Living with Dyslexia – Part III

 What to do if you think your child may have Dyslexia.

 As a Learning Support teacher, I see a lot of children that have difficulty learning how to read. I work with these children to help them learn the rules of our language. Although these children are often extremely bright, the standard ways of teaching these concepts do not seem to do the trick.

The story at schools is so often the same: Teachers are hesitant to give poor marks to students that know the work, yet are unable to write it down or read the content. Even though the student may be reading or writing two or more years behind grade level, they seem to know their stuff and can recite their knowledge orally. This is actually really good assessment – being able to give oral answers is a very popular way of extracting information from students with Learning Disabilities. However, in the primary grades if a student is reading and/or writing well below grade level it can seem devastating. Our schools are experiencing a seemingly ever-increasing amount of students with special needs. These needs are complex and must be addressed for the safety of the student, the student body and, often, the staff. Many of the children with very high needs are waiting to be tested, and will be high priority.

 What does this mean for students with reading/writing problems?

 We know that many children with reading difficulties exhibit similar symptomology:

  1. They are very bright

  2. They have a hard time reading

  3. They often have difficulties with writing

…and many more that depend on the individual child.

Since we are dealing with bright children, they get by. Teachers give them extra time and accommodations such as oral answers, etc. The problem with this is that they will never get identified by the school if they are passing. In order to be referred for further testing a child must be receiving R’s and D’s.

Many parents (with the required resources) address this issue by pursuing private psychological testing. This is often a much quicker path to identification by the school. The school can use the report to identify the student with an exceptionality in a quick meeting called an IPRC (Identification, Placement and Review Committee). Once the identification is in place, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed by the student’s teachers and the LST. This plan helps to address the individual learning needs of that particular student (using recommendations from the psychological report).

 If you wonder if you should be looking into private testing or being a stronger advocate for your child’s learning at school, take a look at this website. It offers many suggestions on what to look for when your child is having difficulties with reading and writing.

 http://www.dyslexia.com//library/symptoms.htm

 Never hesitate to advocate for your child. They need you!

Only Words

Guest Blog Post by: Sophie Rutter

Language

In a way, we live in a world of words. From a very early age, we begin to categorize things using language labels. As young children, we practise using words to describe objects, and how they are the same and different from other objects. As we get older, we continue to use words to describe the way things “are”: the colours of the rainbow are_____, there is a force called gravity, I am an introvert. We use language to express ideas, convey emotions, form theories…we use it to understand one another and ourselves, to describe identities. The question is – do we give words the power to create our identities?

I think all of us with learning disabilities/ADHD are familiar with labels. Some of us have so many that keeping them all straight in our little working memories is quite the challenge! We are used to saying “I have LD/AHD”, but what do these words really mean to us? What are the consequences of looking to language to tell us about ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that diagnosis can be useful. It can lead to an exploration of the many different ways we learn, and help us to be better learners and teachers. It can help us to understand ourselves and each other. Diagnosis is, for many students, a gateway to access resources like accommodations and technology. However, we need to be careful about how much power we give to the words we stick to one another.

One potential problem is that we can begin to perceive all behaviour in the context of a diagnosis, and to treat others (or ourselves) differently because of it. When a teacher reads a report that identifies a child as dyslexic, might they be less likely to challenge that student in English class? When a parent becomes used to the idea that their son or daughter is hyperactive, might they begin to see their child’s energetic demeanour as pathological? When a student is told that they have a disability, can a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy result? It is important to remember that diagnoses do not describe individual people; they are categories that people fit into in different ways and to different extents. We need to be consciously aware of what our expectations are, and how those might be affecting the way we see people.

