It might seem surprising for two moms from two different states, thousands of miles apart to have a deep connection, especially when we’ve hardly even spent time in the same room together. But in a powerful way we’ve bonded, like so many other engaged parents across the country, due to our children’s dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
Our connection is based on a shared truth—the need to feel like we’re part of a community and the desire to make a difference for many children just like ours.
We’ve also learned that we can give hope to others when we tell our stories:
My 8th-grade daughter was not identified with dyslexia until the end of 3rd grade, after struggling in school for years. As I sought help for her at school, I was often told that I needed to accept her status as a flailing student. But my instincts told me not to. I somehow knew my child could do more.
It was not until we finally received an identification of dyslexia, dysgraphia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and got appropriate accommodations and private dyslexia tutoring in place that the fog literally lifted. One accommodation we made for my daughter who has difficulty spelling, was an adjustment to her assigned spelling list to include the words she was working on in her reading intervention. Suddenly she became a different child. She didn’t dread going to school anymore. Her headaches stopped, her anxiety lessoned. She was actually smiling and laughing again. Today she is in the honors reading class and on the road to her dream career—a doctor. She knows she has a bright future.
I was educated as a teacher and spent many years working in the classroom. I thought that I knew how to help a struggling child learn to read. But I quickly discovered as my daughter spiraled downward that I was not equipped to help her. My daughter needed a teacher who could teach her to read the way she learns. Now, I work with many parents as part of Decoding Dyslexia, a parent-led grassroots movement. We collaborate with partners in Maryland and D.C. to advance teacher training and raise learning disability (LD) awareness. Our goal is to ensure that children like my daughter don’t fall into the gap and that educators can have all the tools they need to help students like my daughter.
I didn’t know just how many children were affected by dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD and other disabilities until my own kids were identified. It was when my two children first began facing challenges and obstacles at their Texas public school that I became a champion for my children and the many others with learning and attention issues. By educating myself through online resources and connecting with parents of children who have learning disabilities, like Lisa and many others, I learned how to become an effective and collaborative advocate.
I also learned the value of telling our story. I began to write, tweet and speak about not only my family’s negative experiences, but—more importantly—the triumphs and victories as we saw our local school district engage with parents, listen to our concerns and begin to change.
Positive change is contagious. And talking about it is the catalyst. Every day in my role with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) I get to engage with parents who are change-makers alongside educators, researchers and policy makers in their community. I get to help parents tell their stories and highlight the collaborative work they are doing to improve teacher training, implementation of federal and state laws and to keep the bar high for students with LD.
Best of all, I get to connect parents to national-level work and policy efforts that are helping to educate and inform everyone about what children like ours need to succeed.
Engaged parents are a key catalyst within our public schools to help educate, create awareness and raise expectations for kids with learning disabilities. As two moms who have connected through our children’s shared experiences, we encourage you to get involved, too.
We encourage you to get involved! Here are some resources to help you get started on collaborative change work in your child’s classroom and beyond.
15 nonprofit organizations that have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey.
- Decoding Dyslexia
A network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system.
- Parent Camp USA
A hybrid “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and level the playing field, putting all stakeholders in a circle for actual, face-to-face discussion about what is best for kids. At the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. on 10|26|2015.
- Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)
A central resource of information and products to the community of Parent Training Information (PTI) Centers and the Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs), so that they can focus their efforts on serving families of children with disabilities.