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The following are parts to several chapters from our book:

No Child Teacher Left Behind
by m.m.masko

 

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronically, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the author.

Copyright 2007

A special thank you to Mike, Megan, Hannah, Michael, & Nicholas for teaching me to think in a new way and for Rebekah for thinking like her mother

 

 

Preface

I will begin my story by asking that you sit with me next to my dyslexic child as I have done for the past ten years. I believe that through this book you will begin to see through their eyes and learn, both the frustrations that are placed on them and the enormous talents that they have to offer. If you are a teacher I hope that by reading about my children and listening to their words you will think of other children in your own classrooms that come to mind. They are in desperate need of understanding from you. By learning to understand them you will become the hope for their future and for all children like them who will sit in your classroom in the years to come.

 

 

 

A Picture Into The Future
     I could hear the frustration coming from down the basement as my husband, of two years, worked to mount a set of ducks. He had recently decided he wanted to learn how to do taxidermy so he began to stop in at local businesses to get some pointers and was now attempting to complete a duck mount. When I headed down to see what the problem was, he quickly grabbed my arm and pulling me over to see the ducks. He exclaimed that he was having a problem getting the feet to look right. He then asked me if I thought their feet needed to be turned up a little more, as he wanted them to look as though they were landing on a lake. I remember looking intently at the ducks and responding that they looked okay to me.

    "No", he tried again. “Picture a duck landing on the water. Should the feet go up a little?" I vaguely remember laughing and telling him I probably couldn't picture the duck- let alone it's feet landing. Still serious, I remember him saying again "just picture it" as I ascended the stairs shaking my head and laughing......

....... Little did I know at the time but this fleeting picture would come back to me as I was to enter the world of trying to understand what it meant to be dyslexic once my children began school. This story is about the past ten years of my learning and coming to appreciate what being dyslexic means through the experiences with my husband and my children.

 

Chapter 1- Megan 

     Megan was our first born. After having had a miscarriage and then a long bed rest with her we were more then happy to finally have her here and anxiously looked forward to her growing and learning years. As she grew from an infant to a toddler, it became apparent that Megan was going to be our shy child. Always peeking out to observe the action from behind my legs she never ventured far from my side. I worried that her shyness would become an issue once she went to kindergarten and thought that more interaction with other kids might help her overcome it. At that time we decided to enroll her in a Montessori school for preschoolers. At the preschool she didn't particularly like the school work but the teacher noted that Megan had a gifted imagination and could involve others in make believe play with little effort. Overall she did well and enjoyed going to school.
       Sometime around four years of age we noticed that she began to write and draw the majority of her work upside down. I remember wondering if I should worry about this. Oddly enough if you showed her an upside down letter she quickly righted it telling you it went the correct side up. I figured it was just a stage, and when it seemed to completely disappear at age five I didn't think about it again.
       When Megan was four her sister Hannah came along. I had spent three long months in the hospital during my pregnancy, which I knew was hard on Megan and her increased shyness was even more evident. Continuing at the Montessori school helped and as time went on Megan finally started elementary school. We enrolled her at the small parochial school in town where she knew a lot of the kids so it wasn't too hard on her to make the adjustment from home to school.
      Kindergarten and first grade for Megan seemed fine, but when second grade started everything seemed to fall apart. At this time I had Hannah at home and newborn Rebekah added to the mix. Things were already hectic at home and this unexpected difficulty with school didn't help with my time issues.
    In second grade Megan would bring home vocabulary sheets. She was unable to read neither the words at the top nor the words in the sentences below. Anyone who has ever worked with a new reader sounding out every word can picture most of my nights with Megan. We would sound everything out and when she knew which words went into the blank in the sentence, she would ask me to spell the word. I thought at first she didn't know what word went into the blank, so I would begin the resounding process all over again. Usually she would stop me and point to the correct word, poise her pencil over the blank and again ask me to spell it. After questioning her I began to realize that she knew what word belonged where, but for some reason she couldn't look at the word and then recopy it to the blank. It just was too difficult for her to do.
      Each night we would do an average of two worksheets of homework and then usually spelling or another subject that involved reading. For spelling we usually did the practices orally. As I did the dishes I would call them out and she would spell most of them without a hitch. So imagine my frustration on Friday, when papers were returned, most spelling paper were a D or an E. I couldn't believe it. I asked Megan what was happening, as I knew the day before she had spelled them all correctly. My returned answer from Megan was a frustrated "I don't know" and then an "I hate school. Do I have to go tomorrow?"
      I remember studying spelling words with Megan late one night. The next spelling word was T H E N. Megan consistently spelled it THAN. I tried to help, asking if she knew how to spell H E N? Yes, she easily spelled HEN. I explained that the word THEN ended with HEN and simply had a T in front of it. Again and again she would spell it THAN. She could even explain what I had told her about the word HEN but she could not apply it. After about twenty minutes on this word I told her she had worked hard and sent her to bed. When the test came back on Friday THEN was spelled THAN.
       At the time I remember thinking something isn't right. Why, I had been an all A student in second grade. It was suppose to be fun, and this definitely didn't qualify as being remotely fun for either Megan or me.
     

