My name is Annette, I am a mother of two, and it wasn’t until I was 35 years old that I found out I am dyslexic.
This whole journey began when my son Dean was in first grade and his teacher told me in the pickup line at school that my son is LAZY. Let’s be honest, at that age children don’t know what lazy is. All children want is to be equal to their peers. I work with my son everyday. I spent my lunch breaks picking him up and doing homework with him- there was NO WAY my child was lazy.
I always found a way to be involved in Dean's school from the start. I made myself the room mom as often as work allowed. I was present and willing to give my child as much of me as humanly possible. In doing so, I witnessed how hard he worked and his frustrations with handwriting and reading.
It was PK-4 when I realized Dean wasn’t learning at the same rate as his peers. His teacher would speak to me about his writing and his attempts to read with lost and confused stares. It didn’t make sense- he loved being read to. I read to him every night. Not only did I JUST read the words on the page to Dean, but we would sit and discuss what we had read, EVERY NIGHT. When he was in Kindergarten he suddenly despised reading time. At this point I was coaxing him to read along with me and sometimes, read a page on his own. It was odd to me that he suddenly had no interest, but I didn't push him at this point because I was unaware of what it really meant and I could see he was overwhelmed with the words on the page.
In first grade we almost immediately noticed a shift in Dean’s confidence and demeanor. He was struggling. There was no doubt about it. I met with the teacher and the SPED specialist at his school. We agreed to start him in the Special Education Program (SPED).
Let me tell you just how flawed I believe this system is. They make you jump through hoops to help your child. They go through tier leveled computer-based evaluations/interventions that take months and months to get through. By the time we hit the point that the SPED Specialist at his school thought it necessary for Dean to be evaluated through the Miami Dade County system, it was the end of the first grade year. It took nearly daily pushing to get to this point and I was exhausted, frustrated and upset. It wasn't until a mother in his school approached me during a field day volunteering session in April that I realized why Dean could be learning differently or slower. She spoke to me about the possibility of Dean having dyslexia. Her son had been diagnosed with the same a year before and she cried to me about how she felt seeing Dean during a carnival where they received gifts for reaching a certain reading level. Clearly, Dean did not reach that level and sat in a corner crying. This was devastating to hear. I went home and cried to my husband that night. I was even more frustrated with the system taking so long to discover this! His teacher kept trying to explain that he could do the work but was just being “LAZY,” a word I have come to LOATH in this process. I knew he WANTED to do it, but I also knew he was struggling to do it! My son was NOT lazy, or stupid. He was brilliant and misunderstood or misdiagnosed! How can a first grade reading teacher not see the signs of dyslexia! It is common but I feel a plays into the flawed system. 1 in 5 children have dyslexia. This should be a mandatory class in every teachers educational road.
I woke up the next morning and frantically began my journey. I researched dyslexia along with many other disabilities. I knew almost immediately two things, 1. Dean was certainly dyslexic. I did not need a doctor to tell me this but needed it to prove to the school that he needed extra help! And 2. A self-realization that Dean inherited his dyslexia from me. Yes, I realized that I too suffered exactly as Dean did in elementary school and beyond. I was never diagnosed, but I was forced to repeat first grade…for not reading at the level of my peers. Shocker!
Needless to say, this self-realization and seeing how my school life from elementary through college was affected because of not only my deficiencies, but because of my lack of confidence in having repeated first grade, I knew that I would not and could not allow the same to happen to my baby boy. I knew then that I would do anything in my power to avoid this from happening to him.
My husband and I ended up having Dean privately evaluated. A financial hit I was willing to take to ensure proper and quick diagnosis so that we could better understand Dean’s way of learning and start working on improving it as well as improving his outlook on school and his self-confidence. Each day that ticked by I saw his spirit, confidence and heart shatter more and more. As a mother, this was where the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness came into play. During the summer going into second grade we were contacted by the school board’s psychologist in order to schedule an evaluation of Dean. It took just over 10 months to get this to happen and I was on them. I can’t imagine the parents who don’t have the time, it would take over a year at a minimum. I informed them I had had an evaluation done privately and provided them a copy.
