Since they began teaching the alphabet at school, my son, Jose, has had difficulties. We noticed how a once attentive and lively boy began falling behind in reading and writing. The school initially told us that Jose was a restless child and had problems concentrating. This is when our journey began. First, the neurologists said that he did not have anything wrong with him. The psychologists concluded that he did not have emotional problems. The ophthalmologist sent us to an optometrist because he believed it was a visual problem. Jose was prescribed with special glasses and attended visual therapy sessions, which maybe aided him in other issues, but not to read better. Later we were sent to have Jose undergo motor therapy because it was thought that he had what they called a lateral problem. Then learning therapy because they said he had a small degree of attention deficit disorder. Even though he showed advancements, he still struggled to read. As his mother, I would dedicate a lot of time helping him with homework and it would frustrate me that he would not be able to read the word in Spanish “un,” but would be able to read the lengthy word “elefante” causing me to yell at him to pay attention.
Then it was time to enroll Jose in elementary school, and my main concern became his unusual behavior as he began hiding underneath the hood of his sweatshirts. He would come home with his sleeves and collar soaked in saliva, and he began wetting the bed at night. Thus we began our second round of appointments with psychologists, neurologists, optometrists, therapists, etc. I would pray for someone to give us an accurate diagnosis. After speaking to the therapists and the school, we were considering either changing schools to one that was not bilingual or having Jose repeat the school year.
It was then that my sister mentioned that our cousin, Elsa, was a Speech Language Pathologist and Certified Academic Language Therapist in the United States. So I called her and she said the only way to diagnose him was to visit her in Brownsville, Texas. Hopeful, my husband and I traveled with Jose to see her. Elsa did us a huge favor by making it possible to administer all the appropriate testing in one day. The following day we received the answer we had been searching for, Jose was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Elsa told us that our son was very intelligent and since he was bilingual he was perfectly capable of staying in his same school, but his teachers would have to use a different approach as he would need to learn things another way.
She recommended for us to return to Mexico and seek a therapist who specialized in the Orton-Gillingham now Structured Literacy method. To our surprise, there was no one in Mexico that was trained in this scientifically based approach. We contacted the International Dyslexia Association in the United States and they confirmed that there in fact were no Orton-Gillingham therapists in our city. In Mexico, dyslexia was not popular and all the therapists dedicated their time and services to ADD and ADHD patients.
The solution we came to was that the school therapist, who was interested in being trained, would travel to the United States with our support and would take the appropriate courses. With the help and direction of Elsa and her team, they would assist in a long-distance therapy for Jose.
The diagnosis changed Jose’s life. He understood what he had, and that the problem had a solution for him to read better. His problem was not necessarily a problem at all, but often times a gift for thinking differently. Together we read many books and we finally understood that Jose processed things differently and the only thing he needed was a different approach to learning.
It was like magic. During his therapy sessions, he revisited every letter and sound, every word, and began to read and write a lot better. His frustrations and anxiety disappeared. Jose became responsible for his learning and understood that it was something he would have to overcome for the rest of his life. Jose returned to being a happy boy!
At school, he was allowed to take a keyboard and that helped him to take more complete and more organized notes. Now, he would boast about having dyslexia and his classmates would envy him. Jose completed his therapy sessions and he began to get excited about reading. I could not believe that my son, who once was not able to read, would spend hours getting lost in books reading all the Harry Potter and Narnia books.
At the end of high school we realized that he was still struggling with spelling and for his final exams IGCSE allowed him to use the computer, but not the spell check, so Jose asked us for help. Jose received more sessions for spelling and writing. He still struggles but has learned strategies that help him and he uses assistive technology.
Today is Jose’s last day of high school. He will graduate and he enrolled at the Ibero-American University in the fall where he will be studying chemical engineering. I’m positive he will achieve greatness in his field and will be an extraordinary engineer. I admire his persistence and his confidence in his abilities and intelligence.
Throughout this whole journey I only regret the moments where impotence and uncertainty tormented me. However, I would never regret the endless search for any possible method to help my son. I am glad I was never satisfied with the diagnosis and various therapies that did not make any difference. These methods and diagnosis would have never changed his life for the better in the way it did when we discovered the truth.
I think the best advice I can give any parent who has a child with a learning difficulty is to never let hopelessness take over, do not give up seeking help, and always support your children. It is important your child is aware that this is the way they were made. As parents we can only guide our children by giving them all the resources possible to help them, and of course loving them very much. I assure you that one day like me, you will forget all the hardships encountered and will be very proud of the adult your child will become. Well hopefully forget, until you are asked to write about them.
Pilar Parás, Jose’s mother
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