Dys- Learning Disabilities
This is a breakdown of the Dys- learning disabilities. Growing up (up to adulthood, I guess), I only knew of Dyslexia. In that, Dyslexia meant that you saw/spelled a word backward.
Pretty amazing that that is all I thought it encompassed, huh.
Over time and with the help of some excellent therapists, I have learned so much more. By stepping out of the “box” I had created with LDs, I could expand my mind and have many “aha” moments of realization.
According to the National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD), “Dys” means difficulty with and “lexia” means words – thus “difficulty with words”. Originally the term “Dyslexia” referred to a specific learning deficit that hindered a person’s ability to read. More recently, however, it has been used as a general term referring to the broad category of language deficits that often includes the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words as well as the ability to read and spell words accurately and fluently. When breakdowns occur in these foundational reading skills, dyslexic students often struggle to understand what they read as well as develop vocabulary at a slower rate.
“Dys” means difficulty with and “calculia” means calculations and mathematics – thus “difficulty with calculations and mathematics”. This term refers to those who struggle with basic number sense and early number concepts as well as have difficulties with math calculations and math reasoning.
“Dys” means difficulty with and “graphia” means writing – thus “difficulty with writing”. The term dysgraphia refers to more than simply having poor handwriting. This term refers to those who struggle with the motor skills necessary to write thoughts on paper, spelling, and the thinking skills needed for vocabulary retrieval, clarity of thought, grammar, and memory.
In my years in school, this all makes sense. When I was young (even now), I was made fun of terribly in school. Teachers would put me in the hallway, alone. I had to go to a special ed room. There is this clear memory of standing in line, with other children, behind the teacher. She marched us to the special ed class in front of everyone. My “friends” pointed at me while laughing because I was going to the “stupid” room.
That phrase gives me anxiety to this day.
I had to be kept in from recess because I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do. Memorization of math facts in second grade was a nightmare. I had to miss fun outings, sit alone, and worse. I had my name at the bottom of the list of kids who hadn’t learned these facts. Everyone saw. Everyone made fun of me.
Things I struggle with
Telling time on an analog clock is one of those things. If the watch (I no longer wear a look) has no numbers or Roman numerals, then forget it. I can do it, but it takes me a hot minute to think about it.
Directions, just don’t even. I can tell you landmarks because I became an expert at knowing my surroundings. Cardinal directions, ordinal numbers, place numbers, Roman numerals. Hard pass.
My right from my left; nope. Luckily, God created me with this issue, so he gave me a mole on my right hand. Ask me to look to the right and then watch me look/feel for my mole on each hand.
When I have a series of numbers, I flip the two middle numbers. Always. I have messed up balancing checkbooks, appointments, phone numbers, etc. I must write it, say it, write it again, and clarify now.
To get through math, through all grades, I cheated a lot. My mom is a math teacher. She is brilliant, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand, and I felt stupid when I would ask. Seriously, I should know this stuff. She is brilliant and available, yet I would not ask because she would know my secret.
Do you know how long it took me to tie my shoe? Luckily, velcro came on the scene and saved me.
That’s what I thought it was
My secret. As long as I had my mole, knew landmarks, cheated, got a digital watch…no one would know. Sadly, I knew. I have no clue how I managed to do all that I did with my degrees. Pre-Vet has A LOT of math and calculations. I would have little tricks that would help me along the way.
Then Came a Little One
When my little one entered my life, this child was 2.5 yrs old and non-verbal. We knew this child had some issues, so I immediately got Little One into First Steps. Little One got tubes twice and finally learned to talk but with a speech impediment.
No biggie. After Little One graduated from First Steps, I got this child into Home Health. Little One worked hard on speech. Over time, I realized that due to FASD, the memory aspect was fresh every morning. No matter how hard this child worked or worked with Little One, this child would forget everything I taught.
While we were in the process of adopting another child, we had to put the kids in public school. Little One was in Kindergarten. Guess what? Little One was in the special ed classroom, but not an all-day thing. Just long enough to work on the alphabet and phonics.
Little One finally got it, but the writing was a no-go, and reading was not happening. The sadness of seeing this child struggle was palpable. It brought up many repressed memories I had to trudge through to help Little One.
I pulled this child out of school for many reasons, none of which I will go into because it is his story to tell one day. In doing that, I knew that I needed to get Little One back into speech. We had his hearing checked, and in doing that, Little One was checked for Sensory Processing Disorder. Luckily, all that was good.
Across the hall was the speech team. We met with Alison for a “get to know you” and see if this child qualifies for their program. Well, Little One did. She didn’t ask me how this child was at reading or spelling. There were questions like “does Little One know his right from his left” or “how long did it take Little One to tie his shoes?” I answered them all as honestly as I could.
When it was all said and done, she said Little One qualified for their program’s speech aspect. Then she patted me on the back and said: “we do not diagnose, usually, dyslexia until a child is older.” I was like, alright, that ship didn’t even enter my harbor. She got really quiet and patted me on the back. Quietly, she said, “Your son has severe dyslexia. I knew within 5 minutes of meeting this child.”
I started laughing. Allison was startled at that response, so she kept on patting. While asking if I was okay, I said: “We just discovered my 6th child has single-sided deafness, so this diagnosis for D is just like a teardrop in the ocean.”
After that, I just stated that I thought it was me and could not teach this child. She said that is not the case, that this child learns differently. As we continued talking about the red flags of dyslexia (and dysgraphia), she asked me a few questions about myself.
In a moment of clarity, she looked at me and smiled. She said you realize you are smart and have been able to overcome your learning disability. I must have had a blank moment because I did not comprehend what she even said. She asked me when I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia. I told her that I had never heard of that. That I just thought I was stupid in that area.
She explained what that was and that it was crystal clear that that was what I had. Back when I was younger, there was not a name for it. Now there is. I almost felt vindicated. It is what it is. I have compensated for my shortcomings and confusion. So has D.
Now, we are armed with knowledge. Little One cannot spell worth a crap. Therefore, I got this child a pocket speller. Little One has all these ideas and thoughts but can’t get them on paper. I bought Dragon Speak so this child could speak out what needed to. Little One has written some awesome things through this program.
We bought an amplifier so Little One could hear what I was saying, and his speech was corrected. Also, we did many years of speech/reading/language therapy. I had this child write books from the Bible. His penmanship is meticulous because this child has worked incredibly hard. Cursive was something I thought this child would not be able to do, but guess what, though? Writing the book of Genesis in cursive has changed that too! We got a dry-erase cursive board, and Little One practiced until this child mastered it.
Little One loves to read, so we get any series that interests this child. Also, Librivox and Audible have been game-changers. Both of these programs have real-lived people (as opposed to the computer voices) reading stories. Little One gets to hear it all, but also gets to listen to their inflections. This has helped his speech tremendously.
Fear is a Liar
I lived in fear. Now, I am armed with Truth and knowledge. Being armed has given me clarity and understanding. Learn all you can about something you are afraid of. You are strong, brave, kind, and good. We no longer live in fear. We are empowered!