Another danger lies in that we may begin to see diagnoses as absolute things. “ADHD” is not some kind of solid, tangible object that exists within us. It is not something that we “have” in the way that you might have, say, a viral infection. When we act and think in particular ways that are consistent with our diagnoses, it is not because of the diagnosis. Terms like “disorder of written expression” or “dyscalculia” help to describe, not define, our learning. Even more importantly, ADHD and LD are not pathological in the way that an infection is. Having the flu under any circumstances is going to make you miserable. Having a disability under the right circumstances (understanding, accommodation) can lead to great success.

Words are not reality, nor do they necessarily even describe it – they conceptualize it. We are essentially free to make sense of our world however we like. Categorizing with words is one way to understand things and even to understand each other, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are the creators of our categories. I think that one of my professors expressed the idea nicely when he said: “Make science your b*tch” (not the other way around). The universe does not tell us that we have disabilities; we tell ourselves that we do. We lack ability only according to our definitions and measurements of ability. We need to recognize that the labels we use are nothing more than our best attempts to understand little bits and pieces of one another.

We have a responsibility to explain these things in a way that young children can understand, so that they can have the courage to push themselves. No one should be made to feel that their potential has aleady been decided. I think one of the goals listed on every students’s IEP should be: “Gain understanding of both the usefulness and limitations of the language labels used in diagnostic report”. There is no point in teaching the 8-year-old with a math disability strategies for multiplying numbers if we are at the same time sending the message that this student is incapable of learning them. It should be a direct goal of special education, rather than an added bonus, for a child to learn what “disability” means, and what it does not mean.

We owe it to ourselves to give people greater power than words. We need to use labels to better understand who we are, rather than to predict who we will become. When we do that, we turn language into one of the most powerful tools we have.

We are not the terms we use to explain ourselves. We are people: multi-faceted, ever-changing, invaluable. And when you realize that the labels attached to your name belong more to the world than they do to you, only one word can capture that feeling: indescribable.

Climbing down mountains

 

Today marks my 8th blog post; I want to start working up to something different for my 10th post.  I am well aware of habits and routines, and how a routine becomes a habit.  Each of my posts have been written once a couple days before my post, then almost entirely rewritten the morning I post.  Each of my posts have featured a picture of some sorts and about 1000 words (wow, that’s already 8000 words, mainly about myself.)

When I applied to be an author for this post, I offered my perspective as a person with AD(H)D and a teacher.  As I can recall, the majority of my family’s struggles were related to school.  I never had any issues with sports, friendships (when I was young) were never difficult, and I did help out around the house about as much as any other kid.  I can remember the fights, the tears, and the pains from bringing home notes, report cards, and calls home from school.  They have been such a part of my mother’s life that she retells the stories like an old war veteran, rocking on her front porch chair.

I’ve already shared many of the stories with you; the non-existent support, the overly intimidating IPRC meetings, the time I did get support, etc.  What I didn’t tell you is the problems other parents face.  I write these blogs every day from my own perspective, my own life, my own problems.  Solutions that I have brought forward are not universal, they may not even be transferable; it’s just a perspective.

This brings me to my topic de jour.  Although we are all different, and we each bring with us our own strengths and weaknesses, there are some universal solutions we can, will, and do adopt.  During my years as a student of our province’s educational system, some of these solutions were only in their infancy, others were not even a twinkle in the ministry’s eye.  

First, and most importantly, is differential instruction.  This idea is so simple, yet so oddly new that education systems in the United States are only now beginning to adopt it.  Differential instruction is using a variety of teaching and evaluation methods based off of the concept that every student learns differently.  This idea was only accidentally used when I was in school, and before that, teachers were taught how to deliver instruction in almost a militant form.  By using DI, students are able to learn the way that best suits them, and demonstrate their knowledge in their strongest form.  For some students, reading is easier as a learning tool, while others learn better with open discussions.  When it comes to evaluations, you may find that one student can show her knowledge better on paper, than in practice.  DI is all about finding the best in the student, not the comfort zone of the teacher.

