My Truth About Dyslexia―What I Wish for Other Kids With Dyslexia and Their Parents

Douglas Rawan II, a sixth-grader with dyslexia

Douglas Rawan II, a sixth-grader with dyslexia

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.

16 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • Lorri,

      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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

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