written by Tami O
Addy is a 10 year old girl who wants to help others understand what it’s like to live with Dyslexia. Her mother, Sarah, has fought for both representation and better learning experiences for her daughter, which brought them to Lexia Learners, where Addy’s reading skills have improved at an incredible rate.
Excited to increase awareness, Sarah and Addy were kind enough to speak me about their experiences, sharing their view on Dyslexia and how tutoring has changed the way Addy deals with its effects.
Interview edited for clarity.
The Experience of Dyslexia
To Addy, words “feel like they haunt me around everywhere.” And to both Addy and her mother, it’s an experience that many don’t seem to understand.
Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 American students and is the most common learning disability, yet many fail to acknowledge its effects, especially on school-aged children.
“Most kids her age are at a totally different level than she is and that affects playing games,” explained Sarah, expressing her frustration at the way others take the ability to read for granted. Activities like board games and card games become a challenge when they involve words - a fact that many seem to forget.
This lack of understanding causes children like Addy to draw away from social situations, preventing them from fully enjoying social relationships because other children don’t understand why she can’t read like them. Addy expressed how the stigma against her Dyslexia often caused her to draw back from playing with others.
“It'd be nice if more people understood what Dyslexia meant and what it was,” Sarah continued.
Despite the difficulty of living with Dyslexia, however, Addy and Sarah keep moving forward to find the best opportunities for Addy, regardless of the time and effort it takes.
“You don't want your children to suffer or struggle,” explained Sarah, “so figuring out what she needs was a couple year journey. And when we finally found what we needed, which was Barton tutoring, it's been a huge difference for her.”
Solutions That Work
It was clear from our conversation that one of the most effective strategies for Addy was Sarah’s own encouragement. She has been an advocate for her daughter, and the positive impact of her presence shows through Addy’s improvement.
One result of Sarah’s efforts for her daughter is the discovery of Lexia Learners. After searching online for many different kinds of tutors, Sarah found the center through a homeschool Facebook group. Once at Lexia Learners, Addy’s reading and writing skills greatly improved thanks to Jess Arce, the owner of Lexia Learners, who taught Addy using Orton-Gillingham instruction - a multi-sensory approach to reading and writing instruction.
Addy explained how she felt connected to Jess’ teaching methods. “It's a good place, and I like this place and how [Jess teaches] me,” she explained.
In particular, Addy was excited that the strategies used at Lexia Learners didn’t require her to begin reading right away. “[Jess] said to look at the cards and say the letter sound,” she said, sharing how the multi-sensory methods used at Lexia Learners have helped her reading and writing skills grow.
Another helpful contributor to Addy was the presence of positive friendship, especially one particular friend who she feels comfortable speaking with about her Dyslexia. “She's my BFF, so I tell her everything, we tell each other everything,” she explained, “she knows about my Dyslexia, how my brain works, and she actually - she understands what's going on.”
Living with Dyslexia
With encouragement from family and friends and Jess’ specialized tutoring strategies, Addy’s skills and confidence have improved dramatically. By the end of our conversation she was sitting tall, proud to talk about Dyslexia - and her talents that work with it. “I can memorize any song,” she said proudly, sharing with us her dreams of becoming a rock star like Taylor Swift. Sarah was excited to talk about Addy’s incredible talent for learning through song, telling us about how she was able to learn history by singing the timeline.
They were also more than happy to share a few words with people who might not understand what Dyslexia is.
“I have a different kind of brain that other people do and I'm proud of that,” Addy affirmed.
Sarah continued, “just because they may not have a high reading level doesn't mean that their intelligence is anything less because that affects the kids around her who think she's not as smart, but that's not true - she's very intelligent, she just struggles with words.”
I asked them about the value of open conversation on Dyslexia, and both agreed that it would be helpful.
“For a while she didn't want to talk about being Dyslexic,” Sarah commented. “She didn't like being different, but there's been a change.” She affirmed that it’s thanks to tutoring that Addy is now, “more okay with talking about it and wants people to know,” that she is Dyslexic.
“That's that,” concluded Addy, confidently.
“That's that,” agreed Sarah.
Sarah and Addy’s conversation with me proves that by talking about Dyslexia openly, we’ll be able to create better environments for those who struggle with it. In the meantime, positive influences from parents, friends, and tutors like those at Lexia Learners can help improve a child’s reading
and spelling skills and their confidence to keep chasing their dreams - just like Addy.
Special thanks to Addy and Sarah for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us!
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, (also referred to as Irlen Syndrome and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests.
Scotopic Sensitivity Self-Test
If you answer yes to 3 or more of the following questions, your child may benefit from Irlen Spectral Filters or using overlays at school. To learn more schedule a consultation.
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome Affects:
Symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity
With Dyslexic Dysgraphia a person’s spontaneously written work is illegible, copied work is pretty good, and spelling is bad. Finger tapping speed (a method for identifying fine motor problems) is normal. A Dyslexic Dysgraphic does not necessarily have Dyslexia. Dyslexia and Dysgraphia appear to be unrelated but often can occur together.
Motor Dysgraphia is due to deficient fine motor skills, poor dexterity, poor muscle tone, and/or unspecified motor clumsiness. Generally, written work is poor to illegible, even if copied by sight from another document. Letter formation may be acceptable in very short samples of writing, but this requires extreme effort, an unreasonable amount of time to accomplish and cannot be sustained for a significant length of time. Writing is often slanted due to holding a pen or pencil incorrectly. Spelling skills are not impaired.
Spatial Dysgraphia is due to a defect in the understanding of space. This person has illegible spontaneously written work, illegible copied work, but normal spelling and normal finger tapping speed. Students with Spatial Dysgraphia often have trouble keeping their writing on the lines and difficulty with spacing between words.
Phonological Dysgraphia is characterized by writing and spelling disturbances in which the spelling of unfamiliar words, non-words, and phonetically irregular words is impaired. Individuals with Phonological Dysgraphia are also unable to hold phonemes in memory and blend them in their appropriate sequence to produce the target word.
Lexical Dysgraphia is evidenced when a person can spell but relies on standard sound-to-letter patterns with misspelling of irregular words. This is more common in languages such as English and French which are less phonetic than a language such as Spanish. This type of Dysgraphia is very rare in children. Some children may have more than one type of Dysgraphia. Symptoms, in actuality, may vary in presentation from what is listed here.
Dysgraphia and the US Public School System
It is often thought that continued handwriting practice will improve a Dysgraphic student’s ability to use paper and pencil alone as a useful tool to complete all their written schoolwork. In cases of Dysgraphia, “practice does not make perfect.” Also, as these students get older and written demands continue to increase each year, it is very common for these students to often write the minimum just to “get by” and their attitude about school and themselves can be negatively impacted to a significant degree. Read more
Jess Arce is a homeschool mom of four, a tutor for children & adults who struggle with Dyslexia & Dysgraphia and an all around entrepreneur. She is passionate about helping others understand dyslexia.