When I Worry About the Challenges My Son With Dyslexia Will Face

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Our oldest son, John, is dyslexic. He’s so sweet. He works so hard. He got his reading abilities from his daddy and me and my daddy and my brother. That’s just how the ball bounces.

John is a homeschooled senior in high school. He takes dual credit courses at the university near our home. It hasn’t been easy. As he neared graduation, he decided he wanted to join the Navy and be a first responder.

With the help of some friends, it was determined that he might consider some certifications to streamline his career pursuits. An associate’s degree as a paramedic made sense to him.

Panic.

Not just because he’s been homeschooled and I feel the stress of his challenges. I worry about what he may encounter — tender-hearted as he is. Mommas with children who face challenges, I know you hear me. We just want them to feel OK. We want them to be successful.

We know these children. We know they are more than the sum of their standardized test scores. They’re more than that bubble-filled sheet. They’re more.

He is brave.

He is kind.

He’s more than his test scores can convey.

This morning, John left for his medical personnel CPR certification.

I paced.

I prayed.

Please, I don’t want him to be discouraged or humiliated. Worse still, I don’t want him to give up. You gave him a hero’s heart. Please.

At lunch, John called and sounded great. But he reported on the written exam he’d missed all but one. I told him to meet his father and me for lunch.

We were heartbroken.

Our young man strolled into the restaurant with a huge smile on his face. I just wanted to wrap him up and love on him.

“Well,” I gently inquired, “now what?”

He chirped, “I’m done! I’ll take my packet to the school.”

We were confused. I said, “You said you missed all but one?”

And John interjected, “What? I did pass.” He rubbed his head and face, laughed and explained it was his dyslexia. “I meant I got all of them right but one! I got a 95.”

Cheers and laughter erupted. He joyfully told us which one he missed and explained his folly. He was elated and excited to face the future. He was proud. He did it.

He will do great things.

More than the sum of their test scores — just more. Don’t give up encouraging these unique children. Don’t doubt they will have boundless and mind-blowing accomplishments. You’re right about your children — they are outstanding. Sometimes it can be hard, but hard is good. Hard means there are challenges. A challenge can mean depth of character.

Your child may be “different” — it separates them from the pack.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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WNBA Star Jewell Loyd Shares Her Dyslexia Story on Times Square Billboard

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WNBA star Jewell Loyd’s face is plastered on a 32-story, three panel LED billboard in Times Square for one purpose: to tell her story about living with dyslexia and to encourage others to do the same. The billboard is a part of the Share-Ability campaign by Eye to Eye, a mentoring group for and by people with learning disabilities.

The mission is to encourage “different thinkers,” or people who have learning disabilities, to share their stories. More than 20 percent of the U.S. population (1 in 5 children) who have learning disabilities. “I believe that sharing my story is one of the most powerful things I can do,” the 22-year-old Seattle Storm guard said in an Eye to Eye press release. Loyd, the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is one of many athletes partaking in Eye to Eye’s Share-Ability campaign, joining the ranks of Indy500 race car drivers Sir Jackie Stewart and the late Justin Wilson, who both had dyslexia. Her story is the first to be featured on a Times Square billboard. At age 12, after struggling in school and being accused of being lazy by teachers, Loyd learned she was dyslexic. She recalls the term “learning disability” initially freaking her out. “I wondered, ‘What are my friends going to say,” she said in the press release. “I was afraid people would think I was stupid.” 

Loyd is also an Honorary Eye to Eye Diplomat, where she mentors and advocates for kids with learning disabilities. When it comes to serving as a role model, Loyd encourages kids to turn disability into ability and to live by her motto, “You have no idea how able I am.” Her ultimate goal through the #Share-Ability campaign: helping kids change their lives and dream big.

“I want to encourage kids with learning disabilities to be proud and dream big,” she said. “To think that I am able to change lives is really such a dream come true.”

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23 Things Parents of Children With Dyslexia Want Others to Know

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Somewhere between 5 to 17 percent of school-age children in the U.S. are affected by dyslexia, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. For dyslexic kids, reading, writing and spelling can be some of the most challenging activities — and ones they’re required to do nearly every day.

Despite dyslexia’s relative prevalence, misconceptions still surround it; and parents, as their children’s advocates, often find themselves struggling to make others understand what their kids need.

So The Mighty teamed up with Learning Ally, a nonprofit that provides support and technology for students with learning and visual disabilities, to ask the parents what they wish others could understand about their child’s experience with dyslexia.

