Entry:  038 Name:  Sarah Age:  Adult Champion: 13 Dyslexia Champions If you’d asked me “What’s dyslexia” 7 years ago, I’d have given y...

My Red Letter 2017 - E038 - Sarah

21:26:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Entry: 038
Name: Sarah
Age: Adult
Champion: 13 Dyslexia Champions

If you’d asked me “What’s dyslexia” 7 years ago, I’d have given you a vague answer. Is it ‘muddled spelling’ or ‘slow reading’? I’d have possibly recalled Tom Cruise as dyslexic. Today, ask me and I could talk for hours!

I knew my now 12-year-old son was struggling to learn to read in first term Prep. He’s now in his last term of Grade 6 and our journey through primary school has been dominated by dyslexia. I say ‘our’ journey because the moment I realised my son needed support, I locked into place. And, I say ‘dominated’ because, in our experience, that’s what dyslexia does at school. When it’s not identified and targeted by evidence-based early intervention, dyslexia controls a child’s journey throughout school (and beyond).
Our primary school journey involves too many ‘dyslexia champions’ to thank just one. So, I settled on 13 dyslexia champions who’ve at different times and in different ways helped us.  

School can be a brutal place for a dyslexic learner. My first champion, My Victor is my husband Andrew. Talkative, adventurous and the cleverest person I know, he struggled throughout school. Learning to read was gruelling, spelling was a mystery and no one understood why. He left school fearing he must be ‘dumb’. But, my gutsy husband conquered this fear. After school, he travelled, he worked and he found his strengths beyond an education system that didn’t understand him.  

Since my son was in prep, I’ve wanted better for him. My biggest fear is that he too will leave school ‘thinking’ he’s dumb. Intuitive, witty and curious, Jake constantly surprises me with his knowledge and his lateral thinking. He’s My Champ! If you’ve ever wondered why birds fly in an V formation, he’s sure to know. My struggle is and continues to be fighting an education system that views him as ‘deficient’ when it’s clear he’s not. 

My son’s Speech Therapist, Michelle and his MSL (Multi-Sensory Structured Language) Teacher, Kirsty are My Advocates. They re-assure my son that he can learn to read and spell—with effort, time and a structured approach. Michelle and Kirsty know firsthand that the Magic 100 sight words, random spelling lists and leveled readers were never going to work with Jake but a muti-sensory, structured language approach will (and is!). 

Jake’s grade 6 teacher, Simone is My Backer for being proactive in supporting him improve his reading skills (as well as being a rock star classroom teacher!). What’s heartened me most about Simone is her effort to educate herself about Jake as a dyslexic learner and update me throughout the year. 

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a big talker but when it comes to dyslexia, I can talk for hours. My girlfriends Amy, Nat and Melissa are My Supporters and my sister Steph is My Guardian. They’ve listened to countless hours of my ranting with the genuine patience I needed to feel supported.
My ultimate dyslexia champions are My Campaigners, Dyslexic Victoria Support (DVS) admin/members, Heidi, Carolyn, Sarah and Simone.  All with your own dyslexic child/ren to support, you inspire me and thousands of others to not accept the status quo, to seek answers and to make change happen.
Thank you to all My Dyslexia Champions! You’re steering me through rough seas in your own perfect way. The battle isn’t over but I don’t feel that I’m on my own anymore, Sarah 

“Advocating for a child with dyslexia or suspected dyslexia can be tantamount to moving a cruise ship with a piece of string and your teeth.” (Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley) 

P.S. To all the influential people reading this letter and all the other Red Letters, please step up. The core difficulty for our dyslexic children is mastering the skills of ‘converting letters to their correct sound’ (decoding) and ‘converting sounds to their correct letters’ (spelling). Our dyslexic children urgently need teachers trained in high quality literacy programs (that include oral language, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary & comprehension), trained in early screening for reading difficulties and trained in providing or referring evidence-based reading intervention.  No more Reading Recovery for our dyslexic children!  

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