Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dyslexia and a Discovery

Wow! So, it's been two and a half YEARS since I last wrote! Yikes! Life gets crazy.

Update: We've moved to a new state, have a new church, a new life really. I have a new pack of kids to mother and am happy where the Lord has moved us. There is much I could say about this new place God has brought us too but today my heart was burdened to share something else He brought into our lives.

My Abby, my middle baby, at the end of second grade was not reading. She never picked up a book on her own, she got nervous when asked to do reading exercises, and couldn't even recognize many of the letters of the alphabet. I was frustrated, I was worried, I did not understand. Abby was smart, she excelled at other things, she was unique, anything she did always stood out from the crowd. So, why couldn't she read?

And then THE day came. The day I realized that she hardly ever wrote her name properly. She had all the letters but how they went down changed form day to day. Sometimes, she wrote it backwards, sometimes its was "yabb", or "baby", or "bbay" etc.. and something clicked. The word Dyslexic popped into my head. Of course! Why hadn't I see it sooner?

I gave her a test. If she got at least 80%, she was fine. She scored 20%. While she took the test, my heart saddened. She got so confused! Her brow wrinkled, she bounced and fidgeted as she tried to make sense of what she saw. She frowned, her eyes teared, and she would look at me with that helpless scared look that makes your heart break. It was one of the saddest moments we've had but yet, the most beautiful. I finally knew, and knowing meant I could help.

Since then (It's been nearly two years) I researched ways to teach a dyslexic child to read and implemented them. We found what worked for her (not all methods work for all dyslexics) and this past year Abby has started reading on her own for pleasure and she can read well with understanding. However, her spelling is terrible. Awful! Not even close! She will dump random letters in the middle of words, letters are backwards, capital letters are used willy-nilly. Sometimes, she doesn't even use any letter that is actually in the word.

Example: Recently, she spelled the word "cattle" as "catcate"and the word "country" as "conther" "paper" as "papfn". Last week she spelled the word "by" as "louhta"...I'm not joking. That day was a bad day where her dyslexia reared its ugly head in every subject. So, I decided it was time for more research.

One of the librarians at our local library gave me a book about Dyslexia that got into the nitty-gritty of the medical scientific info. The "glitch" in the dyslexics brain that makes it so they cannot recognize or retain letters and words and how it affected other areas. It was fantastic! It was daunting! It was horrible! It made me want to cry. Challenges I had half noticed in her school work as we progressed were magnified. The quirk of the dyslexic brain also make it hard for them to recall and speak words of more than one syllable. It makes it hard to retain specifics like dates and names. It's nearly impossible to learn a second language. Spelling is always "disastrous" spelling. The list went on and on and nearly all them I had noticed in my daughter!

I had a "moment". I had to go to WalMart and I went by myself. I was overwhelmed. I tried to keep from crying the whole drive as I prayed. I parked and just sat clenching the steering wheel with my hands and praying, "God, I don't know what to do! I'm not prepared for this! I barely had correct instruction myself! I can't!"

And then God brought this truth to my heart. He gave me my daughter on purpose, He planned her from before the universe had existence, from before the first human walked this earth, there was my Abby, in His heart, in His plan. He gave her to me to raise, to cherish, to love, to instruct, on purpose.  He brought many Scriptures to me heart like Ps 139 13-16; Is 40: 29-31; Is 41:10, Phil 4:13. He reminded me that I am not a bad mom; it was not my daughters destiny to have to claw her way though her childhood like I did. He made me for her. I was her protector, the one who understood her heart because it was so like mine. He did all this on purpose. Trust Him. Now get moving!

So, I did. I got out, I got my shopping done and I went back home refreshed in spirit and ready do everything I needed to do so my Abby would thrive. I prayed nearly continuously. I searched the internet for more techniques. I thought, I pondered, I processed. I went to bed still thinking and then right before I drifted off a thought struck me.

Because the dyslexic brain uses the right side to read and process language instead of the left they tend to be tactile, and it can help to spell out words by finger tracing. One method has them tap down their arm as they spell out loud to help grasp letter order. All the things I read mushed up in my brain and two words grabbed me. Sign language.

Sign language is visual but it also tactile. People who are deaf and blind use it to communicate purely by touch. Could learning the sign for words and letters make a "patch" in her brain and enable her to spell or recall specific dates more easily? Could the pure muscle memory of fluent signing unlock some of her language barriers? I didn't know but it was worth a shot.

Thanks to an interest in sign language from first reading about it in "The Baby-Sitters Club" books (I know, right?!) and then volunteering for a week in a deaf school, I have limited fluency so I was set to begin. I thought at one point I would work with deaf children but God had a different plan for my life and I often wondered why he had put that interest in my heart. I'm not that sort to be weirdly mystical and have to have all life's threads neatly tied together but maybe my interest had been for this all along. Maybe it was always meant to be for my Abby.

The very next day I implemented my idea. I taught her the alphabet. She mastered it quickly, the only letter giving her repeated trouble being the "u". Interestingly, the letters that did not resemble their written counterpart in any way, were easier for her to master. Today, we began spelling by first spelling the word out loud with corresponding signs, repeating them until it came naturally, and then signing as she wrote. IT WORKED! She spelled the word "bunny" by herself and was so excited she spelled it again, just for fun!

Will it work tomorrow? We'll see. Will it work for bigger things? I don't know. This process is slow no matter what technique is used. Next week we will begin to learn the signs for the months of the year and the finger spelling to see if it helps her remember those pesky dates. I am not an expert, I'm not saying this will work for everyone. This is not a miracle cure. I just wanted to share what I had discovered because teaching a dyslexic child is hard and exhausting. Any help is worth sharing because today, my daughter wanted to spell  more words. She was excited and happy! She was confident and proud instead of tentative and ashamed!

 So, to all those who might be struggling with teaching their special needs child. Keep going! Keep thinking! Keep innovating! Your child is worth it! Your work will be rewarded! God made and gave you that child on purpose and He will equip you as you trust Him! Now get moving!

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