Some Wrong Turns to Get to the Right Place

Lessons Learned from my Family's Detour to Dyslexia Intervention

VJ with boys

Before and after we suspected dyslexia, my husband and I sought ways to support our sons’ learning. Although we are now in a good place, the early stages of the process included detours that caused a lot of frustration and often came with feelings of hopelessness. Despite being proactive, we didn’t know what to look for and we weren’t asking the right questions.

I’m not totally knocking detours–we all take them from time to time. There are usually lessons to learn while breaking through roadblocks on this journey, which completely characterizes our journey to early dyslexia intervention.

My boys had been in preschool since they were three and were diagnosed with dyslexia at the ages of eight and six. Prior to diagnosis, their struggles with early learning reading skills was identified and their teachers spent extra time working with them. In addition, my youngest had three years of speech therapy under his belt. We also placed both boys in tutoring when we started suspecting dyslexia.

With lots of exposure to instruction and extra support to build a solid foundation for language-based skills, both my boys continued to struggle–falling further behind–and their confidence in who they believed they were as learners was visibly impacted.

Having a feeling their struggles were something more, and based on family history and my own struggles, we started suspecting that “something more” was dyslexia. With no real direction or guidance on next steps we turned to tutoring.

After only a few months, the anxiety ran thick during car rides to the tutoring center. To bring ease to my boys–or more so my mom guilt–I bribed them with promises of sweet treats when their sessions were done. Not too far into the tutoring journey, even the worthiest of sweets no longer stood a chance.

There are defining moments in life when we’re pushed to the brink and decide enough is enough–and then we choose to take action. Mid-2019, I had one of those moments and it’s one I’ll never forget.

As I sat in the tutoring center, listening, and watching as my boys were working across the room, I could tell my youngest was having a difficult time. With his little voice speaking extra low, as if every word came with uncertainty, he kept trying to complete what was asked of him. Based on his replies, it was obvious to me he didn’t have the answers she was looking for. With his face turning red and his voice cracking on the verge of tears, the more the tutor needed to repeat her instruction, the more frustrated she seemed to get.

As the pit of my stomach dropped, my heart started beating faster and faster. My first reaction was to shout, “He doesn’t understand! Try something different! Open your eyes…do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Maybe it’s time to take a break!” But the tutor kept pressing on with the same approach, expecting a different result until the session time was up. That day, at that moment, as my six-year-old son walked towards me, with the inner pain he was feeling written all over his face, I knew this could not continue. I knew this wasn’t helping. I didn’t know what was next, but it was obvious this was not the right place–not the right solution.

The worst part–this wasn’t the first time I witnessed this scene play out, but each time I was torn between the gut feeling that the situation wasn’t right and telling myself tutoring, speech therapy, etc. was supposed to be challenging. I was stuck on a roller-coaster of thoughts that my boys just needed to get through it, maybe even work harder, or toughen up. I beat myself up for not doing more; not knowing more; not being a good enough parent. This was one of those roadblocks that led to my lessons to be learned.

Back in the tutoring center, the emotions that came at that moment, and the actions that took place after, led us to getting our boys evaluated and diagnosed with dyslexia. Through the process, I learned more about dyslexia and dyslexic learners, bringing me to the realization that although my husband and I were being proactive, learning to read with dyslexia requires a different approach compared to children that do not have dyslexia. This means intervention includes specific instruction, and just as importantly the person behind the intervention must have knowledge and understanding of dyslexia, and how the dyslexic brain processes information differently.

As I witnessed with my children, the same approach for non-dyslexic learners is not going to be the most beneficial for dyslexic learners. No matter how many hours of one-on-one attention they get, if they are not getting the proper instruction, they are not getting the right instruction for their way of learning, and the wrong instruction can cause more harm than good.

This realization shed light on why we kept finding ourselves on detours and subsequently helped us get beyond the roadblocks and our boys to the right intervention.

As you move forward in your journey keep in mind:

  • Nobody steps into the world of dyslexia knowing all the answers.
    It’s okay not to know; it’s okay to ask questions; it’s okay to take some detours. These are all signs you have recognized there is a need for action and you’re taking steps to get to the right place. Drop the parental guilt-it’s not helping anything.
  • If progress is not happening, something is wrong with the instruction, not the child.
    Dyslexic brains process information differently. This should be a key consideration when seeking intervention for a child with dyslexia. See our guest article from Mara of BrainTrust Tutors to learn about key points for dyslexia learners, 3 things to know when seeking Intervention , and more about Braintrust.
  • Dyslexia can be remediated, but it’s never gone.
    Although dyslexia is lifelong, intervention sets our children up to build a solid foundation for language-based skills and the right tools so when they face challenging moments they are able to navigate them with more ease.
  • The message we send our children matters.
    As parents, let’s make sure we are NOT sending messages that they need to be “fixed.” Let’s make sure they know there is nothing wrong with them–learning differently is not worse or better, it’s just different.

The road to understanding dyslexia is a bumpy one–and there is a lot to learn. Entering this unchartered territory can be scary, confusing, frustrating, and at times intimidating.

As a dyslexic mother of two children with dyslexia, I understand the need and want to have things figured out. And you will. There may be detours, but you will surely reach your destination. It takes time–be patient with yourself.

I learned from our detours that my children are my compass, guiding me to be the parent they need. Trust your instincts. Every step counts! Red Square Pegs’ articles and resources will provide guidance—we’re here to hold your hand as you navigate through this journey.

For more on tutoring and intervention check out our article, Tutoring vs. Intervention: Knowing the Differences.

Red Square Pegs was established to empower dyslexics by embracing dyslexia through awareness and shared experiences and to be a symbol of acceptance, pride, and confidence.