Learning to Read as a Dyslexic: Learning Challenges (Part 4)

Categories: Learning Challenges, Léo’s Insights 2018-2019 Academic Year

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I realize that this story should likely be in the archives as “ancient history.” After all, it is about an old man’s personal experience in school, many decades ago. However, some things actually don’t change much and if they do, it is not usually for the better.

I share this story with you because I have seen recurring variations on this theme during the many years I have been involved in education and I believe you need to hear this.

I didn’t learn to read when I was “supposed” to. However, I was intelligent enough to be able to fool my teachers into believing I had developed the skill. I was not interested in those silly Dick & Jane primers with pansy names like Spot and Puff for pets. They just did not appeal to me.

I do, however, remember panicking in grade three when there was more to memorize in order to create an illusion of competency and I started fearing that I would soon get “busted.”

However, it was my intense desire to learn more about the creatures around me that really exposed my lack of skill in reading. The school did not provide me with a compelling reason to want to learn to read. My wanting to learn, and to learn about birds in particular, made me realize I needed to make sense of the letters, words, sentences and paragraphs that accompanied the pictures in the books about birds that interested me.

I taught myself to read at age eight because I was ready, and I was ready because I had reason to be. I didn’t learn to read with Dick and Jane, I learned with The Birds of America because it had something to teach me about something I was interested in.

This is worth repeating, so please listen. I didn’t learn to read with Dick and Jane in school, I learned by wanting to comprehend the complex information in The Birds of America because it had something to teach me about something I was interested in.

Although I always knew I was “different” from the rest, I was too busy inventing survival techniques and far too disinterested to find out what made my teacher say I was intelligent but unteachable. Perhaps I am older than the “condition,” but I would be nearly 50 years old before I would “discover” that I had a “learning disability” called DYSLEXIA.

I wasn’t actually “learning disabled,” as I was learning an enormous amount about birds and nature in general. I was “school disabled” because the school did not know me or the way in which I learned or what interested me. Many years later when I read Ron Davis’ book which called dyslexia a gift rather than a condition, I finally became comfortable with being “me.”

As the years went by, I came to understand that I was not inferior to other more normal people as much as I was different. I discovered that I was able to do what others could not and, as a consequence of my being different, I had a special obligation to use my gifts and talents to make a difference in this world.

I pretty much kept my “condition” to myself until a few years ago when HSLDA Canada had a feature article about dyslexia in one of its magazines. It contained a picture of a dyslexic girl with a big crocodile tear on her face.

I was so upset by what I saw and read that I pulled my support for that organization, as I perceived that they were much more interested in normalizing “school” in all of its facets than in advancing a biblical alternative. I don’t believe anything has changed in this case, but I digress!

What actually put those big tears on that child’s face? She likely did not know she was dyslexic. She was comfortable with who she was until someone told her that something was wrong with her.

It was only then that she realized that God had made a mistake when He created her. At least that was how others viewed her. That’s what put that tear on her cheek. Boy, did I connect with her and her tears! Flashback to my younger years.

How do you think she felt? The article continued with a bunch of “science” to support the agency that would “fix” her infirmity, for a fee, of course!

A child’s inability to meet the absurd and immeasurable expectations of “professionals” deemed her to be disabled or deficient. Who would do that, except those who insist on conformity or those who have found a way to capitalize on it?

I am not saying that there are not good programs available to assist people with their learning, IF in keeping with who they are and how they learn. But I deplore making those who do not fit “standard expectations” into freaks or as having “conditions” that need fixing! Perhaps that explains why I bristle when parents try doing the same!

God’s does not make junk and He does not make mistakes. No child is junk. No child is a mistake. No child needs fixing.

That kind of thinking is rooted in the belief that we are nothing more than a cosmic collision of molecules that did not quite collide properly, resulting in something man, in his “superior” intelligence, is able to repair. It is rooted in a deeply religious belief in “nothingness” rather than God.

No wonder there are tears on the cheeks of those beautiful children. Who wants to be fixed by people demonstrating this level of ignorance? No child is born stupid. They are made stupid by stupid information and/or informants who believe stupid things.

Learning to read was a pivotal point in my life much as it would be in anybody’s life, but for me it was a struggle. I had developed far too many dyslexic survival strategies as a consequence of my being forced to read before I was ready.

What it took was my passionate desire to learn about nature in general, and birds in particular, to provide the impetus which led to my desire to learn the skill. Once there, I became a voracious reader.

(Just to make a point, the work I did as a child before even ”graduating” from high school was eventually purchased by the Government of Alberta and is now a part of the Royal Alberta Provincial Museum. This was accomplished after I got home from school, which was to me a needless distraction from my work!)

It is hardly front page news that everybody is different. However, when there is a one size-fits-all school system, should someone not “fit,” he or she is deemed to be a “misfit” that needs “fixing.”

Combine that absurdity with the understanding that the more “misfit” we can make a child, the more value they have in the “special needs” industry, and you will understand why I have such profound misgivings about many of the special needs defined by schools.

All children can and will learn to read when they are ready, and in their own way. All they need is encouragement. They do not need to be made into failures and freaks, like I was or that cute girl with the big tear on that magazine cover.

Celebrate the differences God has created and do not be conformed to this world. Provide opportunity to master “weaknesses” but let them fly with their strengths. And remember, God does not make junk!

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