Once upon a time, I started this blog to write about dyslexia and learning disabilities. At the moment when I discovered blogging, my whole life was pretty much about being the parent of a kid who had been diagnosed as severely learning disabled.
I never did write about that much.
It’s not that it didn’t affect my life. All of the choices that I made between 2004 and 2013 or so were about what I thought was best for R. Sometimes those choices were really hard. Leaving California — well, I don’t know how many people can really appreciate what it’s like to say that the number one priority in your life, the thing everything else gets subsumed to, is that your kid learn to read. Moving across the country wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t afford the kind of intensive private school that I felt he needed in CA, and I could afford it in FL. It wasn’t an easy decision. I did it anyway.
And making choices that your kid hates — well, that’s not a ton of fun, either. I will never forget the bitterness in his voice when eleven-year-old R told me that people come to Florida to die and asked me how soon I expected that end for him. I mean, I do have to laugh at the memory, but it was pretty darn harsh at the time.
R has always hated, never gentled into, his diagnosis. I can’t blame him — some of the early stuff around his struggle to read was just so miserable. Summer camp one year — ugh, I can’t even go there. We’ve had a bumper sticker on the car, Dyslexics Have More FNU, since 2004, and yet that has always been plainly not true. Also slightly annoying because “fnu” shows dyslexia in its reality but “FNU” does not. Lower-case u and lower-case n are, in fact, the same letter to a true dyslexic because the difference between them is insignificant in three dimensions and yet the same can not be said of N and U. The person who typed the bumper sticker didn’t get it, but hey, I was desperate for a little positivity at the time, so I didn’t argue.
Anyway, last year (hey, this story really is getting somewhere, who knew?), R applied for a scholarship for students with learning disabilities. He discovered it himself, did the work to apply for it, got recommendations from teachers, contacted me to send his test scores to the disabilities coordinator at his school, did the whole thing. I was so proud of him. He’s been tested multiple times over the course of the past decade and every time the results have been the same — wow, this is a seriously bright kid with some severe issues. And you know, when you are that kid, that result kind of sucks.
He… I wouldn’t say he hides it, but he definitely doesn’t talk about it and when I tried to get him to be proactive about working with his college for accommodations, he totally shot me down. Legally, his level of disability entitles him (or at least did in the past) to audio books and I’m sure he could get any accommodation he wanted — more time on tests, an aide to read to him, whatever — he’s got the history and scores to support that. (I’d been warned about how difficult it would be to get him help but literally, on his first IEP, he qualified for an aide in the classroom — that’s how significant his issues were.) He didn’t want any of that and didn’t use any of it.
But he did apply for this scholarship.
We didn’t hear anything. Nothing, nothing, more nothing. Until today.
And it’s weird to talk about money in public and so I’m not going to, but… they gave him our contribution for the year, or close to it. And… I am so incredibly proud of him. I don’t even… it’s not just about the money, although the money is fantastic. Beyond fantastic. But it’s about self-acceptance, about finding the positive side of something that sucks, about making the best of your weaknesses, about compensating… I don’t even know. I do know that I’m super tearful, which is probably silly, but also that this is the reason I have a blog, to save this memory, because ten years from now, I have no idea what book thing might or might not be important, but I do know that remembering this incredibly surreal combination of delight and pride and … well, more pride… it’s going to be the day that I want to remember in 2025.
Way back in 2004, an educational psychologist said to me that it would be okay if R never learned to read, that he was fortunate to live in an age when technology could compensate, and I smiled politely and thought privately, my kid is going to read if I have to sell my soul to make it so. Because I want him to have the joy I’ve had in books more than anything else I could give him. Over the years, I’ve had to figure out that okay, maybe books aren’t the whole universe. Maybe it’s okay if he gets story through television or games instead of text. Maybe it’s okay if he doesn’t love to read. But here we are — and he does love to read. And although he’s still dyslexic to the core, it isn’t stopping him from busily confronting gender inequality in academia and studying medieval Italian city states.
I am so proud of him.
Salad of the day: totally luxe. Mixed greens with dates, goat cheese, pecans, smoked trout and balsamic vinegar. Creamy, crunchy, sweet, tangy, salty. Perfection. Except for the part about me needing to eat less sugar, less dairy, and no nuts. Sigh.
Great story. I can see why you are proud of him.
He would roll his eyes and say that I’m biased, but yes, I am so proud of him!
James Miller said:
Fate seems to have intertwined us.
Judy, Judy, Judy said:
That is such an inspiring story. Did you see my blogpost this time. It’s a pic of my grandson reading to a therapy dog. He is finally – at 14 – ready to be cooperative and learn to read. I am trying to teach him and scared to death that he won’t learn. Not just so that he can read books because he is perfectly happy being read to. Rather because there are so many things he wants to do that would be better accomplished if he can read.
Easier to accomplish if he can read, but not impossible to accomplish if he cannot! As the educational psych people said to me, the important thing is that he believe in his ability to solve a problem one way or another — giving up is the only way to lose. People with dyslexia are also known for their creativity and entrepreneurship, so much so that the Yale Center for Dyslexia changed its name to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Here’s a link for you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mariotti/the-big-picture-dyslexia_b_2038336.html — I haven’t seen the movie, but the three points the author makes at the end should be given to every kid who has struggled in school.
Judy, Judy, Judy said:
I have noticed that both of my grandkids are problem solvers and figure-out-a-way types. Kat has also proven to be great in a crisis. That article was really good and I have my daughter searching for the movie. Thanks for sharing that.
You’re very welcome! I was glad I could find it again!