Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month
My name is Douglas Rawan II. I am 11-years-old, live in Massachusetts, and I have a story about dyslexia.
It starts back in fourth grade when I began to feel different than my friends in school. Making jokes was the way I would cover up having no confidence in school. No one knew that inside I felt stupid. I remember one day when my mom asked me to do some reading and writing, and I threw pencils on the floor and my book. I remember my mom looked really sad. Inside I knew it would be too hard, but I didn’t know why. Since Kindergarten, my mom hired tutors to help with reading, but nothing changed at school. I also had a hard time focusing at school until one day I came home and told my mom that I asked the assistant principal for a standing desk. My parents didn’t even know what that was.
One day, my fourth grade teacher called my mom and said she thought I was really smart but that my work did not show it. She encouraged my parents to get me tested. I did get tested, and after that I thought things would get better for me but they didn’t. My parents finally told me the testing showed that I have ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] and dyslexia and that I was two to three years behind in reading. I was so mad and asked them “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME BEFORE?”
My parents didn’t know what to say to me and never even used the word dyslexia, as the school told them that they don’t use that word. Once I learned about dyslexia and all the famous people who had it I told my dad one day, “Dad, I hope that I have dyslexia as Albert Einstein had it!”
I am dyslexic, which means I have a problem with reading. Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you have low intelligence or are lazy, it just means that your brain works differently. When I read, I don’t understand what I am reading, and I get easily frustrated. When I see a long word, I think “OH NO,” because I think I can’t read the word. Sometimes I break up the word or skip it. Also, when I read it usually comes out slow. I forget what happens when I read. A lot of words are hard for me to read. This makes me feel stupid.
Luckily, I go to a new school, which helps kids like me. When I came to my new school for fifth grade, I had a gap between my reading and grade level. In my first year, I made more progress in my reading than I ever had before. Today I’m still a little below my grade level, but with the right instruction, I expect to close the gap all the way. The teachers help me understand how my brain works, which helps me to read.
I am now in sixth grade in small classes and can get the tools I need, which is helping me to focus and “unlock my brain.” The way they are teaching me actually builds new connections or neurons in my brain, which changes the way my brain works, helping me to communicate and read better. I don’t have to struggle alone and think about how stupid I feel any more.
Knowing that I just needed the right tools makes me wonder what happens to other kids who are dyslexic. Are there other parents like mine that need the help for their kids? I wish that kids like me who still struggle with reading and paying attention in school can get the help they need.
This is why I decided to write a letter last year to President Donald J. Trump asking him what he could do as our president to make sure no child like me was ever left behind. After I sent the letter, my mom started getting other calls from moms who also see their kids struggling.
At the beginning of sixth grade, I met a new student who was visiting my school named Michael who was having troubles just like me. My mom told his mom that I wrote a letter to President Trump, and she sent it to Michael’s mom. The day I first met Michael, he asked for my autograph. It made me feel like I just won the World Series. Michael had never met someone like me who had the same troubles as he did.
If I look back, I wish my mom didn’t have to cry so much. I wish that my school had tested me back in elementary school so that I did not struggle alone. I wish the word dyslexia was used all the time so all kids could know that some of the most successful people like Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Steven Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, Walt Disney and JFK Jr. all had dyslexia.
If kids like me knew that dyslexia doesn’t have to do with intelligence but that we have a hard time understanding how sounds and letters go together, which makes it really, really hard to read. I wish kids knew that when a teacher read me a test I got a 107, but if I had to take a regular test and write the answers I would get a 67 or 57. When the teachers told my mom that I just had to study more, I wish the teacher knew that it wasn’t the material I didn’t know, it was the way that they were asking me to take the test.
I wish for so many things for the kids who struggle. I wish I could go back to my old school and talk to all the kids who feel stupid because of reading and tell them the truth about dyslexia. I wish for all of this and so much more for kids and for their moms and dads.
I hope that no kid spends another minute feeling stupid and sad.
Related Blog: OSERS Assistant Secretary Collett expressed his commitment to rethink special education in a blog post last month.
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
I’m glad improvements have been made with parents awareness in regards to dyslexia in their children. If ignored or dismissed it can pretty much make your life a disaster. I remember myother saying that someone told her that I appeared to be dyslexic. My mother interpreted this to mean I had to work harder and pay attention better. Schooling seemed to correct the order of letters in a sentence or word. But I’ve never been much good at remembering what I’ve read.atj always sucked. I just thought I was stupid. I didn’t remember my moms statement until I was 50. I researched to find that my life had been a txt book novel of a dyslexic adult. I have no confidence in doing new things or jobs because it rears its ugly head every time. So more teachers and parents have to take it seriously and participate in their childrens home work a games they play.
