“Mom, please!” my son whispered as tears flowed down his face, “There’s something wrong with my brain. I’m trying and trying but I just don’t understand.” This particular morning was hard. We could always tell what kind of school day it would be when my son woke up. On the “bad days,” his eyes were “glassed over” and there was a hint of agitation is his usual “happy-go-lucky” disposition. On these mornings, the simplest of tasks would take great concentration. This particular morning he was reading one of the first Bob Books. When he came across the word “the,” he tried sounding it out, but on this particular day, it made no sense. I gently reminded him it was the word “the.” I should have stopped there and just casually moved on. Sadly, I was bit frustrated, and I kept talking. Some days, when he came across the word “the,” he would look at it as if it were the very first time he had seen the word. Today was one of those days. He honestly had no idea what the word was and didn’t know how to pronounce or read it. I looked at my son and said, “Don’t you remember this word? It is the. You read it yesterday and the day before. You actually just read it a few minutes ago in the other Bob Book. It is in almost every little book you read to me. It is ‘the. ‘ ” I really emphasized the word “the.”
With his sweet little eyes, he whispered, “No, mom, I don’t know what that word is.” My poor son struggled with spelling, sounding out simple words, memorizing math facts, remembering what day of the week it was, and writing legibly. He also struggled with what we learned later was called working memory. He had told us before that sometimes the words floated off the page, and we did notice he usually skipped words or substituted words when he was trying to read. We used Bob Books because he hated Dr. Seuss. Oddly, he hated rhymes. Actually, he had the hardest time making rhymes or even recognizing rhyming words. In my mama gut, I knew something was different. In my teacher brain, I knew this wasn’t the “norm” (and I use this term VERY loosely!) But we read and followed Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s educational philosophies. I had read and highlighted almost every page of their groundbreaking book, Better Late than Early (1989). My husband and I knew boys tended to be late bloomers with learning in general and reading in particular. So when he was struggling with reading and sounding out words, we didn’t panic. When his spelling was below “grade level,” we didn’t worry. My master’s degree is in Math Education, so when he had trouble memorizing those pesky math facts, I knew there was no need to sound the math alarms just yet. But his “issues” continued and seemed to get worse instead of better. In our homeschool, our marching pattern always seemed to be one step forward and TEN steps back!
Because I believe children learn at their own pace and in their own way, when tensions rose, we took a break. When frustrations hit, we put the reading aside for a few weeks and would come back to it later. We didn’t push. We figured he just needed time to chew on what he was learning and to process it before moving on to something new. But with our son, we quickly learned he couldn’t take long breaks or a typical “summer vacation” because when we did come back to old concepts, he usually had to start literally right back at the beginning. We learned short daily and weekly repetition was needed for just about anything that needed to “stick”! As our son got older and reading still seemed to be a foreign language to him and the words kept “floating around” the page, we had his vision checked and even had him tested for vision therapy. His vision was 20/20 and his tracking was normal. There was no need for glasses and no need for vision therapy. So when my sweet boy cried out that morning for “his brain to be tested,” we listened. “Please, mom, just see if there is something wrong with me.” My heart broke every day as I watched my super talented, super charismatic, and super funny kid struggle with his school work. But on this day, my mama heart couldn’t take it any longer.
Several months later when I picked him up from rehearsal, he jumped into the car and apprehensively asked, “Well, is there something wrong with me?” Since his heart-felt request several months earlier, we had him tested for learning “disabilities.” He knew the evaluation meeting was that morning and that his dad and I had spent the morning getting his results.
“Well, they say you have something called visual processing disorder, dyslexia and maybe even a mild form of dysgraphia.” I held my breath and waited to see how he would respond. A huge smile broke out across his face, he slapped his hands and yelled, “Yes! I knew it! I’m not stupid! There is something wrong with my brain!” I wasn’t quite expecting that reaction, but I was glad he was taking the “expert’s ” opinion so well. Slowly, his smile turned to a pained expression and a tear welled up in his eye when he then asked, “Wait. Can it be fixed?”