For the students that require more than DI (or teachers that do not use DI), we now inact individual education plans (IEP.)  This program is fairly new as it did not exist when I was in school.  IEPs are created when students are struggling to perform but do not have a formal diagnosis.  This is very useful in cases where students may either not have an identifiable disability or there is a large wait time for a formal psychological evaluation.  They may include some alternate forms of evaluation, or accommodations; some may include, using a computer instead of handwriting tests, have a scriber in class, and relearning past curriculum.  The latter seems to be one of the most alarming for parents, as I will discuss.

The Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) is very similar to the IEP with a few additional doors that open.  Where DI is implemented by the teacher by choice, and an IEP mandates that teacher to use DI, an IPRC identification is a legal mandate to the board and teacher that they must use DI to accommodate a student.  I currently provide tutoring and advising services for parents that have students that learn differently, and as part of that position, I always recommend that parents pursue IPRC whenever possible.  With a formal IPRC identification, students are allowed extra personal resources that may not have been available before.  Unfortunately, many parents with these students are told that there is an exhaustive wait period before their students may receive a psychological assessment.  For some parents, this process may accelerated with a private psychological assessment.  Such assessments may cost more than $1500 and a full day of school/work; a cost that for many parents that is just too much to bear.

Within all of these acronyms and edu-babble, it all unfortunately boils down to the parent.  A parent that is well informed and involved will almost always find success with their student.  There are many teachers out there that work hard, and will ensure that every student is taught with DI.  But when things don’t go right, parents are always the first line of defense.  My parents were there for me, and my siblings, and we all made it through each finding their own success.  I advise many parents that are met with struggles, but find solutions with efficiency.  

As with being the strongest defense for their students, parents can also be the obstacle too.  Often parents are given unwanted advice and do not take the time to learn what it all means; such as medication, therapy, identification, or modification of curriculum.  When a parent hears about modification, they may think that their student is going to be pushed back a grade or two.  In reality, modification means that a student may learn grade 5 math, rather than grade 8, however, this is likely because the student has no knowledge of grade 5 math curriculum.  By continuing to push students in grade 8 math, those students that need to learn earlier math will continue to fail.

And in the end, the most important thing for a student to be successful in school, is confidence as a learner.  A student that brings home level 4+ in grade 5 math is much more likely to feel better about themselves than a student bringing home 1- and Rs in grade 8 math.  With the proper modifications and accommodations, along with some tutoring, those students can quickly catch up to their peers while building their confidence as a learner.

I can remember exactly when and how I started to fall behind in school.  I also remember when and how I regained confidence in myself as a learner.  For me, it was my 6th year in high school, and it happened the same year I was given the proper support I needed.  So, for the parents out there fighting, keep fighting; when you finally win that battle it will make a difference.  For those parents that feel lost, talk to someone, read some articles, and pick up a phone.  Communication with the school is always the first step, and knowing that you’re reading this blog, you’ve already started your research.  We’re all different, and it’s by understanding how we are different that we find our success.

 

The Advantages of AD(H)D

During my studies at the Faculty of Education (formerly, teachers’ college,) I watched a video about AD(H)D that stuck with me.  It wasn’t a very interesting video, no special CGIs, nor any fun music.  This was a video that, much like many other “educational films,” was likely produced in the 80s or 90s.  The picture was old, the sound muffled, and the clothing out of style; how anyone else would remember this video from the other hoards of brain-eating educational monsters is beyond me –but I did.  It was a simple spoken sentence that made me think.  A straight-edged, take-no-nonesense suit, with dark, moosed hair parted on the side, looked at the camera and explained that people with attention deficit do not have a deficit of attention at all, but rather too much attention to everything.

It’s true.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve had my mind on a million things at once.  My mind then started to focus on that one sentence and what it meant to me.  I started to think of all the times that I’ve multi-tasked, or have seen things others don’t notice.  I remembered the times when I became overly focused, almost obsessed with one thing.  I was looking at AD(H)D wrong the whole time.  I can pay attention, I just struggle with focusing my attention.  Why didn’t they coin it FD(H)D?

