then her brother who is 4 years older. She said this is how all writing looks to me. She was excited to give us some insight to her vision.

Sierra has found love in performing arts. She sings and acts at the Plano Children’s Theatre and has improved in so many areas. Her success on stage gives her confidence and carries over a little into her daily classroom subjects.

I constantly remind Sierra that she can do and be anything she wants to be. Often when she or her brother, say “but I can’t”, I reply with “When you think “I can’t” then drop the “t” and you “Can”. Now they finish my sentence….”I know, I know, you can change “Can’t to Can” by dropping the “t’.

Our book was something we did together. We have always shared our imaginations, telling and making up stories. This book Caterpillar Stickers found a place in our hearts and we wrote it down and wanted to publish it and share it with the whole world. We want people to look inside themselves and see their inner beauty. We want to inspire others not to give up. Encourage the young, especially, to see that glitter and wings only change what people see on the outside. Perseverance and doing the right thing is what transforms us, making us beautiful from inside out.

We stress always finishing what you start to both our children and strive to lead by example and hold their hand if necessary. We are very pleased with our book and hope others will enjoy hearing and reading it too. It has been a great learning experience for all of us. We are so thankful that ADA is listed on the back cover of our book and hope this reference will help others in need.

Ruth E. Flad (mother of Sierra Rene Flad)
See Ray, is our pen name, we thought it was easier then referencing two people. See Ray is a nick name I have called (Sierra Rene) since she was very small.

Category: News

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