Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gifts and Strengths

This past week, I brought my youngest to an eye specialist.  She was officially diagnosed with Mild Dyslexia.  We've been suspecting this diagnosis for the past year and a half - and actually since preschool.

When my peanut was in preschool, I was a paraprofessional in the classroom.  I noticed that she wanted nothing to do with the alphabet.  I don't ever remember her singing the alphabet song.  I remember singing it to her, and she was majorly ticked that I was singing to her.

In the preschool room, we had foam letters.  I took the foam letters and had various teachers and paras hold the letters S was for Stacy.  B for Mrs. Bertilrud.  W for Wanda. M for Margaret.  You get the idea - I had Allison take the pictures.  At first, she loved it.  But eventually, she was angry and frustrated.

I took her to the eye doctor.

At the time, my oldest daughter was in eye therapy for double vision.  The same eye doctor, Dr. Bieberdorf, checked my Allison over.

"I get what you're saying - she's young and smart.  We'll see what happens as she grows into reading.  She's still young."

Learning to read was a struggle.  Thankfully, Allison always had patient teachers.  My girl is very charming.  As we got her NWEA tests back, I was a little exasperated. They didn't seem to reflect her quick humor and story telling abilities.  (NWEAs are used in our school district to help teachers adjust their teaching and find out if students are at grade level)

Again, I took her to Dr. B.  "She's still young.  A lot of kids don't take off reading until they are even 8 or 9."

In second grade, Allison had one of my childhood friends as her teacher.  I remember going to that parent teacher conference as Allison cleaned out her desk.  Mrs. K. showed me all of Allie's positive reports...  And then, she took out her NWEAs.  She was an entire grade behind.

Tears rolled down my cheeks.  I whispered to my childhood friend...  " I don't want Allison to know I'm crying."  She grabbed a kleenex and slipped it to me.

We went back to Dr. B.  She had more testing.  At that time, he and his assistant tested her and suggested there was some type of specific learning disability.  We talked about that learning disability being a slight dyslexia - but also - you may know this about me - I really hate No Child Left Behind as a teacher - but specifically as a parent.

Schools expect more from students and specifically because of No Child Left Behind.  Everyday, kids are pushed to read at higher levels and learn more advanced math concepts at an early age.  Teachers most expect more from students and don't have the luxury of  "It'll click, eventually."

Last year, Allison's teachers were specifically good at seeing her as a whole person.  I knew that they wouldn't tisk tisk every time she took a spelling test.  Ten words suited her just fine.  A lot of times, Allie would get 8 out of 10 on those tests.  School was a at a good pace for her.  She read.  She did her math.  Life was good.

Something happens in third grade though.  This is the year that the state starts screening kids' learning.  This is the first year of MCAs.  Every year, kids will be tested every Spring to see if they are on target.  At this point, teachers worry.   Their district must pass these tests or they don't make their AYP (Annual Yearly Progress).  If the school does not make AYP, there are financial ramifications to the district.  So, you can see why a teacher may worry.

This past year, there's been more pressure.  Third grade's tough.  As the year goes on, I see vast improvement on reading and math skills. But guess what?  That improvement isn't enough for NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.

So, I called Dr.B. We brought her in for more testing on Thursday.  Dr. B. diagnosed her with Mild Dyslexia.  He sat her down and explained that he was color blind.  He likened dyslexia to being color blind - something one can't control - it's just is what it is.

He also explained to her that people with dyslexia are also very gifted in the right brain areas of learning -
  • athletic ability
  • artistic ability 
  • musical ability
  • mechanical ability
  • people skills
  • 3-D visual-spatial skills
  • vivid imagination
  • intuition
  • creative, global thinking
  • curiosity 
(I got this from

Yep - this fits Allie Ann to a tee.

Dr. B. also told Allison that she'd need lots of patience for her teachers; "You're going to need to remember that you're going to be smarter than a lot of your teachers."

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