This is what they had to say: 

1. “It doesn’t just affect school. It takes a toll on their social life too.” — Robin Anderson Reed

"It doesn't just affect school. It takes a toll on their social life too." -- Robin Anderson Reed

2. “Accommodations provide access and help to level the playing field.” — Kathy Stratton

3. “Would you deny a child that can’t walk a wheelchair? Deny a child that can’t see properly glasses? Then why on earth do we deny those with dyslexia what they need in the classroom? Put ‘glasses’ on these kids and they will soar! Not every person learns the same way.” — Sheila Ridgley Riche

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4. “The shame that accompanies dyslexia can be paralyzing. There is anxiety that ensues as a result of never quite knowing when dyslexia will rear its ugly head.” — Cali Nichols

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5. “Print and handwriting should not limit a person from participating in anything they want. Accommodations matter.” — Jennifer Fitzer

6. “If a child is dyslexic it doesn’t mean the parent didn’t read to them enough or try hard enough.” — Marilyn Montrose

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7. “[It takes so] much time, patience and hard work for children to get through school.” — Jeannie Klotz VanMatre

8. “While there are challenges to being dyslexic, there are also enormous strengths.” — Lisa Maska

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9. “There is no ‘cure’ for dyslexia.” — Tracy Schlaepfer O’Day

10. “There is nothing wrong with a dyslexic individual; what’s broken is the rigid system we stick them into that is not willing to teach them in the ways they learn best!” — Sheri Smith

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11. “I want the world to know my kids are strong. They struggle bravely and fight hard. They never give up, even when their environment is tearing at them every step of the way. Without the struggle, the joys wouldn’t be so euphoric. When my kids laugh, when they celebrate, it is all heart.” — Phoebe N Burt Beacham

12. “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it’s not a true disability.” — Jenifer Kasten

7 copy 13. “I want people to care about children with dyslexia and to quit pretending they know what it is. Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder and presents differently in each person. Understand the child as well as the characteristics.” — Sue Sullivan Grzybowski

14. “It’s humiliating for a child or an adult to not be able to read. How a teacher handles this situation will carry through an entire lifetime. The refusal to help and then applying labels or characterization (“lazy,” “doesn’t work hard”) is simply cruel and destructive. People who are dyslexic and encouraged to be their best tend to be incredibly creative, as they have to figure out how to forge forward.” — Claudia Crowley-Miller

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15. “It isn’t the same for everyone, even for different kids in the same house. But that doesn’t make the situation any less real. We, as parents, have to fight the school system just to get the basics.” — Jennifer Newton

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16. “I wish people understood that dyslexia does not just affect school. Dyslexia causes social anxiety because of our misappropriated view of intelligence. My son told me he hates walking into a room and ‘knowing he is the dumbest person there.’ He bases this on the belief that reading and spelling determine intelligence. My son is so much more than a misspelled word, a multiplication fact he can’t memorize or a story that’s hard to comprehend. He is a fantastic runner, photographer, wrestler, soccer player and can code without formal training. He loves to help people and is great with younger children. We need to redefine the word intelligence for our dyslexic kids.” — Barb Barker

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17. “It’s not ‘one size fits all.’ Don’t put the person in a box. Dyslexia is as unique as the human finger print.” — Susan Burns

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18. “Very few people seem to understand that it can be really hard work to just be at school every day. Just being present enough to sit still, to write your name on the papers, to eat for only 30 minutes and to behave can be exhausting in itself! Add to that the difficulty of reading, following directions and extreme written/typed processing issues and it is utterly exhausting for my son to be at school. I greatly admire how he has learned to cope but it makes me sad that so much of his time is really difficult work.” — Shannon Pedigo Efteland

19. “The only academic bragging right that kids have in the early grades is reading. If reading isn’t your gift you’ve lost (in this system) before you even get started.” — Heather McAdams Phillips

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20. “Every time we learn something, be it song lyrics, dance steps, how to cook, etc., it can be a different (and perhaps slower) process for a dyslexic.” — Elizabeth Isabella

21. “It is so heartbreaking to see him work so hard to do what most of his peers can do so easily — read and write. I know how amazing, bright and creative he is… If only he could truly see how incredibly brave he really is to keep fighting this battle of learning to read and write in school.” — Lisa Workman

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22. “Half the battle (or more!) with any learning difference is the social and emotional side of it — feeling stupid or lazy, feeling alone, feeling frustrated or angry, trying your hardest but still coming up short. Yes, the actual difficulties with learning and attention affect us a lot, but the negative messages we receive from ourselves and others can have an even more staggering effect on us.” — Kristen Anderson DeBeer

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23. “If you are judging someone based on written spelling and grammar, you could be missing out on an amazing person.” — Julya RJ

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Marketing Company Posts Ad Looking to Hire Only Dyslexic People

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A marketing company in the U.K. has released a recruitment ad seeking only job applicants who are dyslexic.

The ad, from a creative marketing firm called the Garage, features an image of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and says only dyslexics, like Jobs, should apply.