 

Chapter 2 - Hannah

     Hannah was in kindergarten when it became quite apparent that she would follow in her sister's footsteps. Most letters that Hannah attempted to make were completely backwards. After a couple papers came home, I stopped by to see the kindergarten teacher. I explained that I thought Hannah needed help. She had seen the same things and because she was familiar with Megan's learning problems, she had placed Hannah with a small group of kids who saw Mrs. H. Mrs. H. was now a staff member of the school so Hannah would see her during the school day.
     I remember thinking that this was good as maybe because she was "caught" earlier she wouldn't have such a rough time as Megan did. 
Hannah in the mean time was showing all her dyslexic colors! Her tutor, that had helped Megan, said Hannah was in her own world most of the time. She said that Hannah often just daydreamed while she explained lessons. Hannah also wrote everything backwards including her name. I got to know that papers not worth looking at started with a tired Hannah spelled "M. hannaH" for Hannah M.
     Once she started second grade it helped that her teacher had also had Megan so she alerted me to new issues with Hannah. One such concern was when she once wrote to the amazement of both her teacher and me a paper starting from the lower right corner of the paper and ending at the top left corner, completely backwards! We decided after some time that we needed to have some testing done and it appeared Hannah also had a processing disorder too. Accommodating her, Hannah's teacher put her in the front row and would touch her shoulder when she gave directions for the class in order to tune Hannah in to what was happening in the classroom.
     At home directions were often a problem for her. I would send her upstairs asking her to do two things, after twenty minutes I would go upstairs looking for her. Often she would be playing. When I asked her if she had completed the tasks asked of her, more often then not she looked confused and didn't remember what she was suppose to do. I began to quiz her before I would let her go upstairs about what she was expected to do. If she could repeat it back to me, usually she completed it without problems.
      I have to say Hannah most certainly struggled and probably didn't learn a lot due to the severity of her dyslexia, but having a caring teacher at school made the frustrations easier to deal with for both Hannah and myself. I felt we had a two way street. The teacher would sometimes suggest things that we could try. She didn't always have the answers but she would listen to my input and together we tried to figure out what to do.
     At the end of second grade I decided to home school my children. I told my husband that I was spending five hours most nights now and they were learning very little. I simply didn't have more time to teach them after we finished their homework. They needed to learn at the level they were at and not just have to keep up with the paperwork because it was due.
      Although I worried that I might not have all the answers on how to teach them, I knew it couldn't be worse then what they were going through now.
     At the time we started to home school, Hannah was going into third grade. Her penmanship was completely illegible. She often could not remember which side to begin reading from. Start left reading towards the right or vise versa. Math was impossible. I couldn't teach her basic math skills because she never could remember the steps involved or even when adding, did she start from the left or the right.
     For hours we sounded out simple words. An example I remember was the word C A T. We would slowly sound the word out gradually putting it together faster by sounds, only to have her guess dog? when asked what the word was. She became an expert at phonics yet it held no meaning that you used phonics to help you decode words. It simply didn't work that way with her.
    