Pamela: I wish for you the ability to recognize your own unique strenghts ..unfortunately no one has pointed them out to you as of yet, but it is NEVER too late! Douglas has exhibited resilience that I would never have known , creativity, problem solving and a work ethic because he knows he is very smart, just learns differently..I hope you are able to take inventory of all of your strengths and find that they far out way what you see as limitation.
I am worried my 10 year old grandson is going to fail the 3rd grade. He was held back in kindergarten due to his reading level.
He tells me he feels stupid and the teacher or anyone tries to help him.
I want to do whatever it is that I can do to help my grandson feel better about himself. He is such an awesome and smart child.
I need help though.
Douglas, thank you for sharing your story. I’ve noticed my 8 year old son is having difficulty understanding in reading. I just found out that his reading level is F, when he should be level M by the end of 3rd grade. He supposed to have an I.E.P teacher, but according to a meeting that I had with teacher, there wasn’t an I.E.P. teacher. But now that I read your story, it’s the first time I hear about that disability named dyslexia. He probably have the same issue without me knowing. Good luck now n in the future.
Did you switch to a private school for Dyslexic Students?
My child is even suffering from dyxlesia we never knew about it.we kept on scolding him that he is weak ,lazyand not interested in studyies but Ur story helped me in knowing about the truth behind his problems.
What they need is encouragement , as you probably now know! They need to know more about their learning styles. It is the fear you child is experiencing and you don’t want them to lose confidence in themselves. I pray that you are getting the resources for your child.
I enjoy this story my granchild had this problem also I needs too what kind of books she needs and what type of accommodations
Tracy: Yes, we did.
Douglas, thank you for being brave enough to share your story! You are making a big difference! You should be so proud of yourself for having so much courage and for being such a hard worker!
Douglas, trust me you very lucky that you were diagnosed I’m middle school. I’m a rising senior and was only diagnosed for adhd and dyslexia halfway through my junior year. I come from a middle eastern household where my parents chose not to believe any of the signs. I had to beg my mom to make a doctors appointment after a teacher suggested I get checked out, because I had to know if I were actually stupid or not. Trust me when I tell you this your very lucky that you’ll have an iep or 504 going into high school, as I without one have suffered a great deal
Thank you for your amazing story! What encouragement you have given many parents like me, who’s 8 year old son was just diagnosed with dyslexia. I had known since first grade something was wrong, the teacher knew something wasn’t right also, but they refused to see that he may need exert help and such, so my son was always written off even though they saw with their own eyes the issue. Get a diagnosis from a medical professional I was told by the school and the school district who didn’t want to acknowledge my son wasn’t lazy and not paying attention, his teacher went to fast and he needed different teaching!! I am learning to not be angry anymore at the schools, and to be thankful my son can now have the learning tools and teaching environment he needs. I commend you for being so brave and writing the President! That is wonderful that you share your story with others. I hope you know, that by you being so brave and sharing things that can seem embarrassing, you are allowing so many other parents and children like you, to stand tall and not be ashamed! You will be very successful in life, as many people including myself as an adult, wouldn’t be able to write a letter to the President. Maybe you will lead our country on day and change the school system so no child is left behind. Thank you Douglas and best wishes.
My grand son is dyslexic .It was very tough for him in a regular school. Luckly he joined Kestrol manor school in Nairobi Kenya. His Talents are now showing up. I believe there are great things ahead for him
Douglas, I am one of those ERC Aides that helps children like yourself. Thank you for writing this Blog. Hopefully people will become more aware of ADHD and Dyslexia. I have seen amazing results for students when they have the right tools to become excellent readers, etc. Congratulations to
you on your own success!
Thank you for sharing your story Douglas. You are a true inspiration to so many. Both of my adult children have Dyslexia, ADHD and a host of other things. I applaud your parents for getting you the help you needed. That is the key! My kids went to private school and got private and public testing and help. These schools gave them all the accommodations they needed and both of my kids are taking college classes and will have exciting careers. You can do it! So parents, do your research. There is so much information out there and help. We had to make great sacrifices to make this happen but it paid off.
