Confessions of a Parent of Two Dyslexics

09/15/2020 | By More
By Barbara Pearce
Barbara in blue, with husband Norm, and children, Hope and Bradley


I am the last person anyone would go to for information about dyslexia.  I grew up as the classic bookworm. My goal was to read every book in my town library, and, from the piles of books I checked out each week, one would think that I might have succeeded!   Reading was my pleasure (and even my guilty pleasure, when it was after my bedtime).  The last time I was tested, in seventh grade, I read five times as fast as the second fastest reader.  By that point, my book-a-day habit was long established.

Now fast-forward twenty years:  I was a new mother, starting excitedly to read to and with my two young children.  We began with old classics, and quickly discovered new favorite authors as well.  Every car trip meant Dad driving, and Mom reading aloud.  Our son especially liked to be read to, and paid rapt attention.

Within a few years, however, it was clear that our kids did not share my love of reading.  While they might enjoy being read to, reading themselves was something that had to be externally imposed.  Summer reading lists were often still unfinished by Labor Day, and TV was the activity of choice for evenings and sick time.

Both kids attended an excellent K through 9 private school, and both had been tested repeatedly.  I suspected that something might be wrong with our son’s reading, just from the halting way in which he read aloud; however, when I inquired, I was told that his reading was above grade level. He had taught himself to read, very early, in a way that I refer to as the “gestalt method”—one whole word at a time.

“The fact that he read above grade level, and that he learned to read easily and early, convinced the staff that he did not have a reading problem.”

Rather, they postulated that his superior math skills were making reading seem comparatively more difficult, causing him to think that he wasn’t good at it.  The faculty did think that he had ADD, but we followed their suggestion and had him privately tested, but the psychologist did not confirm the diagnosis.

Our daughter, like many younger children, learned many things by osmosis, while our son was mastering them.  By then their school taught reading using the Letter Land technique, so her decoding skills far exceeded her brother’s.  Her grades were good, and everyone at school loved her.  She never read for pleasure, though, and even tuned out when others were reading aloud. She sometimes came home saying things like “I’m the dumbest person in my class”.  It was a school full of very bright, achievement-oriented kids, so I always just reassured her that that wasn’t true.  She was a poor tester, especially on standardized tests, but we thought it was an anxiety issue.  The headmistress suggested that she attend a less competitive boarding school, but she would hear none of it, and was able to get into the most competitive ones using her grades and recommendations.

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Category: Dyslexia

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