With just that one class, I began to reinvent how I approached my AD(H)D.  I saw it more as a super power than a limitation.  I began to notice how my mind has been using it all along.  When I drive, I’m never just watching the car in front of me.  I’ve got an eye on the car slowing down in front of him, the speeding passer approaching from my left, the pedestrian about to jaywalk, the blinking hand telling me that my green light is about to turn, and train that is about to cross in the distance.  I see my path clearly and quickly.  I hit the gas to get out before the car on my left passes me, honk my horn at the pedestrian to stop their would be jaywalking, make it through the light, signal to pass the slowing car, and make my right turn so that I may cross the trains path on the overpass as to avoid the delay.  After having got myself out of a would-be jam, I’m now upset because I heard over the radio that my team just gave up a goal as I was passing that slow car.

In basketball I used my mind to drive the ball.  I’d dribble up the court, weaving around my opponents until the moment where I see a trap being set under the hoop, so I drop a no-look pass to my teammate as they cut in from behind me.  My mind allows me to track all the players on the court with ease.

AD(H)D and many other disabilities do not need to be seen as a disadvantage.  If we look at each disability with an open mind, we can begin to see how we can use our abilities instead of limiting ourselves and others.  Now knowing the abilities (or super powers, if you will) of someone with AD(H)D, I know just how I want to use them.  Maybe I should feature them in a play, as acting requires attention to the entire scene, not just the person they are speaking to.  Maybe I should teach them to conduct an orchestra so that they may focus on every part being played.  Maybe I need to give them roles as supervisors, able to monitor large groups to ensure that everyone is on task.

I grew up in an educational system that was just starting to evolve.  Teachers were still handing me books, and forcing me to read rather than allowing me to explore my text book.  I would often read ahead to the more interesting parts of my history text book.  This drove my teacher mad.  She would insist that I learn what everyone else is learning, despite how horribly boring it may be.  I would fail her class; years later I would, however, go back and learn what she wanted me to after learning about how it related to more interesting parts of history.

I encourage my students to work at their own pace.  I tell the students what they are responsible for learning, and let them chose which chapter to start on.  Sometimes I let students share work; one student studies chapter 1, the other chapter 2, then they give each other the answers to the chapter questions.  Many students (and teachers) would consider this cheating, I find that it actually encourages students to ask questions about clarification and understanding; questions that lead to a deeper understanding.

In my work as a supply teacher, I was called in one day to teach an English class.  This class was reading Percy Jackson and the lightning thief on computers.  Each were at different parts, some were even reading just the paper book itself.  I opened one of the paper books, and read a part of the final battle, which I leave you with:

My senses were working overtime. I now understood what Annabeth had said about ADHD keeping you alive in battle. I was wide awake, noticing every little detail.

I could see where Ares was tensing. I could tell which way he would strike. At the same time, I was aware of Annabeth and Grover, thirty feet to my left. I saw a second cop car pulling up, siren wailing.
Spectators, people who had been wandering the streets because of the earthquake, were starting to gather. Among the crowd, I thought I saw a few who were walking with the strange, trotting gait of
disguised satyrs. There were shimmering forms of spirits, too, as if the dead had risen from Hades to watch the battle. I heard the flap of leathery wings circling somewhere above.

Throwing the bottle away

Image

At some point in every infants life, they toss their bottle.  Of course, what do parents first do?  They pick it up and give it right back; never asking why they are throwing it away.  Eventually, it must occur to parents (I’m not yet a parent, so I’m sure there’s still much for me to learn) it’s time to take the bottle away.  Later in my life, I had to make a similar decision without the assistance of my parents this time.  I was finding that medication was starting to alter my behaviours in ways that were actually hindering my abilities.  I was less ambitious, socially exciting, and active.  I was finding that some days I just did not want to take my meds and some days I needed them to study for a test.  I knew I couldn’t keep up a charade of randomly taking my meds; that;s how I start to forget to take them.  If I forget to take them when I need them, it could really mess my day up as I’ve become, in a way, dependent of their effects to function.

