Our Tiny Dancer was mid-way through kindergarten and I was noticing that she was not reading yet. She just danced around it. I know you’re not supposed to compare your children, but I was. My son had been and still is steadfast in his studies, zipping through his academics. My daughter was not. So when I mentioned that I might put our Tiny Dancer in a reading program, her teacher assured me she would keep an eye on her. “Don’t worry,” she told me, “she’ll be reading in no time.”
At the end-of-year conference, I was still worried. Our Tiny Dancer’s teacher agreed that our daughter was not reading yet. I had to follow my gut. I started our daughter in a reading program for the summer assuming that this would get her up to speed and prepare her for first grade.
The summer came and went. So did the reading program, and she still was not reading.
I was at a loss – frustrated and defeated. I just wanted to help our daughter, but I didn’t know what to do.
First grade started and I had my first light of hope – we were assigned the same teacher who had taught our son. She knew our family, I trusted her. At Back to School Night, I pulled her aside and found she was sensitive to my concerns. She offered to help our Tiny Dancer with her sight words and pay close attention to her reading skills. I approached first grade with the same commitment. Each night I read with my daughter. We worked on sight words. Though, no matter how much time we spent, nothing changed. There was still no sign of reading.
When we sat down for a conference with the teacher in November, she affirmed our concerns. Her solution: she would devote more one-on-one time to our daughter. I was thankful – and disappointed! I didn’t want to hear about a solution we had already tried. I wanted to hear about assessment. I wanted to hear about a plan to find out what was going on.
That’s when I reached out to the parents in our school community who had children getting help from the school. They informed me that the initial step was to schedule a Student Support Team (SST). So we did. It was not easy to do. We started by reaching out to the school psychologist. She told us it would be 4+weeks before she could meet with us. Needless to say, I was frustrated. We were halfway done with first grade. Time was going by and our daughter needed help.
My frustration wasn’t different from the powerlessness I started to notice in my daughter. Not only had she began to acknowledge that she was not reading, but she also began to take note that everyone else around her was. Her confidence went down hill; her self-esteem started to run in the red zone. She didn’t want to learn how to ride her bike, hoola hoop, or participate in the general activities that her friends were doing because she worried that she would fail. As parents, my husband and I were heartbroken for her. We were more determined than ever to stop this incredible, unthinkable, fear of failure feeling of hers.
We finally had the SST! So there we were in a room – my husband and I gathered around a table with the school psychologist, Tiny Dancer’s first grade teacher, the special education specialist, the speech therapist, and the school principle. We had a conversation, and here’s the thing: it was the same conversation that we had had with each and everyone at the table in the past. What can we do? What is the decisive action we can take to support this child? Great, put her in the front of the class. Awesome? On one hand, we walked away from the meeting feeling hopeful. It was empowering to know everyone shared the common goal of helping our Tiny Dancer. On the other hand, it was not enough. I knew that I had to go outside of the school for support.
When we were referred to Morrissey Compton, I knew I had found an organization that could meet our family’s needs. From my initial phone call when we scheduled our daughter’s assessment, every person we encountered was nurturing and informed. They explained the process from start to finish and answered all of our questions; we had the utmost confidence that we were heading in the right direction. We were right. Unlike the other reading tests, Morrissey Compton made the Tiny Dancer’s full comprehensive IQ test and academic achievement test fun. This may sound ironic, but when we learned of our daughter’s test results, we were relieved to finally know she was dyslexic.
We now had the information and resources to support our Tiny Dancer! And yes, to get the help we needed – it required us to go outside of our school. It is the best thing we could have done for her and her learning needs.
If you are going through a similar experience with your child, please contact me. I know I can offer help and guidance. Figuring out what is going on with your child is more then half the battle. Keep positive! It only gets better, and there are many organizations and people ready to help you on your journey!