* This post was written by Lynna Sutherland of https://hswotrainingwheels.com/.
When my oldest (now 14) was three, I started teaching him to read. We went over phonics. And then I started working through a stack of flashcards every day. Just before he turned four, he could consistently read "cat". I even remember posting a picture the day before his fourth birthday, so excited that my three year old could "read"!
Or so I thought.
Somehow, it wasn't as smooth sailing after that as I had imagined. Yes, he could remember and recognize the words he'd already learned. But he didn't seem to remember the sounds each letter made or "get" how to sound-out words.
Maybe I had pushed too hard. Maybe I just crushed his interest by my over-zealous enthusiasm for early reading. So I thought I'd just wait. I'd be cool as a cucumber, totally fine with my kid not reading until he was eight ... or nine ...
Fast-forward several years. One day I was reading a description of what it felt like to be dyslexic and I called my son over to ask him about it.
He said "You know how in Chinese, each word has a shape? Well, that's how I read. If I know the shape of the word, then I know the word. But if I don't know the shape of it, then I just try and guess another word that has a shape kind of like that."
My jaw dropped. I had no idea that's what reading was like from inside his mind!
Since then, we've learned a lot about dyslexia. And you know what surprised me most? It really isn't a defect. In fact, while his reading struggles are definitely "marks" of dyslexia, so are some of his greatest strengths.
He's a gifted artist. He can tell his younger siblings impromptu stories for hours on end. And he's an out-side-the-box thinker and has a great visual-spatial sense.
It turns out that being dyslexic isn't really something "broken" about him. It's just a particular (less common, but very normal) brain design. While we live in a culture that values consuming information by translating shapes on paper into mental sentences and stories, other cultures have valued different skills.
Once my mom said, "Imagine if he lived several thousand years ago in a community without a written language that valued carrying on traditions through oral story telling! He'd be one of the pillars of the community!"
But the fact of the matter is that my intelligent, engaged, observant son - who is also dyslexic - lives in this society where efficiency in communication through print is seen as a mark of intelligence. And I need to do what I can to equip him to live and thrive in that world.
My oldest doesn't have a disability. He just learns and acquires information differently than the way our educational methods tend to deliver it.
Differently, in fact, than the way I learned or the way I'm accustomed to teaching it.
When I realized what he really needed (a careful, systematic Orton-Gillingham method of instruction) I was overwhelmed with the amount of one-on-one time that would require, especially as I was already homeschooling four other children at that point.
1. They offered an at-home, online program that my son could work through completely on his own.
2. They have a version called "Reading Horizons Elevate" designed specifically for adults and kids 10 and older. Instead of "See Spot Run" and other stories more suited to young children, the reading library is composed of high-interest non-fiction!
My son worked through this program in six months time and it had a huge impact on his ability to read. He is still dyslexic. (He always will be. It's part of how God made him.) And reading is still not his preferred method for content-consumption. But now he's equipped to read anything he needs to in order to accomplish his goals - whether personal or academic!
* Lynna Sutherland is the mom to eight, great, always-homeschooled kiddos ranging in age from teen to toddler. She seeks to encourage moms to embrace the freedom and flexibility that homeschool offers and support moms homeschooling multiple ages.