Advertisement showing Steve Jobs

The Garage was founded by Chris Arnold, a former creative director at the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi who describes himself as a “dyslexic entrepreneur,” The Guardian reported. Arnold says he doesn’t care if the ad is seen as discriminatory against non-dyslexics.

“If you wanted to assemble the world’s best choir you’d want great singers, not tone-deaf ones,” Arnold told The Guardian. “We are simply looking for the best innovative thinkers, and they are usually dyslexics.”

The ad was released in the days following a woman with dyslexia in England winning a case against her employer, Starbucks, which she says discriminated against her because of her dyslexia.

Related: This Man Invented a Font to Help People With Dyslexia Read

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Woman With Dyslexia Wins Discrimination Case Against Starbucks

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A woman with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case in England against Starbucks.

Meseret Kumulchew, a supervisor at a Starbucks in south-west London, was accused of falsifying documents after she accidentally wrote incorrect figures while recording refrigeration temperatures and times. When the company discovered this, Kumulchew was penalized and demoted, the BBC reported.

An employment tribunal in December found Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Kumulchew’s disability and discriminated against her because of it, despite knowing she was dyslexic. Kumulchew says she’d asked her employers to teach her visually and even requested her answers be checked while she was learning. The tribunal also found that there appeared to be little knowledge of Kumulchew’s right to reasonable accommodations under the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010. A hearing will soon be held to determine whether or not Starbucks will owe Kumulchew any compensation.

Kumulchew says the accusations and treatment from her employer left her upset and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

I am not a fraud. The name ‘fraud’ itself shouldn’t exist for me,” Kumulchew told the BBC. “It’s quite serious. I nearly ended my life, but I had to think of my kids. I know I’m not a fraud. I just made a mistake.”

People with dyslexia often learn differently than other people.

“People with dyslexia are wired with diverse brains,” Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally, a nonprofit supporting students with learning disabilities, told The Mighty in an email. “They may have more difficulty with reading and spelling, but they bring a host of talents and strengths to the table. With the right understanding and accommodations, they can be tremendous assets for any company.”

In the United States, somewhere between 5 to 17 percent of school-age children are dyslexic, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

“Even though dyslexia is such a prevalent condition, there is still a huge gulf of awareness extending from classrooms to the workplace,” Friedman told The Mighty. “Employers need to think beyond usual notions of diversity and embrace what leading researchers are telling us about neurodiversity.”

Starbucks said in a statement it is having discussions around specific workplace support and is not able to comment on a case that has not yet been completed, but is committed to having a “diverse and inclusive workforce,” the BBC reported.

Related: This Man Invented a Font to Help People With Dyslexia Read

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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I Judged People for Grammar and Spelling Errors. This Changed My Mind.

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I admit it; I used to judge people when they made spelling or grammatical errors. I’d think to myself, “Did no one ever teach you the difference between their, they’re, and there? Why are they putting quotation marks around that random word? Do you not get it, or are you just too lazy to proofread your work?”

Frequently I’d feel vaguely confused, because this “lazy” idea was inconsistent with other qualities I’d seen in that person. “I don’t get it,” I’d wonder. “She seems so creative and smart and conscientious… Why can’t she spell?” But I’d still end up shrugging my shoulders and proceeding on my self-satisfied, smug little way.

Then, a couple years ago, I found out my intelligent, hard-working and determined young daughter had dyslexia, an unexpected difficulty in reading which, research shows, is completely unrelated to intelligence. Dyslexia makes it difficult for people not only to learn to read, but to spell and master certain other rules of language. Yet if anyone ever dared say or even think my little girl was “just not trying,” I would have an overwhelming impulse to set them straight — and not using my “inside voice,” either.

girl drawing at desk

As my understanding of my daughter and dyslexia have unfolded, I’ve become silently mortified and ashamed of all those “holier than thou” thoughts I’ve had over the years.  Perhaps some of those I’d been misjudging (even if they never knew I was doing so) had dyslexia. The fact that the people I’d misjudged misspelled words or omitted punctuation had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with their intelligence or their work ethic. In fact, these very same people were often brilliant at things I’m not. So take that, me.

To all of those people, I would like to take this opportunity to say, I am so sorry! I had no idea. I was ignorant, and I was being a jerk. But I’m done. I am officially resigning from the grammar police squad. And to all you remaining grammar snobs, grammar police officers or however you fancy yourselves  may I suggest you tread gently, both out loud and in your mind, when you notice spelling and grammatical errors other people make?

Finally, if you are an adult with dyslexia, I hope that if you’re not already comfortable talking about it, you can begin to move in that direction. People need to understand what dyslexia is, and that if you misspell words or omit a comma now and then, there’s a good reason for it, and that reason has nothing to do with how smart or diligent you are or the incredible strengths or gifts you have. It’s dyslexia; end the shame.

mom and daughter smiling

A version of this post originally appeared on Jeniferkasten.com.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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