Last week, we shared the story of a school district in Texas
that is making a huge difference in the lives of its students by offering a dyslexia program. Today, we share an account from parent Christie Aitken
, about her heart-wrenching decision to pull her son from the school he had always known -- in order to seek out a proper reading program that would work for him.
I believe in public education. It was designed to be an equalizer- reminding the world every child deserves a chance in this life, and that this is how America makes that happen. With that spirit in mind, it was always my goal that my
children be a part of that great American institution. It was my dream that my children experience the same schools and some of the same teachers that educated me for so many years.
It was a beautiful dream; however, it has been our reality only in part.
One of my children continues to be served by the public system within his diagnosis. His school is equipped to meet his needs. It is very clearly their joy to meet him where he's at, but also to work with me to help him reach the next level in his education. There is never a struggle to get the accommodations that are appropriate for him. They are trained to handle his needs, and they do so with joy with the support of a system that embraces the same. He has an autism diagnosis. It falls within the graces of IDEA, and has been a cake walk compared to the advocacy challenges I faced for my son who struggles with dyslexia. It is accepted
by our public school system.
My child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia was LOVED in the same way, but not SERVED in the same way (within the very same system). Granted, the majority of his teachers wanted to know more about his dyslexia. Even if not well-read on dyslexia, they were curious as to how such a bright child could have such glaring differences in his intellectual ability and his reading ability. They wanted
to bridge the gap, and they had the hearts to do it.... but
their hands were tied.
My child's dyslexia did not qualify him for services, even though it was debilitating in the classroom environment.
Can I tell you how many times I thanked God that he also had an ADD diagnosis? Because only through Attention Deficit Disorder did my child get an OHI (Other Health Impairment) determination that allowed him services through an IEP. Funny thing, it wasn't his doctor's diagnosis that did the trick for even receiving that determination. It was because his music teacher and I agreed that he was had trouble focusing. That single survey in the testing process was our ticket to accommodations in part.... but NOT dyslexia specific interventions
Are you tired, yet? Because I was.
He was in a fantastic school that could not address his dyslexia with dyslexia specific interventions because it was not required for them to do so. After K5 - 5th grade advocacy efforts, this single mother finally found a private school with open placement for my child. We win or lose kids who have dyslexia by 3rd grade. My son held on longer than that, and I just couldn't ask him to do it any longer. We left the system just short of due process.
We left things like school patrol in his final year of elementary school.
He left his friends.
He left teachers that he loved and who loved him.
We left knowing that there were more.... and I could only save this one.
As thrilled as I was to have his placement in his new school, this Mommy cried in the lunchroom as we said goodbye to teachers who "got it" and so desperately wanted to teach my son. All of our hands were tied. It was a time of very mixed emotions... full of hope for what was ahead, and deep sorrow for the dreams left undone.
Our family needed healing
from the years of fighting an uphill battle, and our sweet new school understood how to provide that while helping my 5th grader get beyond a 1.5 grade reading level. Now my son is getting what he needs in a language that his brain was hardwired to speak. I'm reminded daily, though, that other children are not. So we're going back to help them.... and we're not alone.
Our home state of Alabama is making promising strides. Decisions are still being made and discussions are ongoing, but as the mother of a child with a dyslexia diagnosis, I'm delighted to be on board as we work with so many groups to create a new day in Alabama. We've gone back to take care of the ones that were left behind... because they matter. We're aspiring to more, and I believe we're on our way.
Thanks to those who tirelessly requested training when no one was seeking training. Thanks to parents who refused
to stop saying the "d word" (dyslexia) in meetings as they sought IEP's and 504 plans that they knew they would likely not receive. I believe we are on our way.
Most of all, though? I believe we are on our way because of the bright lights that shine in the hearts and minds of the 1 in 5 who have dyslexia. They never quit trying. They never quit believing. They keep showing up.
We were blessed with this window to help my son, and we will not waste it. Until every child gets the help and intervention they need in a public school setting - in every state-
we will continue locking arms with those who celebrate the 1 in 5.
is a national non-profit that works closely with parents, teachers and schools offering resources for students who have dyslexia or other print disabilities. If you would like us to connect with your school, contact us at 800.221.1098
or at programs@LearningAlly.org
is the founder of Roundtable Solutions
. She can often found “Redeeming Red”
as the founder of October 15’s World Dyslexia Day
. Aitken is also a Board Member for the Montgomery Area Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and a member of the Alabama Dyslexia Friends Coalition.