Second grade began and I was heartbroken to find out that Dean had the same teacher for Reading in second grade. During his private evaluation he was asked to speak about his teacher and his evaluation read “Dean was engaged in conversation regarding his perspective on many aspects of his life. He reflected feeling that others do not like the way he does things, and that he has too many problems (ie. Reading and math). Overall, he wishes he did not have to go to school, that he is always bored during school, and that his teachers can be unfair. In fact, he endorsed that his teacher makes him feel bad and that his classmates sometimes make fun of him. He generally feels frustrated, noting that he does not seem to do anything right and that he gets nervous a lot.” I scheduled an immediate meeting with the vice principal and brought a copy of the evaluation with me. We sat and discussed it. They could not do anything to help us as they only had two second grade classes and the other was their “gifted” classroom. I was beyond frustrated and we demanded to meet with the teacher. She brought her in immediately and we showed her the evaluation. Her reaction brought me to a halt. She became emotional and couldn’t understand how he felt this way and promised to ensure he would never feel this way again. She was a great person and a mom as well. You could see she was affected by this news. I trusted my instants and we continued on with second grade in the same school.
That same summer we found a program called Lindamood-Bell in Coral Gables that helped Dean begin to feel more secure and confident in himself with reading. We would spend the next two years digging every outlet imaginable to find him the perfect tutor. We went through a great reading tutor that he loved, but she took maternity leave and never came back. We then had a teacher from a great dyslexia and LD school, McGlannon. He struggled to maintain interest with her and I knew it wasn’t working. Then I stumbled across a JustAskBoo ad for a tutor. I researched her extensively and was impressed. We had an initial session for free because of the ad and from the moment I witnessed their interaction, I knew deep in my heart, that I had finally found his person! I noticed her adoration for him instantly as well. After all, Dean is a pretty amazing kid. Who wouldn’t fall in love with him, but even then, I realized the bond they immediately shared, I would never find anywhere else again!
Dean’s second grade year went a bit more smoothly but with not much improvement. I had been pushing since the end of first grade for Dean to receive his IEP meeting. IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. This is the meeting where they give you those extra services and assistance for school learning. The IEP meeting was scheduled for November and I was so very prepared for this meeting. That same mom that had come to me with the dyslexia bomb attended alongside my husband, another specialist and myself. I was so grateful to my husband and these women for being there to back me up. The school was in agreement with almost everything we requested, especially when we told them we would be leaving the school the following year. This school was a charter and just didn’t have the resources to help him the way a public school system could. They informed me that he couldn't review Occupational Therapy (OT) because they had to do further evaluations for this. More hoops to jump through.
It took me all of second grade to research what school would work best for Dean with the help of Janice. Finally deciding on his current school last summer, my husband and I quickly knew it was the best decision we had made for him. From the first day of school, he exhibited instant signs of happiness and comfort in his new school. He was my confident and secure boy again! The most rewarding moment came in October when he received Honor Roll, I cried that night when I learned he would be included in the Honor Roll assembly. He, again, received not just Honor Roll but Superior Honor Roll this past February during his second quarter. All the hard work we all had put into his learning goals and confidence was finally paying off! All his struggles and disappointments had finally turned a corner and he began to see HIS hard work paying off. I was thrilled beyond belief!
COSTS TO DATE:
Lindamood-Bell:$11,500.00 5 week (5days per week, 4 hrs/day)
Tutor 1:$70/week ($35/hr - 2x/week)
Tutor 2:$150/week ($75/hr – 2x/week)
Tutor 3:$200/week ($125/hr – 2x/week)
As you can see, we have invested an extensive amount of money and time into ensuring that Dean is well rounded, learning to cope with his disabilities, happy and feeling success. No amount of money would ever be too much for me to invest in my son. Ensuring that he gets what he needs is more important than anything else money could ever buy. In addition, the time I have spent researching, studying, learning everything I could about his diagnosis and the school system was irreplaceable and necessary. I am the only one that knows my son and can advocate for him. And it is so important to understand the ins and outs of advocating. I am no expert, but I know where to start and how to get them moving a little quicker now.
Not all families are as financially stable enough to provide services for their child and with no help from insurance it leaves families with little options other than taking what they get from the school system. This is where Movers & Makers was born. I knew there was something I needed to take from my experience and turn it into a positive. I decided to undergo this work and help families not only financially but emotionally as well. Our goal is to help families find the right resources to help you advocate, the right resources to get you through the school system and, my biggest mission, to provide financial support to families seeking additional services their children NEED. Children are our future, and ensuring that their learning fits them and they receive the extra help they need, will help build our children up with confidence and love! That is Movers & Makers goal!