I was 22 when I first started this dialogue with myself.  It had been 3 years since my drug concerns; I’ve molded modeled my study habits to complete high school, and my first year of studies (away from home.)  I dealt with, successfully, moving through 3 different schools; high school, university of Guelph, and the university of Windsor.  It was really the University of Windsor part that told me I was ready to start moving on from meds.  I successfully completed my first year of Drama in Education, but found that I wasn’t ready for the workload.  I still wanted to have fun, to party, and I wasn’t ready to do the amount of work required for this program (the first year introduction class greeted me with a 100-page final paper.)  I took a look forward in my life and decided I wanted to study an easier degree and then return to finish my program.  I move to London and attended University of Western Ontario for a B.A. in sociology.  It was a bold move, but I wouldn’t be where I am without it.  Had I not gone, I likely would have ended up dropping out of school and failing to move on in life.

While in London, I had a very easy schedule, academically.  I usually took only 4 courses, and I was really strong in social sciences, thus the classes came naturally to me.  The lighter class schedule allowed me to focus my attention to other components of my life, starting with accommodations at university.  It took me good couple of weeks to track down the right people and to advocate for myself, but eventually I was greeted with great accommodations.  The government (through the bursary for students with a disability) purchased me a new laptop, the university supplied me with extra exam writing time when I needed it, and the university also advocated for me when I needed it.  The last part was the bridge I needed.  They university supplied a letter explaining that I was granted certain accommodations, one was that any overheads and powerpoints were to be provided to me on paper or electronically so that I did not have to copy.  I was also allowed to voice record any lectures, a tool that I never found useful other than in one particular class.  My Survey of Sociological Theories class had a really good prof teaching it, but he was also very reluctant to support me.  It didn’t seem that he just didn’t believe that I needed it, but that he had his own agenda that I was disrupting.  He loved overheads, and I hated them.  I asked for paper copies, and I asked to record his class.  He was shocked-white.  He told me he would get back to me, and I gave him my letter.  The next class he came back and offered me the paper copies of his notes, in exchange I don’t record the class–now in any other situation, a student shouldn’t take a compromise if they need their accommodations, but I didn’t need the voice recording.  I was an easy victory as I got the notes I needed and aced the course.  I even received my first A on an essay, ever!

Learning to advocate and take responsibility for my own education was the first step to weaning myself off of the bottle.  The next part was learning to organize my time.  These steps were unknown to me at the time, but thankfully, life kind of just challenged me the way I needed to be challenged.  I quickly found that OSAP would not be enough for me to live in London and was afraid of having to quit school halfway-through.  I was not ready to do this, so I took a job as a part-time security officer.  I worked many concerts back stage, including ZZ top and Meat Loaf, but most often would have to work midnights.  The schedule was non-existent.  I would often be called the day of and would have to arrange transportation to and from work.  It was a challenge for sure.  It started to take a toll at school as I would skip classes and avoid studying.  When my school started to suffer, I realized that this was a problem.  I started to look for a job with more stability, and stumbled across a tech support job.  One of my best friends (quick fact: 5 out of 7 people in the groom’s party at my wedding had AD(H)D,) introduced me to the job.  It was great because I was given my schedule in advance, and later was offered a standard 8p-2a M-F schedule.  The job gave me a chance to study and complete assignments during downtime, and gave me the stability I needed.  This meant I was rarely home.  I would have classes from 8a-3p, come home, nap, cook, and go to work.

I learned quickly how to save time.  I would cook big dinners on Sundays and Wednesdays which were my easy schedule days, and cook enough for 10 people.  The leftovers were my meals for the rest of the week.  I would do grocery shopping on my way home from school at lunch on Tuesdays.  On Fridays, I would do laundry as I only had one class.  As these habits started to form, I realized that I was at my best when the basic, mundane parts of my life were habits.  Habits quickly became routines and required very little thought.  By not having to think, my mind was freed to focus on other things in my life.