Douglas you and I share the same profound dyslexia. I failed 2nd grade and a teacher told my mother I was retarded and had a IQ of 75 I over heard this and felt bad. I was told there was help in Jr. high school, there was none. I was put in a Special class in 1949. This class became Special Ed. In high school my Mother came and picked my classes shop classes and Horticulture. I did well in those classes. Like you said written test you scored low 60 or 57. I had my DMV test read to me this year and scored 100 on the test. I never had 100 on a test. I am 82 and reading has been hard for me and filling out forms. I would need to look at someones form to find out how to fill it out. Thank you for sharing your story. Suzie Keels
I am 49 years old and have dyscalculia. Special education services were given too me. I did graduate from high school. When my son started 6th grade. I could not help him. With any math homework at all. My math skills have gotten worse. Since I graduated they at about at the 2nd grade level. I am so sorry that the help you needed was not given too you.
I am so impressed and inspired by you as a mom of a dyslexic boy!
The school test results say my kids are dyslexic what help is there for them
We are inspired by your important story that shows lack of dyslexia help actually impacts the well-being of the child. He is very fortunate to attend a private school that knows how to help him in all areas of school life.
Stories like this are told millions of times all over the USA without the child being able to get private school help. We need to help schools understand how to see the early warning signs of the bright but struggling learners. We must agree to evaluate the children and provide them with proper remediation. Too many children are stuck in the ” wait to fail ” system where parents are told ” don’t worry, he/she will catch up, or he/she needs to concentrate or try harder.” The signs of dyslexia are evident by preschool and kindergarten. We can no longer let these children suffer. Good ” grades” are not an indicator of how your child is doing.
We must ask our teaching universities and colleges to offer required coursework that will train teachers in the ” science of literacy.” Our teachers need training and support to learn how to teach reading , spelling , written expression, math and organizational life skills for ALL students. While this compelling story is about dyslexia , we must also realize that 60% of the children in the USA are below grade level in literacy and math. Literacy includes reading, spelling , handwriting and written expression. These are bright students that are being taught with methods that don’t work for the majority of the current population in the USA. We have a national literacy and math crises.
We hope the teachers and parents will join together to ask society to support the changes that need to occur. We believe in #LiteracyForHumanity.
The actual well-being and health of the children is impacted when they can’t learn as needed in school.
We love our teachers and our schools. We must support the change needed to help all children learn. His story is very compelling and is told a million times a day by other children and families across the USA. It feels good to know he reached success at a private school. Many of us have also sacrificed our entire financial lives by sending our children to a private school for dyslexia. Many more will never have that option. We need our public schools to provide a Free and Appropriate Education for ALL children.
Most people in the USA have no idea that 60% of students in the USA are performing below grade level in critical reading , writing and math skills. Children on honor roll may actually be reading below grade level! Children going to college or jobs discover they don’t have the reading , writing or math skills required.
As a nation, we must ask what can we do to improve the methods we use to teach and how can we find the money to train teachers in these methods? Please do not blame poverty, lack of motivation , electronics or lack of books on this crises. The data shows that bright children that try reading all the time at home are still struggling in school.
We have to decide to ” morally include” all children. We can no longer pass them from grade to grade with a lack of required skills. They should not be held back a grade because the school did not help them when needed. We must use early identification and proper remediation to help ALL children have the freedom to learn.
Please don’t look at honor roll, awards , or grades as an indicator for how your child is doing in school. Instead , we need to truly identify the children that are struggling in reading, spelling , handwriting, written work , and math. We need to provide them with the type of instruction that will work for their learning needs.
It is time to value ALL learners and end the suffering they endure in school. We must support our teachers with the resources, budget , time and training . Our teachers and families must join together in this new vision. Too many parents have to spend years asking the schools to help their child and precious time is lost. This is not typically a situation where a child can ” catch up later.” The research shows that the children that struggled in elementary school do not catch up by high school. We have a to catch them before they fail or drop out. It is a decision we must make as a society because we love to focus on our ” high achievers ” or ” success stories.” Their are millions of ” invisible children” that are suffering in school and they are the future of our nation.
Thank you kindly for reading this. Please excuse any typos. #DyslexiaInspired
Beautifully put. One suggestion to all schools using ‘balanced literacy approach’ when “teaching” our children to read is STOP it! All 4 of my children struggled nightly with this approach. We have no history of dyslexia in our family but strangely all my children had a dyslexic profile. It has been nearly 20 years since the National Reading Panel publishes the best way for children to be taught to read, yet school districts will not change their methods. They do; however, spend lots of money and time disagreeing with parents, paying for legal services from attorneys and harming our children for life. This must stop!! This practice of poorly teaching reading, spelling, and writing is abusive to children and their families in addition to our society.
Great article and great comment!!! Thanks for sharing!
May I ask you Douglas how did you manage to narrow that gap. The gap of reading levels. Which programs were you enrolled in and how to go about them. Am a mother of sixth grade dyslexic student from India. Pls help. Thanks
I’m a second grade teacher and reading intervention has become my passion. I love helping kids who struggle with reading and seeing them make progress is the most rewarding thing I can think of. Thank you for sharing your story.