As part of this meeting, my husband and I were also given advice on different ways we could help our son learn and different ways to teach him to read. I grabbed his hand and said, “You betcha! But it will take a lot of hard work, patience and persistence on your part. Dyslexia doesn’t mean you are dumb; it just means you learn in a different way. If you are up for the challenge, Dad and I found a tutor who specializes in this and can work with you to help you overcome some of the obstacles you hit when reading and when you are trying to memorize things.” As it turns out, the reading therapy would be long, exhaustive and expensive. Our son had a lot of catching up to do and a lot of “re-wiring” to do! My husband and I knew we didn’t have the money to pay for the services he needed, but we took a leap of faith, signed on the dotted line, and anxiously waited for the first day of reading therapy to arrive.
Our son needed extensive reading therapy which consisted of four hours a day, five days a week for four months. Like I said, the learning issues seemed quite insurmountable but our boy was ready for the task at hand. Actually, we had never seen him so excited about learning, reading, and schoolwork before. He knew there was a way to “fix” his reading and memory issues, so he was 100% on board and ready to work! However, our bank account was not ready for the huge bill we were about to pay. Quite honestly, we only had enough money for the first two weeks of tutoring. We had no idea how we were going to pay for four months! However, we also knew through prayer this was the path God was taking our son on, so we began the journey and knew God would somehow provide. In the back of mind, I was thinking it wasn’t as bad as they thought and our son would really only need two weeks of reading therapy. After all, that is all of the money (and time) we had enough for! I figured God had already provided all we needed, and we really wouldn’t need any more money. I knew God would work miracles in our son but in hindsight, I limited the greatness of our God to provide financial miracles too! Not surprisingly, God had other plans and other ways to provide, which of course were way better than what we had expected!
A few months before our son was evaluated, my husband’s grandfather passed away. His grandfather had willed my husband some precious artwork that he knew my husband loved and some signed baseballs to add to his collection. However, my husband did not realize his grandfather had left some money to him and to our kids. The week before our son started his intensive reading therapy (and a week before the bill was due), a notice arrived in the mail. My son’s great grandfather willed him and my daughter an “education” fund to be used for school and college. When God calls, he guides. When God promises, he provides. God had provided manna over the years when bills were tight and money was short. This time was no different except the bills were huge and the manna was hailing down on us! In God’s perfect timing and in his perfect way, the amount left to our son was enough to pay for his extensive reading therapy and with some left over for college! God provided exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it, and even left us with a basket or two of “leftovers!” His tutor also trained me for free, so after his reading therapy was officially over, we could continue the methods at home, which we diligently did for two more years. Thanks to God through Great Grandpa G, Joseph successfully finished his reading therapy. By the time he finished, he jumped from being a non-reader to reading “at grade level.” His confidence multiplied ten-fold, and he now advocates for himself in different learning environments. While at therapy, he met tutors and friends that he still keeps in touch with today. He has learned “tricks” to help him memorize scripts for musical theatre productions and song lyrics for concerts and auditions. Spell check, calculators and Siri are his best “friends.” Read alouds, audible books and voice dictations are his favorite “teachers.”
Our son still struggles with the issues that come with being dyslexic, however, we witness miracle after miracle (big and small) each and every day and each and every year. God provides daily the manna I need to teach him in ways that make sense to him. God provides daily the manna he needs each day to plow through his high school workload. Some days are smooth sailing and some days are filled with huge headwinds. We have lots of laughs and howls of triumphs and tons of tears and screams of frustration. We have setbacks and breakthroughs. But as we continue on this homeschooling adventure, we witness an awesome God providing for our needs and preparing our son to fulfill his God-given purpose. We thank God each and every day for the miracles and the manna!
May God shine His face upon you,
Carrie De Francisco
**This is just one of our family’s many stories of how God has provided miracles and manna along our homeschooling journey. Come to our special homeschooling mom weekend March 29th and 30th to hear other stories of God providing miracles and manna to those He calls to home educate their own. In one of our Saturday sessions, Alexandra Strauss will share her testimony of how God miraculously provided (and still provides) the spiritual and physical healing both she and her beautiful daughter, Bella, needed. It is a powerful story and one that will inspire you to ask for and expect miracles! Click on “Registration” tab to reserve your spot this coming March!
For more information on Dyslexia, I highly recommend the following books and resources:
The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis
The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock L. Eide M.D. ,M.A
Different: The Story of an Out-of-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson
Barton Reading and Spelling System by Susan Barton