I’ve been focused on my 9-year-old daughter’s dyslexia for years now. Since we found out she had a reading issue in kindergarten, I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself.I even wrote a personal essay for the New York Times about how I felt when I first learned about my daughter’s dyslexia. Now, as the Parent Advocacy Manager at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, I talk with parents across the country about how learning issues affect their children at home and at school.But as much as I talk, write and think about dyslexia and how kids like my daughter deal with it every day, I’ve never really walked in her shoes. When I was asked to try theThrough Your Child’s Eyes simulation of dyslexia, I jumped at the opportunity.It went something like this:
The letters are jumbled. The clock starts ticking. You can’t read the words. You feel stressed out almost right away.
You try to put words into context by reading the entire sentence, but you can’t. You have to decode. But until you flip the letters, you can’t figure out the words. It’s really hard to tell which letters are flipped.
The more frustrated you get, the more you want to give up. Is reading this even worth my time? What is it trying to say? What’s the point? Keep in mind this is only a 75-second exercise. And I’m not 9 years old.
And so it hits me. This is what it’s like for my daughter every time she reads.
No wonder the tears, the excuses and the tantrums when I ask her to read or do her homework. No wonder as much as she loves her reading tutor she is completely exhausted at the end of each session.
No wonder she cries and doesn’t want to go to school. No wonder she feels ashamed and has trouble making friends.
I may never fully know what she faces, but I get it much more now. It’s not just about dyslexia. It’s about what it’s like to struggle with something fundamental.
For my daughter, being understood means having the opportunity to reach her goals, both big and small. The more I understand about what it’s like to be in her shoes, the more I can help her achieve success in them.
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