I was one of the lucky dyslexic kids. I grew up in Eastern Montana, and both my older brothers and father are severely dyslexic. My older brother had a horrible time in school, and by the time his dyslexia was diagnosed, his psyche had suffered a lot of damage. As a result, my mother trained in the Orton-Gillingham method for tutoring dyslexics.
I was the youngest child, so while my mother was tutoring my brothers and a number of other local kids struggling with dyslexia, she taught me to read using the same methods. I still remember tracing large cut-out foam cursive letters and repeating their sounds when I was about 4. Whether I would otherwise have had difficulty in school is hard to say.
Although reading has never been an issue for me, and I was never officially diagnosed with dyslexia, I show many of the classic signs: I often reverse numbers and letters, interject the wrong word when I'm speaking, have trouble organizing my thoughts and spaces, can hyperfocus on something and yet, overall am scattered. I'm forever losing something and cannot follow auditory directions.
Fortunately, my academic experience was positive. I was a strong student through high school and developed a love of writing early. Also, while I had good grades, my parents always emphasized the love of learning over the grade itself. I went on to study foreign languages, mastering Russian and gaining a working knowledge in French and some Korean. How much my early multi-sensory training helped me is hard to know.
Since dyslexia tends to run in families, I am, of course, carefully watching both my children for any signs. My 9-year old, who is in third grade and is a good learner overall, has had no difficulty in learning to read. However, he is beginning to show signs of frustration in school. He's having difficulty in math, especially in number retrieval and test anxiety, listening skills, focus and organization, and he's extremely hard on himself. We are planning to have him evaluated to find out if a learning disability is making things unnecessarily difficult for him.
My daughter, now in kindergarten, has more apparent signs of dyslexia – she was a late talker, is sometimes difficult to understand even at age 5, and often reverses letters – so we are also watching her closely. This year will be telling for her as she works on learning to read.
Dana Thompson is a Bainbridge Island freelance writer and mother of two.