Over the last month, I've discovered what I presumed to be true. My child has dyslexia. My blog is dedicated to these wonderfully different learners. I marvel at their creativity, out of the box thinking and their infectious need for humor. This is a journey of our discovery process and our journey homeschooling with what works. I hope you will find encouragement along with helpful advice in teaching your right brain learner in this left brain world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's all Chinese to me

I'd like to start with something that has happened to me several times this month. I've had few ill informed people make hurtful comments to me about my son's dyslexia. I'll tell you about a couple of them.

The first incident happened while I was talking with a close friend and was confiding in her about some of our educational struggles. She decided to confide in me also and went on to tell me her struggles. She started with, "Well, I have the opposite problem. My son is so smart." Whoa!!!!!! So the opposite of dyslexia is smart? Last time I looked at the science related to dyslexia, it didn't mention anything about IQ. IQ is completely separate from dyslexia, but most people are completely ignorant of what dyslexia is and what it isn't. I on the other hand, have embraced the unique strengths and deficiencies in my children. It makes us who we are. It just so happens that some fit into the "school mold" a little better. Because Big brother is severely dysphonetic, he is deficient in processing speed and short term auditory memory recall, but superior in all things visual and spatial. These are his strengths and weaknesses, and not necessarily specific to all dyslexics.

During the second incident, I had a friend tell me that I would need a lower level curriculum than what she was using. I asked how she came to that conclusion and if there was a lot of reading and writing required. Also, if there was a lot of rote memorization or fill in the blank learning, Big Brother would probably have a problem. Then, she hesitated, and went on to tell me that it was probably to much information for Big Brother to understand and that the information was mostly presented visually. Ughhh, understanding is not the problem, especially visual information. She barely knows my children and obviously knows them less than I thought, yet she was making educational judgments about what my children could learn. I was a little more than irritated.

Unfortunately, I know that I've said some hurtful things to people I cared about and can recall one specific incident where I said something to a friend about her son's autism. Looking back, it makes my stomach hurt. I knew nothing about autism at the time. I wish I would have kept my mouth shut, but I didn't, so all I can say now is, "I'm sorry". Hopefully, I can turn some of these hurtful experiences into a learning experience for us all, by forgiving those people that hurt me through their words and lack of understanding and start educating people about dyslexia. Dyslexia is not rare. 20% of the population has dyslexia. That is 1 out of 5. So if dyslexia is all Chinese to you, below you will find some myths and facts surrounding dyslexia.

Dyslexia is rare.

20 % of the population is dyslexic. That is 1 out of 5. Take a look around a classroom, homeschool group or organized sport, I'm almost positive there is more than one in that group. The severity of dyslexia varies, and some can disguise their disability.

Dyslexics can't read.

Dyslexics can read, but will usually hit a wall in about third grade. One of the biggest factors distinguishing dyslexics from non-dyslexics, is their ability to spell. Now, look around that classroom or homeschool group again. I think you will start to see a few more kids that might be dyslexic if you add the ability to spell in the mix.

Dyslexics see things backwards

Dyslexics see just the way non-dyslexics see. The problem is with direction. They are confused about direction and that is why they mix up their b's/d's when reading or writing. Actually, many dyslexics can see things in 3D. I know this is true of my son. At the age of 5, he drew me a picture of a car. He had different scenes on the paper, one was of the car facing forward, the other was a side view of the car, and the other was the rear. He obviously could take that car and spin it in his mind.

Now, lets look at that same ability and how it relates to our written language. Take a chair put it in the middle of the room. What is it....a chair. Take that same chair and lie it on it's side. What is it....a chair. Take that same chair and turn it upside down. What is it....a chair. A chair is a chair no matter which direction you place it. Our written language is the only things that changes what it is based on it's direction.

For a list of more myths and facts about dyslexia, please visit Bright Solutions for Dyslexia.

Lastly, I have to add this article from Popular Science. The article is titled Dyslexia is different in Chinese and English. The article goes on to say that scientists discover that entirely disparate regions of the brain cause dyslexia in different languages. In dyslexic Chinese children, less grey matter was detected in the area of the brain dedicated to identifying images and shapes. In the English-speaking children, the affected region is more closely associated with converting letters to sounds. The discovery was surprising to the researchers because like other common brain dysfunction, they had expected the problem areas to be the same across the board. It does seem to make logical sense, considering the strikingly different ways the two languages represent meaning. Asked if someone dyslexic in one language would necessarily be dyslexic in another, the lead researcher, Li-Han Tan, expressed doubt because "different genes may be involved in Chinese and English dyslexic readers."

This is fascinating to me. The skills needed to understand the Chinese language are the exact strengths that Big Brother possesses. His weakness on the other hand would not impact his abilities if he were Chinese. Ironically, Big Brother started desiring to write Chinese, so the picture above is his first attempt at writing his name in Chinese.