Saturday, June 23, 2012

Can a child with dyslexia learn to love words?

My son has been diagnosed with dyslexia – a neurological disorder that affects your ability to read and write. But my pain has little to do with a label or a disability. In fact, the emptiness I’m trying to fill by writing these words is exactly what is creating the void.

I’m a mother and a lover of words since the day I learned to read.

As I watch my son struggle to learn reading skills that came so naturally to me, a fear takes root. I cannot imagine how it would feel not to be able to read well.

When I sit down to patiently read with my son it’s amazing to watch the process of someone working to become literate, right before your eyes. Almost every syllable is difficult for him. Each slight variation in pronunciation makes his nose wrinkle up as he deciphers each letter and word. It’s so very taxing. And the very nature of the difficulty is so hard for me to comprehend.

And, throughout this labored process, the “what if’s” sing out louder. “What if he can’t learn to read?” “What if he is able to read, but, since it’s so burdensome, he never truly learns to love the written word?”

I now realize that literacy is so much more than the ability to read and write at the functional level that our country’s education system strives toward as its universal goal. Yes, we want our children to learn the language, to be able to read a map or a medicine bottle so they can get where they’re going, take care of themselves and get a job.

But what about the language of literacy? True literacy, I mean. Literacy – as in the ability to read and to write fluently, not just for basic information, but for pleasure. The ability to love reading a classic, a gorgeously written piece of literature.

I know in my heart that my son is going to be fine. He is funny and already clearly gifted in the area of visual  reasoning, as many dyslexics are. I am confident that he will work hard, and just as important, learn to embrace what makes him different.

Maybe the question is not, will my son speak the language that I love so well, but, will I appreciate his form of expression? Perhaps my son will one day help me become literate in whatever language he finds most fitting to his sense of self and his unique gifts. And I look forward to becoming fluent in it together.

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