Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The politics of dyslexia

We all try to be the best parent we can be, right?

But sometimes it can be difficult. Sometimes we are faced with things we cannot fully understand, however hard we try. Sometimes, especially when you're tired or feeling below-par, it can feel impossible.

Like today, when I discovered that my dyslexic seven-year-old daughter doesn't know the order of the days of the week. Small things that make it feel like an overload.

We've struggled through the reading, the painful hours of stuttering and stumbling over simple words. The one step forward, three steps back phases. The days when reading the word 'and' seemed like a major challenge.  We got through learning to count up to 20, when the number 15 always 'hid' and couldn't be brought out however hard we tried. Sometimes it was the number 11 as well, other days 16 was the stubborn one. The days when she mixed up the letters that spelled out her name. When every other letter and number was the wrong way round. When her legs wouldn't stop kicking and her eyes would look anywhere but at the page. The days when her brain 'refused to work' and we all ended up breaking down in tears.

The numerous times when she said she was stupid and refused to try because she'd 'get it wrong' whatever she did.

We've progressed so far since Firstborn started at a school which has a dyslexic unit with people trained to help her. Her reading is great, her writing not so bad, her numeracy is better and her confidence is a million miles on from where it was at the start of the year.

But sometimes we stumble over yet another hole in her learning and discover the absence of something she 'should' have learned two years ago or more - those years during which the language of the classroom felt like double Dutch to her so she simply switched off.

It makes me feel really mad. Not at Firstborn obviously, but at all the teachers who should have realised that something wasn't right but who just labelled her as dumb rather than trying to help her, at myself for not shouting louder on her behalf, at myself for not having realised and tried to fix it before now.

It also makes me scared. It makes me aware of my own deficiencies. And it makes me wonder, if I am the one who is going to be with her every step of the way, the one who keeps her going, the one who coaxes just a little bit more effort out of her when she feels like lying down and giving up, the one who makes her feel OK about herself even when she gets something wrong twenty times in a row, the one who explains why it has to be this way when she cries about having so much more work to do at home than the other (non-dyslexic) kids in her class... am I going to be good enough? What if this is the one thing that I can't 'fix'? Can I be strong enough to make us both soar over each and every challenge for years to come?

Of course I can. I have to be but sometimes I wish I could see what Firstborn sees when she looks at a page or tries to spell a word. If I could just climb into her head for five minutes...if I could just see the world as she sees it, maybe that would give me a better grasp on it. Maybe that would make it easier.

Sometimes it feels as if I'm driving blind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, you will be there for Firstborn, no matter what. As she gets older, she can communicate better about the difficulties she is having and you can help. Many dyslexics overcome the problems and soar to great heights, some academically (look at Oxford - full of them), some artistically. We all want our children to have perfect lives, to be perfect parents ourselves - just a dream! Life is full of blips, and this is yours. How lucky are you! Painful yes, but not lethal, not insurmountable, just another challenge. And don't forget Small(er) one - she will have her own blips too!