Guest editorial: Negative comments coming from a dyslexic were a real surprise.
I recently read a letter to the editor by Mr. Bruce Margolis, and was surprised it was written by a dyslexic. In our past my family have dealt with many others making negative comments towards dyslexics, but a fellow dyslexic is a real surprise. You see, I am the wife of a dyslexic husband and the mother of five children who are dyslexic too. Mr. Margolis’s simplified approach at just having the student "suck it up" and pull themselves up by their boots straps is way off base in my opinion. I found it right on the mark that another reader called it his "braggadocios autobiography". Evidently, he is still seeking that acceptance that most dyslexics look for after many years of ridicule. We found that "special" help from teachers who understood how to teach a multi-sensory method in the regular classrooms. Our kids then had a chance to keep up and actually show that they were learning. At one of our child’s school we had a chemistry teacher who offered multiple ways to show students had mastered the objectives. My kids did not do well on paper tests, but some of these alternative ways allowed my kids to excel along with other students in the class. It’s heartbreaking to hear a child tell you that he or she didn’t know that they were smart. This came after years of being forced to do things in a way that had been extremely difficult for them and once explained differently, it allowed them to excel.
Early on we had teachers who plainly thought my children were just not very smart. We even had one psychologist tell us one that one child had a border line IQ of mental retardation. I had kids who couldn’t read and were very frustrated by the insinuation that because they couldn’t; they must be dumb. My husband and I paid for Orton Gillingham Tutoring for reading out of our own pocket (Our daughter became a top reader in 4th grade). I home schooled my kids for 6 years because most of the general Ed class teachers told me that training for dyslexia was mostly offered in a special Ed certificate. They really weren’t sure how to help my kids. We worked hard at helping my kids, and it definitely paid off. Three are graduated doing 3.7 GPA and above work at universities in the area. These are the same students who did miserably on the ACT. Colleges stated they needed remedial English/math in college, but we insisted on the regular English & Math classes (had to go to the dean a time or two). Our kids did well in the regular classes. The ACT just showed that all of my kids were bad at taking tests, not that they couldn’t learn. I think Mr. Margolis means well, but just saying that all dyslexic kids need no special help is a real disservice to those dyslexics coming through the system. Instead I think more training should be offered at the teaching level to be able to incorporate these kids in the regular classroom as much as possible. We had teachers participate in Orton Gillingham classes at the school we came from in Michigan. All of them said what an eye opener it was for them, and they all agreed it’s harder to help with something you have little knowledge or understanding about. Also, although we were able to pay for a specialized reading program, I often wondered what parents do if they can’t afford the $50/hr. tutoring rate without good school support.
P.S. — Ironically, if you read the history on several of the famous dyslexics that were quoted, most did poorly in early school and were home schooled by their mothers to help them catch up (Edison/Einstein/Schwab) hence they had special treatment. They didn’t just magically make it through on their own as was so implied.
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