"Daniel, like other dyslexics, has to work extra hard in an academic environment, and he surely studies more hours than some of his friends. But as we have learned from ASDEC and others, dyslexics can turn their unique characteristics into true advantages in life, and that success is what we see for Daniel. We marvel at what a terrific, engaging and confident person our son has become thanks to the support of ASDEC"
THE FIRST SIGNS
We knew something was wrong when Daniel was in preschool. Our bright little boy was having problems learning the alphabet, and he was not able to recognize letters like the other preschoolers. His difficulty was a surprise to us because we saw how much Daniel was learning in other ways. He was a very observant little boy who had a wealth of knowledge. Even then he sounded like an adult, but something as basic as the alphabet was throwing him for a loop.
Evidence of the difficulty he had with written language continued during his first years of school, but we were told he would “grow out of it.” We first had him tested in kindergarten, but the testers were not specialists in language-based disabilities so he was misdiagnosed in those first few years. One psychologist told us Daniel had an attention deficit disorder (ADD), but we were not convinced and did not want to put him on medication. Some of his teachers thought he just needed to work harder. They put him in a specialized reading group for slow learners in first grade. Furthermore, they discouraged us from getting him a formal Individual Education Plan (IEP) and diagnosis because he was “already getting services.”
We wish we had known about ASDEC back then. Pulling Daniel out of a regular classroom made it harder for him to keep up, and the cycle of frustration began. We knew Daniel was bright, but we were not able to convince his teachers of that fact. We realize now that the teachers in his elementary school saw he had difficulty, but they and the special education department were reluctant to provide an IEP because it would require more specific services and progress reports. We had to push. Even when he got services under an IEP, the teachers had no idea how to provide the support Daniel needed. As a result, he lost time in specialized reading groups with children who had a wide range of learning disabilities.
Finally, in third grade we had Daniel assessed by a specialist who now is associated with ASDEC. That is when we learned that Daniel was indeed dyslexic, and as a result, traditional language-based learning was a challenge for him, despite the fact that he was bright. Once we had this diagnosis, Daniel started seeing an ASDEC academic therapist for two days a week, and he attended the ASDEC summer program two years in a row, improving his reading capabilities and comprehension through the Sounds in Syllables approach. Also, despite the long commute, we enrolled him in The Summit School, a private school near Annapolis, which focuses on educating dyslexic students. We wanted to do all we could to make up for the lack of quality support Daniel experienced in his elementary school.
When Daniel reached his middle-school years, we decided to return to the public school system. Fortunately, Daniel’s middle school provided a very different experience. His middle school recognized that we had the evidence to justify an IEP and specialized services. By then we had learned the kind of accommodations Daniel needed. The ASDEC summer program produced a report that we provided to the school outlining specific accommodations for Daniel. The middle school provided a case manager, a point of contact we could go to for Daniel’s struggles.
In middle school, Daniel started using Kurzweil, a computer-based educational program that enabled him to have written material “read” to him through an audio program, while he followed along with the printed version. While doing his work with the computer, Daniel looked like any other modern student – hands on the keyboard, eyes on the screen, and earphones in his ears. In fact, he became a Kurzweil wiz kid. With the ASDEC, middle school, and technology support, Daniel began to excel, and knowing that he was dyslexic, not a “slow learner,” boosted his self-confidence. One time, he was paired with one of the most popular girls in class for a team assignment. He openly explained, “I am dyslexic, so I may not always read the word correctly.” He had really come around in both self-knowledge and self-confidence.
Daniel is now 15 and is attending Churchill High School, where he is consistently on the honor roll. Daniel still works with an ASDEC academic therapist. He has an IEP at Churchill and is receiving good support from the school. He continues to use Kurzweil for all his major exams, using the tool either in class or at the computer center when he needs it. Because of Daniel and other students like him who are using Kurzweil, use of this computer-based tool is becoming more common among Churchill students. Also, even though learning a foreign language is considered quite difficult for dyslexics, Daniel has been successful in his Spanish courses because his ASDEC academic therapist is successfully applying the Sounds in Syllables approach to Spanish.
As other parents, we, too, are surprised by the insights and knowledge our dyslexic children reveal at times. Daniel’s ASDEC academic therapist shared this story with us a few years ago. One night when she was working with Daniel, they came upon the word squid. Innocently, she asked Daniel what a squid might be. His answer came immediately, “an eight-legged cephalopod.” She shared this story with the ASDEC community and ended with this comment, “Yes sir, our students often teach us as much as we teach them.”
Most importantly, Daniel does not see being a dyslexic as a source of shame. He is very confident and socially active, and he is involved in the school theater program as an actor. One friend made him a t-shirt with the slogan “Dyslexics are People Too” – a great sign of peer support and understanding. Daniel, like other dyslexics, has to work extra hard in an academic environment, and he surely studies more hours than some of his friends. But as we have learned from ASDEC and others, dyslexics can turn their unique characteristics into true advantages in life, and that success is what we see for Daniel. We marvel at what a terrific, engaging and confident person our son has become thanks to the support of ASDEC.
www.kurzweiledu.com for more information about the Kurzweil computer-based tools.