This post was first published May 9, 2016.
I was so excited. My son had just been accepted at a prestigious school for dyslexics! Finally, he was going to get the help he needed. The new school was going to teach him how to read!
But wait a minute . . . the new school. Hmm. Hadn’t really thought that through. He was going to have to leave the school he had attended since the age of one in their mother’s morning out program. The school his sisters had attended since the age of 3.
That wasn’t even the biggest issue though. I was going to have to tell him he was DYSLEXIC. My poor child was going to have, gasp, a label that would follow him for the rest of his life. It took me back to the day when he was diagnosed, but at that time we were just so relieved to have an answer as to why this bright boy was struggling to learn his letters. Now we were faced with a reality that he would follow him all of his days.
I must confess that I handled the situation badly. I took the coward’s way out and waited until he had completed a summer program at the new school. The summer program was lots of fun and he had a wonderful time. Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like that?
You want to know the worst part? He was only five at the time! Imagine how hard it would have been for me had he been 10 or 12 . . . the age when children truly understand what is going on.
How in the world would I have been able to explain what was “wrong” with him?
Looking back on it, I realize that I robbed him of the chance to own his diagnosis. I didn’t take the opportunity to talk with him about the truly wonderful skills and talents that so often exist in dyslexics. A big part of that was probably because I didn’t understand these things myself. I only knew that he wasn’t like his peers because he couldn’t read, and that seemed like a bad thing.
Since that time I have learned so much more about dyslexia. I have met and worked with hundreds of gifted dyslexics. Here at that school where I now work, I have become part of a culture that celebrates the unique talents that dyslexics bring to the world. We teach children (and parents!) each and every day that dyslexics have “cool” brains that can problem solve in out-of-the box ways to create solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.
So when I am asked in my role as admissions director for that prestigious school how to tell children about their dyslexia, I encourage parents to talk openly and honestly about the challenges their children will face and the gifts they possess. I hope that parents will feel proud of their dyslexic children because they have wonderful gifts to share with the world. Proud parents create proud children. Most children are relieved to learn that “it’s just dyslexia.” And they can again feel like the smart people that they really are.