I found that when I followed my routines, I was doing really well in school and didn’t require my meds.  My anxiety levels were lowered, my attention was easier to control, and I was happier.  I quickly learned, however, that when these routines became disrupted, my anxiety levels were through the roof.  I still am working on the anxiety part today; but I realized that this was who I was.  I looked back at my childhood and saw that I was at my best when I was busy with routines.  

I started to form routines everywhere in my life.  When I wake up in the morning, I would eat breakfast, watch the same morning show, then shower, get dressed, and brush my teeth.  It sounds simple, nothing anyone else doesn’t do, but its the days when I’m out of toothpaste, or my show isn’t on that dictates the importance of order.  If I finished breakfast and the shower was being used, I would fall apart.  I wouldn’t know what to do, and rather than brush my teeth, I would just sit and watch more TV until the shower was free.  I had to keep my schedule.  If I ran out of toothpaste and had to go to the store, I would be late or miss school.  I could not adapt.

Finding success without my meds was a combination of understanding how I function best, and creating routines that plays to my strengths.  Even when I selected my courses, I knew that I did not like to do repetitive work like in math and science, thus I steered clear of those subjects as much as possible.  I knew I loved leadership roles, so I would always join weaker groups.  I knew I was a social learner, so I was the first to volunteer to present (it got me out of the ugly written work.)

It didn’t happen over night, but I kept the med bottle full, and ready, for over 3 years.  When there was a major test, when my day was thrown out of schedule, I would take my meds.  I eventually learned my own coping strategies to deal with my anxiety.  Even to this day, I’m still learning how to express why I get irritable with somethings.  Recently, I learned why I hate shopping with my wife so much.  I was getting almost claustrophobic in stores waiting for her to pick out a pair of shoes.  It was my anxiety and loss of control.  My wife and I work our best to solve these issues; sometimes its as easy as bringing my tablet along to play games on.  It’s going to be a life long process, but every day I’m getting better at it.  I haven’t taken my meds for 8 years now.  This November, I successfully finished a long term assignment and coached cross country at one school, coached basketball at another school, and tutored 3 different students.  I think I’m finding my own success without my meds.

Unidentified?

Many of the blogs that others have written have been about dealing with “identified” children or persons; but what about the “unidentified” child?  How about the child that falls through the cracks because he or she is not as disruptive as others in school?  Issues are not addressed by teachers because the child gets ‘okay’ grades.

This often leaves the parents dealing with all of the issues, and because nobody else has raised concern, the uneducated parent (in dealing with learning disabilities) may just think they have a sensitive child.

I am one of these parents, and until someone educated me, I tried (and often still try) to ease anxieties by avoiding situations that may cause anxiety. Unfortunately this often led to a child running a house. Something I did not even realize I was letting this happen. Decisions were made based on how my son would react, and whether I wanted to deal with the drama.

Anxiety-words

Add on top of that, parents who are divorced, and do not agree that outside help is needed. Getting my son the help that is needed has been difficult, but he is finally on a waiting list to get further assistance.

I have read many articles and attended seminars about learning disabilities, to try and educate myself. There are definitely anxiety issues, but I do not know if there is anything beyond that. Maybe it is just behavioural, because I feed into his anxiety, and allow him to manipulate me. At least I understand that I am allowing this, and am trying to change, but it is difficult to change a routine to which you have become accustomed (much like the dieter who cannot say no to doughnuts brought into work, or grabbing fast food for lunch because it is easier than taking the time to make something.) It is hard to see your child constantly unhappy, and not want to do something (or not make him do something), that may add to that unhappiness. It is heart wrenching to think that your decisions are the cause of your child’s grief or sorrow, but just as unhealthy to the child, to simply avoid situations that may cause stress or anxiety.

