It started out like all of our bedtime routines do .....bath, brush teeth, jammies, and kisses. Then, it happened. My 6 year old made a statement that gave me a glimpse of her world, and that shook my very soul.
"My friend Lilly is super smart! She's not in my reading group. She doesn't have dee-lexia." Her face dropped as she said this. I said kids with dyslexia ARE smart. She said, no ....if you can't read well you aren't smart.
"Dee-lexia kids aren't smart. I wish I didn't have dee-lexia."
Overhearing, her 8 year old brother came in. He also has dyslexia. I asked him if he felt the same way, and he said yes. It's hard.
I bet. This is the first truly candid conversation we have had about the emotions that go along with this learning difference, and about how difficult they are to navigate in elementary school.
Their days are filled with reading! They go to school at 7:30am and they read. They read all day, in every subject - math, science, social studies. They get a short, 20 minute break from it all at recess, and I've noticed recess, music or art are the only parts of their day they are excited to share with me. Finally, they go home at 2:30pm, and their homework says read some more. How does it feel to do the one thing that you have a weakness in every day, all day long? To be told that if you don't master that one thing, you are a failure? You will repeat a grade? You are "less than" others?
This is one of those opportunity moments. I remembered something I read this week.
"It's true that for kids with dyslexia reading is hard." Their heads shook enthusiastically. "And that makes it really hard right now during school, but did you know that most inventors are dyslexic? The man who invented the light bulb
(I pointed to her light) had dyslexia
. When he was a kid, do you know what happened to him?" They shook their heads no.
"When he went to school, his teacher pinned a note on this shirt and sent him home. That note said 'this boy is too stupid to learn.'"
I watched as two little jaws dropped in total and complete SHOCK! They were disgusted to hear this! My daughter said, "That is a very mean teacher!" Thinking quickly I said "Well, his teacher didn't understand dyslexia. Mrs Susie would never do that, would she?" My daughter said "No, she's nice!" My son chimed in: "Mrs Penny would never do that either! She helps us!" I said yes, well, this was a long time ago, and that teacher didn't understand dyslexia.
My son said "You said he invented the light bulb? That's Thomas Edison, right? We learned about him in school!" I asked if they learned he had dyslexia, and my son said no, but "he must have been smart, Mama! That teacher was wrong. He invented the light bulb, so he was smart!"
I smiled. They smiled. I added "He sure was, and he read exactly like both of you."
I told them their ipads, iphones, computers, and many more things are all invented by people who have dyslexia. I watched as light bulbs lit up their own little eyes.
They said "I'm glad for dyslexia because, without it, we wouldn't have all of these cool things." My son said "I'm going to work on an invention myself! A playground for lizards!" Ha!
I'm glad to have added a little bit of comfort to their minds. The days are long. The moments are short. But we must continue to insert those moments of truth. I hope the next time they feel "less than," they will see a light bulb and remember ....they are not alone.
"My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint." ~ Thomas Edison
is the mom of two children who have dyslexia and one of the co-founders of Decoding Dyslexia-TN
. After 12 years as a broadcast meteorologist, Jules joined the Learning Ally
family in 2014 to help make the world a better place for those who have print disabilities like dyslexia or visual impairment.
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