I am a teacher and the son of a struggling reader. Did you ever get proper training in phonics ? I never did. I had no idea that all the reading interventionists, tutors, 504 specialists, neuro-psych studies were utterly useless for my son until a friend of mine who studied precision teaching at Morningside informed me that my son never had phonics. There is a science of reading that Ed schools completely ignore.
What an inspirational story! Douglas you are an amazing young man with such a gift.You have stated so beautifully what so many others cannot.I am so glad Mom and Dad were able to finally figure out what was wrong and to be able to send you to Bancroft where you were able to thrive.I know with your abilities you are going to be a great advocate for children like yourself.Thank you for sharing your story and for being such a wonderful advocate.God bless you and keep you. Love Godfather Bruce and Aunt Roseanne.
This is so eye opening!! I think of what our grandson has gone through and we never realized what was wrong. Now he is getting help and his family also.
Douglas, you are such an inspiration! Our oldest son was at the end of 4th grade before we knew he was dyslexic. He struggled for so long and now he is thriving!! Thank you for being a voice of hope for others who are currently struggling. Your dyslexic brains are so amazing!!
Thank you for sharing your story! Such an inspiration…keep up the good work!
Douglass, Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is so important for students with dyslexia to know they can thrive and excel just as you are. Our public schools must do better and us moms must turn our tears to the trenches and raise this important issue to everyone who works to ensure all students get what they need! My husband and son are both dyslexic, both found success and both had struggles along the way. I believe in you and them and that all families should expect those who run our schools and school systems do what is right for all kids. Public Schools have a lot to learn from you and let’s hope that the US Department of Education , OSERS and Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett make Dyslexia a priority and ensure all Students like you with dyslexia have access to a great public education and if they don’t that they support families who seek private placement as you did under IDEA, ensuring FAPE. I can’t wait to hear what you do next! You and you mom are welcome to join Decoding Dyslexia and other dyslexics as we march for Dyslexia in Washington DC for the #SayDyslexia Rally next July 9th, 2019. Keep up the great attitude and advocacy. Thanks for writing about this to help other kids like you!
Douglas you are fortunate to have the awareness of your situation at a relatively young age. I am impressed with your concern for other children who may be dealing with this. You have an important character trait which is compassion.
You are very inspiring and I will definitely share your story with my 9 year old son who also has adhd and Dyslexia. Keep sharing your story and advocating to schools! Did President Trump ever respond? Hopefully one day he will.
You were able to have a state assessment read to you ? Please tell me more. In Florida our kids are not allowed for this to happen, even if they have dyslexia or ADHD or anything else, literally. I would be very interested to know how this was able to happen.
We live in Minnesota. My daughter is allowed to have the math, language, and science portion of her yearly assessments/tests read to her. However, the reading portion she still has to take on her own. Also, she is allowed to take it in a separate quiet room. These modifications have made a huge difference. She still struggles…however, her anxiety is much less and she can just try and focus on the test and not her surroundings.
You are absolutely amazing!!!!
Such a wonderful story!! I know this is what my daughter feels like. I really dislike that it took until 3rd grade for her to be tested and only because she failed 3rd grade. Our school district feels that it is ok for teachers to have 24 in their classroom which for my child it is not good. I assure her everyday that she is smart even if she does not read well.
We are so proud of you for facing your challenges head on. Anything is possible for you ..reach for the stars. Also, paving the way for other students to overcome their frustrations and concerns is very brave of you. Hats off to your parents for listening, having the proper tests done and finding the best environment for you to shine.
Douglas Michael you are SUPER HERO for kids who suffer like you did. I am proud to read your blog. My grandson is the boy that Lora-lynn wrote about in the above post. I cried, as your mom did, to see how Connor struggled in the public school system because they did not admit to his problem and did not have the tools to teach him. It took time to get Connor to the right school but in that time he suffered greatly. I applaud you for being the spokesperson for those that cannot speak.
Continued blessings in the school years ahead. You will go far. I predict it!
Douglas you are so brave to write this Blog and President Trump! My son Connor struggled for six long years in the public school system before he was placed Out of District. Six long years of not being able to read, of frustration, and being bullied by his classmates. Once he was sent Out of District to a school for the Learning Disabled, he went from a non-reader to a third grade reading level in three months. This was amazing! He found out he was not alone and that he was a smart person, just trapped by the public school system. Connor graduated from High School (still Out of District) last year and is now an avid reader.