Chapter 8 Learning Differently 

  As I relive the years when the girls were in school I remember the frustrations of feeling like I was coming up to the school way too much. I needed the teacher’s cooperation if I wanted to help my girls yet was I making the teachers uncomfortable each time I visited? I would step back for a week or so then think, this is my child, I have to get back there and see what I can do. 
    I tried to read as much as I could about dyslexia. I especially was interested in any information on helping them achieve their maximum potential despite their dyslexia. 
     I found out that there were schools that specialized with teaching dyslexic students. The only school that I could find in
Michigan was near Detroit. That was a four to five hour drive from our house but Megan and I did drive down to visit it. After touring the school and getting tuition information I knew that the only way to afford the school was for me to work full-time as a nurse down in Detroit
and drive the girls both ways. The tuition would take my whole paycheck and what about the other three children. It just wasn't feasible.
    I continued to search the Internet for help. A web site I stumbled on to was ldonline. This site held a wealth of information. It also had a forum where teachers, parents, and other health professionals respond to your questions. I was able to post a question about some of the test results that the girls had received and a psychologist walked me through what the results meant. I even got a lot of good information from reading the other posts from parents going through the same issues as we were. It was nice to see I wasn't just a worrisome parent that the school had made me out to be. There were a lot of other parents out there that were frustrated that the schools didn't have the answers or even acknowledge our frustrations. All of us all wanted the same thing for our kids, a decent education to help prepare our kids for whatever they wanted to be in the future.
     It was amazing to read the horror stories of how some school systems were treating the kids and then not having answers would turn it around to make it look like we the parent were out of line when we questioned their progress.
At the time I asked a lot of teachers that I respected about the training in school that they had received for children that didn't learn like the majority of children. What did they recommend to do? Sadly most said it was hardly addressed.
     It was shocking to realize that teachers were trained to teach someone who learned like most kids. But what about the other kids, as there had to be more then my kids out there didn't there? There appeared to be no plan in place for them. At one time we even had one teacher tell my husband that you could only expect so much and Megan would never be a good student and that we should just accept it.
     None of us wanted to put a teacher on the spot regarding their education. We all felt that as an educator they could help point us in the right direction or with their schooling they might come up with good ideas to try that we didn't think or know about. It was extremely frustrating to realize there was no straight path to take that was tried and true, but once that realization came it was time for trial and error and we didn't have time to lose.
     Of course once I decided to home school many people thought I was part of an anti-teacher group. I had friends that home schooled for all sorts of reasons just like me and I found very few of us were anti-school. We just were simply trying to fill the needs of our children that the school system couldn't do.
     I had hoped that after being home schooled for a few years the children would have the skills needed to survive in a regular classroom. I just wasn't sure how to get to that point. I remember feeling angry because in my mind the teachers had already decided my girls’ future for them. With the skills they were receiving at that point they probably weren't going to college. It made me angry that the opportunity was being taken away from them. Many doors would be shut to their future if they didn't get help now. I honestly could see how a lot of these kids simply quit school because they couldn't deal with the ridicule or frustrations. It makes you wonder what a lot of high school dropouts might have achieved within their lives had some of their learning problems been addressed.
    

 Chapter 17 - Mike's Story

   When I was in school I didn't know that I was dyslexic. The other kids in my family did really well in school so the teachers would tell me that I needed to apply myself more. They said I was lazy and could do a lot better in school if I only tried a little harder.
   I didn't know what to do because I would spend hours studying for a test and then I would barely pass it. I figured I just wasn't as smart as the rest of the kids, but I couldn't figure out what they did differently. I felt like I was missing a page that everyone else had.
   In math I would daydream about other things because I couldn't catch on to what the teacher was saying. After doing poorly in algebra, the teacher told me that his class was the last math class I should attempt. He said I just didn't have the ability to go any further.
   The opposite was true in my art class. I took advanced art without any struggles of any kind. I flew through the material and was always one of the better students in the class. The same was true with my welding class. I was able to finish a years worth of material for that class in one semester. The teacher told me to work on whatever I wanted to because there was nothing new he could teach me.
   Any hands on class was easy for me. I was baffled when others in the class struggled to keep up. These were the same guys that did great in the math and history classes yet they couldn't keep up. It didn't make any sense. Doing something hands on is like a vacation to me. My mind is relaxed and it comes easily. It was hard to understand how I could do so well in these classes yet so poorly in classes where I just had to memorize the material like math and history.
   Until I was in my thirties and we were dealing with the problems Megan was having in school, I had no idea what it meant to be dyslexic. I thought people who were dyslexic read backwards or upside down and I knew I didn't do that.........    

 

If you would like to purchase the complete ebook or a hard copy of the book to share with your child's teachers click  HERE                                                 

 Michelle


 

 

 



 

 


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