Saturday, November 16, 2013

Is that even a "thing"?

Hayden, my seven year old, has dyslexia.  It's Thursday, and I found this out on Tuesday.  Since then I have had the following things said to me by people with directly or peripherally in charge of Hayden's education:
"The principal doesn't believe its possible for kids with LD to get into the gifted program"
"Dyslexia?  I thought that wasn't a real thing anymore."
I feel lost, and utterly incapable of helping my child.

My son is 7, in second grade at the adorable old public school just around the corner.  He is smart and funny and handsome (if I do say so myself).  One day last spring we were walking home and he was grumpy.  He is usually grumpy after school: exhausted, hungry (often because he hasn't eaten anything since he left home 8 hours ago) drained, at the end of his rope.  "I am so stupid.  I hate myself.  I wish I would die."  He said, kicking at the ground with his feet and scowling.  I started to hear him say things like this more and more.  One evening in the middle of a fight about something inane like if he had to finish his dinner I noticed he was digging into his skin with his fingernails and making himself bleed.  His grubby nails, on the end of his long graceful fingers were digging into his perfect skin. The bruises and small cuts covering his forearms told me this was not the first time he had done this.  He looked so utterly defeated, like a crumpled up plastic bag.

We ended up having Hayden evaluated by a neuropsychologist and were told this week that in addition to being a smart, sensitive, quirky kid he has been sitting in a class with 26 other kids struggling to make sense of what, for most around him, is becoming second nature.

Hayden says he hates school.  My husband says we should pull him out and send him to a private school with smaller classes.  I don't know what the right answer is and am having a hard time even charting out in my head a roadmap that will lead us there.  There is a whole industry of "experts" who will help you through this process, for a fee.  They will tutor your child using "a world renowned method" (while mentioning that people who live in countries with phonetically spelled language do not suffer from dyslexia which causes me to question the "world" part of their renowned).  They will advocate for you at school meetings.  They will do more testing.  They will lead you down a path wherein you could spend all of your already anxious child's free time at therapists and tutors and testers.  This does not seem like the right path.

And so I ask you, great interwebs.  Does anyone out there have any advice?  Any great resources?  Any tales of commiseration?  Anything?  Because today it feels like I got nutin.


Vanessa said...

hi there. We don't know each other IRL so I hope I don't freak you out by leaving this comment. I think I found your blog years ago through someone's blogroll.
Anyway, you sound overwhelmed, which is typical for parents who've just received a diagnosis about their child's learning strengths and struggles.

I hope you found some resources and support, but just in case:

I'm not an educational expert and I don't want to sell you consultant services. I do know some basics about special education services due to working on special education law and working with education evaluation projects.

You may want to start by calling your state organizations and asking for their help. Looks like there's a list of washington state resources for dyslexia here:

These folks might have some general info also:
Learning Disabilities Association of Washington
16315 NE 87th Street, Suite 11
Redmond , WA , 98052
(425) 882-0820

For lots more details and specifics, from special ed law to advocating to learning strategies, try here:

Here's info on strategies and accomodations:

Sadly, my experience as a foster parent of children receiving special education services, and as an evaluator on national grants, was that you cannot count on teachers or principals to be well-versed in LD/dyslexia. Dyslexia paired with giftedness is tough; many states don't require school district to have gifted and talented programs, and spots in those classes are scarce. The idea that kids with dyslexia can't be gifted is still around (as you saw). Much of the really good research is new (<10 years old), and most teacher-prep programs in the US don't require more than 1-2 special ed classes, unless they are seeking a spec ed certification.

I hope I haven't depressed you too much. The good news is that we know a lot more about dyslexia than 15 years ago, and information is a lot easier to find.

If you have specific things you want to ask, you can reach me through vanlibris at gmail dot com

Hang in there! Knowing one of the factors that's making your little guy so unhappy and frustrated in school is a very good start.

Harvard to Homemaker said...

Thank you Vanessa!!

Ann Imig said...

I don't have any advice, but I do believe you have incredible instincts that will help you as you navigate this unfamiliar path.

Sending love and hope.

tracey becker said...

My advice: only you and his father have his best interests in mind. Truly. No other agenda or anything besides HIS interests. Neither the school or the teachers care even a fraction about his educational and emotional well being as much as you do.

There isn't ONE "right way" to educate your child. Realizing this is what led my own family towards homeschooling (for a variety of reasons). Some children need the extra help of a tutor instead of a classroom situation.

As a mom who has been there, I am sending you a hug. It's SCARY to worry about our kids like this. He is several steps ahead of the game by having parents that CARE, though.

Keep in mind that you can always change tactics. You don't HAVE TO do what the school district RECOMMENDS.

Lindsay said...

Eliza sent me a link to your post. I'm a friend of hers and a speech therapist, who has experience working with children with dyslexia. I'd be happy to chat with you about this at some point. Not to recruit you as a client (I'm in Canada anyhow, lol!), but just to help discuss your concerns and maybe help you talk out your options. You can reach me at and I will send you my phone number.

What I can tell you is that nowadays, many children with dyslexia can become decent readers with appropriate intervention. And he was caught young, at 7, which is excellent!!! As a mom to two kids with developmental delays, I understand first hand how overwhelming and daunting it can be to realize your child is having learning challenges. But things get easier as you start getting support in place.

RETA said...

I do empathize with you - even though I can offer no concrete advice regarding your situation, I will mention looking up. You and your son are very dear to God. I pray He will give you wisdom, direction, and strength and courage in the days ahead.


Anonymous said...

For schools. I would check out Pioneer in the Valley. It. Is gifted Ed and no child wouldn't adore an education there. Very hands on and experience based learning. Call Betty and schedule a tour. Small class size and very engaging.

Vanessa said...

What Tracey & Lindsay said, especially yes, appropriate interventions help a lot! Also I forgot to add that my foster son had severe dyslexia and dysgraphia, but was diagnosed early (about the same age as your son), and with classroom accomodations, intervention, etc., he was an avid reader by the time he entered high school. And that was 20 years ago when many interventions currently used were not available.

My foster daughter was diagnosed much later 8th grade)and her reading skills didn't catch up as much as we'd have liked. But with hard work on her part, and help from the student services center, she completed an AA degree. This is the kind of thing that is difficult to see when you are in the hard slog of it all, but dyslexic kids can thrive and go on to be productive adults. Family stability and love are so important, sounds as if you've got that covered!

There are many happy endings, and I'm sure yours will be one.

Issa said...

I have a co-worker whose son was diagnosed as dyslexic last school year. I know she took him to Sylvan to have specialized help. I also know she got him an IEP at school, which gives him help when he needs it and more time to do school work.

My brother is dyslexic and while it took awhile longer for him to learn to read and write, he did get there. He was a math wiz though. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Hayden will find his over time.

I hope you guys are able to figure out what he needs soon.