Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Odd Gifts

"Every problem comes bearing in its hands a gift."

Several years ago, I figured out that my daughter is mildly dyslexic. She has no problem reading because she recognizes words by their shape, but slowing down to sound out a new word is tricky, as is reading out loud. The biggest problem has been her spelling; she knows all the letters in a word, but has trouble getting them in the right order. The dyslexia affects her math, too, since getting numbers in the right order is even more critical than letters. I didn't mention dyslexia to her then because I have an aversion to labels - too often they become a noun defining the entire person instead of an adjective describing one component, and "I am dyslexic" becomes "I am a dyslexic".

Last fall, her frustration with her spelling was threatening to destroy her sense of competence, so I told her why she has so much trouble with it. She was happy to know that there is a reason for her fight with spelling, that she wasn't just stupid; the idea that she sees letters as three-dimensional objects that can be viewed from both sides made perfect sense to her, and helped explain why she has trouble keeping track of 'b's and 'd's, or 'p's and 'q's. Since then, we have explored how the dyslexia affects her and how she can work with it to accomplish her goals. I have worked hard to present it as just another attribute, like brown hair or blue eyes, rather than a defect, and as a type of creativity (there is more than one way to see things, even letters).

Tonight the payback occurred. I asked her to list three good things about herself, and the first one was, "I'm dyslexic; I like being able to see both sides of something."

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