Since my son has yet to be diagnosed, I cannot say for sure that he suffers from an anxiety disorder. There may be more to it than anxiety. Or, as I hinted earlier, it may just be learned behaviour or maybe some combination of the above. Whatever the case, I feel that it is important to take the precautions necessary to help my son deal with life. I’ve been opposed to medication in the past, but can see that in many cases, it can help an individual calm down enough to learn the effective strategies necessary to cope with daily life and its ultimate turmoils.

An anxiety disorder can simply be stated as any worry that is out of control, and children with anxiety can appear oppositional or irritable because they are distracted by their worries. They can also be explosive, moody or tearful.

Here are some of the signs of anxiety disorder:

  • Insomniaanxiety
  • Reoccurring stomach aches, headaches
  • Shortness of breath, racing heart
  • Resistance to participating in social activities
  • Fear of deviating from a regular routine
  • Tantrums or moodiness right before a specific event
  • Exaggerated negative thoughts about future events
  • “Clinginess” – always wanting proximity to a parent
  • Whining/crying when uncomfortable with people, routines and/or situations

I offer the above list to other parents who may be dealing with these symptoms and not realize or understand that there may be an issue. I’m not necessarily saying that I want my child labeled, but I do want to give him every opportunity to succeed. I now realize that going the extra step to get professional help (which could even include medication) could quite possibly give him the extra edge he needs to be successful in life. 

Living with Dyslexia – Part One

There is so much to say when you are raising children with the gift of Dyslexia. There is truly something unique, creative and almost mystical about individuals born with this “learning disability.”

donny

I have been blessed with two beautiful boys, both of which have Dyslexia. However, Donny has faced the most challenges due to the degree with which Dyslexia has affected his life. Donny is my youngest boy and is going to be seventeen in a couple of weeks. I am very proud of him and the distance he has come, especially considering the challenges that he faces.

Donny had such difficulty learning how to read and write, yet was so bright in all other areas that it was very apparent there was an issue. I was amazed that someone so creative, bright and motivated to explore life could have such difficulty learning. He was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia by the school psychologist by grade four. This was mostly due to teachers that helped work to make him successful and partially from learning that advocating for your child is essential in order to help provide them with what is necessary for success in not only school, but life as well.

Part of the key is not only advocating for your child, but teaching your son or daughter how to advocate for themselves. I have always been one to hit the books when faced with an issue. Once learning my son had these challenges, I became engrossed in literature, blogs, webcasts, courses and any other piece of information that would help me to learn more about how my son’s brain functioned.

The most important part of the journey has been what my son learned. I have always kept him informed and updated on the exact challenges he was facing. We would talk about the problems he had and discussed how he could work to solve them. Donny was aware of his IEP and what it meant for his learning and has realized that he must learn to advocate for himself as he gets older. Donny does not let his learning disability get in the way or see it as a burden. He realizes that there are limitations to what he can do without some assistance, but with that knowledge he knows that he is an intelligent young man that can accomplish great things.

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I’ve touched only briefly on actually living with Dyslexia (and Dysgraphia) in this blog for a reason. I wanted to stress the success that Donny has experienced because he knows about his learning disability, the strategies he must use to overcome the challenges, and what steps he has to take to ensure that he has his needs met respectfully. I want to stress this because I remember the hopelessness I felt before we knew what was giving Donny a hard time. Once he was diagnosed, I again felt helpless because I wanted him to become an independent and successful individual and didn’t know the extent of his challenges. His Dyslexia is severe, yet he has persevered. I want to send that message.

The experiences Donny has acquired, due to his openness to share,  have empowered him. He now serves as the student representative for the Learning Disabilities Association- Windsor Essex and speaks openly about his challenges. Donny and I were just featured on the CBC radio program The Bridge, talking a bit about life so far. Please take a listen.

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