New parents hope that their children will be perfect. Unfortunately, there is often disappointment when reality sets in.
We have always cared about the welfare of our children, but now each child seems to matter more as family size is decreasing. Fortunately, much can be done now to help children with disabilities. Difficulty with reading, dyslexia, is a good example.
Dyslexia is estimated to affect as many as 20 percent of people – one in five! Reading is an amazingly complex skill, so it is no wonder so many people have difficulty. As many females have dyslexia as males, but girls tend to stand out less. Dyslexic boys often act out in school, while girls with the same problem tend to become quiet and not call attention to themselves.
Teachers are recognizing dyslexia more now than when I was in school. I remember struggling with reading in first grade. I envied one of my classmates who read much better than I. Many years later at a reunion when I mentioned this to her, she replied, “Didn’t you know I was repeating first grade?”
Probably both she and I suffered from dyslexia. I managed to squeak by until seventh grade, when my English teacher realized that something was wrong. Mr. Johnson focused on the spelling part of the problem. I’m a pretty good speller now, but unfortunately, I am still a slow reader.
My freshman year in college was rough. I was faced with large volumes of reading that I couldn’t plough through at my slow pace of 200 words per minute. Once again, coaching helped me. Only recently have I realized that the basic problem is that I have mild dyslexia.
Unfortunately, dyslexia is ignored frequently, as it was with me. Its treatment is time consuming and expensive, and it is best to start early. Although some adults are successful despite dyslexia, many are not so fortunate because they get off to a bad start in school. This can lead to poor self-esteem, dropping out of school and perhaps even to criminal activity.
Two-thirds of prisoners have poor reading skills, and many of these have been found to be dyslexic.
Research on dyslexia is ongoing, but two doctors developed an effective method of treating it. The Orton-Gillingham method employs multiple senses in its approach, including visual, auditory and kinesthetic pathways. A student will see a word, say the same word and write it at the same time so it gets firmly implanted in her brain. This is very intensive of teachers’ time because it involves one-on-one interaction, but amazingly successful in improving reading ability.
It is wonderful that our community has a school that offers education for dyslexics. In fact, it is so good and so well known that it has attracted families to move here. The Liberty School provides state-of-the-art instruction for kids from first through eighth grades. It also has programs to challenge children who are exceptionally bright. Often children will spend only a year or two at the school, to get an educational boost.
A friend sent two of her children to the Liberty School, not because they were doing poorly in the public schools but because she thought that they could do better. Indeed, they improved markedly! Her daughter went from performing at a fifth-grade level in math to 12th grade – in just one year! The son hadn’t been writing well, but at Liberty wrote a great play together with classmates.
My friend couldn’t say enough good things about Liberty and the influence it had on her kids. She is a school psychologist as well as being an excellent, involved mother.
One of the keys of Liberty is integration: The older kids help the younger, and those who read well help the ones who don’t. I observed this when I visited the school recently. I interviewed several of the students; all were enthusiastic about their school and the progress they were making. I saw lots of smiling faces.
The Liberty School is building a new facility up Junction Creek Road. It will not only be state-of-the-art but also have wonderful land for recreation and nature studies. There was an excellent story about their campaign on the front page of the Herald recently.
Being able to help a child afflicted with dyslexia succeed in life is just one advantage of a small family. Fortunately, we live in a society that does not judge people by the number of children they have.
Richard Grossman practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Durango. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. © Richard Grossman MD, 2016