What I Learned From My Teenage Daughter

When my daughter was in first grade I noticed that she was struggling with reading.  She had a hard time recognizing words even if she had seen the same ones a dozen times before.  It was as if every time she saw a word it was like seeing it for the first time.  

After a lot of battling with the school I was able to get her tested.  She definitely had a deficit and she was put into a special reading class to help her.  I was told that this kind of thing is common and students typically grow out of it.  But as the years stretched on there was very little improvement.

It was maddening to listen to her read out.  The only way to explain is it was so “Sesame Street”.  She would literally sound out each and every word trying so hard to get each word right.  It was slow and laborious and because she was so focused on pronunciation of each word she would forget what she was reading and her comprehension was way down.  I wanted to help her and I had to constantly bite my tongue and allow her to work through the material.

I worked closely with the school on different strategies to get her more secure in just reading with a focus on fluency and comprehension.  We worked with her to not be so insecure about mispronouncing a word and that it was more important to understand what she was reading and to use context clues to understand the text.

During this time, I was so afraid that she would quit reading and that she would start hating it because it was so hard for her.

I would sit with my daughter and let her read aloud to me.  I love my daughter, but boy was it painful to listen to knowing there was nothing I could do.

I would follow along in the book with her as she read.  I struggled to figure out where she was reading on the page.  Many times I would skim the page to figure out where she really was and I was completely clueless.  I had brought this up with her reading teacher and she had been experiencing the same thing.

After my daughter had read a few pages I would ask her to tell me what was going on in the story, to check comprehension.  Incredibly she was always dead on!  I was dumbfounded.  

What could possibly be going on?

One thing that was puzzling was she would skip small words like: and, the and at and she would take words like cottage and say house instead.  This told me that she could assimilate but it didn’t explain the strangeness of her reading.  Why was this happening?

As time moved on the school continued telling me that she would grow out of it.  By fourth grade she was getting severe migraines and throwing up and I was constantly picking her up from school because of it.  I finally got a letter from her doctor to keep ibuprofen and tylenol at school so that if she “felt” one coming on and we caught it in time, we could prevent the migraine.  She was finally subjected to an MRI which returned no results.

By the time she was in 5th grade they couldn’t figure out why she still struggled.  I looked into many different things.  Dyslexia, being one because she was still reversing letters and numbers, which is something little kids do when they are just starting to learn to read and write.

I struggled to get her to follow what the teachers recommendations.  She wanted to be just like the other kids and she didn’t want to be singled out as different.

She was to use her finger and follow along with the text, but this didn’t work because she was still unable to follow the text on the page.  The teacher then took a piece of paper that she could pull down the page line by line as she read so that her eyes would not go to the bottom of the page.  

In her special reading class she would do fine but everything the teacher came up with she refused to do in her classroom or at home.

I finally suggested to the reading teacher after doing more research to try colored overlays because sometimes students struggle with black print on white pages.  The contrast of dark print on light pages could be disruptive to reading.

This was something she liked to do.  Though it didn’t really help.

Every year the teachers would try new things.  Constantly testing her and noting that her reading level was way below her grade level.  In 6th grade she was reading at a third grade level.

An otherwise, brilliant student.  Straight A’s in all her classes, excelling at math and loving science and social studies.  Yet her reading lagged behind her other abilities.

As she got older her stubbornness progressed to hyper stubbornness.  We had and issue with her refusing to read at her reading level.

The school used the Lexile measurement for reading level.  The Lexile Analyzer measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader.  

We all wanted her to succeed with reading but she wasn’t because she thought the books at her level were boring. UGH!!!  She was interested in the books two grades above her grade and four above her Lexile.  It was a constant battle.

By 7th grade she was trudging through high school level novels but for class the teachers still required her to choose books for class at her Lexile level.

On top of all this she was an avid writer, constantly journaling and creating stories.  Although she had a “deficit” this didn’t stop her from reading and writing.  She just kept soldiering on.

By 8th grade the school took her off her IEP.  They did this because of her extraordinarily high IQ.  Which is not a good indicator for reading fluency and comprehension.   

It was all I could do to keep from launching myself across that conference room table and throttling the school principal when she told me that my daughter didn’t have to worry about spelling and grammar because that’s what we have computers for.  Who says that?!

I wasn’t going to take this lying down.  By now my daughter was well into adolescence and I had put her into therapy for depression.  Her therapist who happened to also be an educational therapist suggested additional testing.  The therapist took the IQ test that the school had done and did a series of tests to see where the reading issue really was.

When the results were presented, there was no clear deficit in her brain or ability to learn.  This was not an educational deficit.  My daughter’s therapist suggested that we get her eyes examined, she said that most reading issues are not reading issues at all, but a physical issue with the eyes.  Who knew?!!

I took my daughter to two specialists to have a series of tests done.  One tested what they call, big world, meaning the world as we see it around us in everyday life and the other did more educational world as in what we see in a classroom or when reading and writing.  

The results? My daughter had a tracking and a focusing issue with her eyes!!!  Mystery solved!!!  This explains the jumping around on the page, reversing of letters and numbers, migraines and even the depression she was experiencing.

And it is totally fixable.  Great!

Not great.

Insurance won’t cover the large price tag this type of therapy requires.  So we have a totally fixable problem that we can’t fix.  

I approached the school with the results of the testing and had accommodations put into place while I work to determine where the “magical funds” are going to come from to correct this issue.

Through it all my daughter has continued to learn and grow.  She loves to read and write and wants to be an author of all things!

Her stubbornness is seeing her through all of it.  She continues to move forward.  She has taken up writing fan fiction on a site called Quotev and she has entered a story into a contest for Scholastics.  She recently received notice that her submission was chosen for the Suburban Prairie Conference Literary Festival.

She doesn’t write well and her spelling is not great.  But she has fantastic word usage! She makes up for all of this with her creativity.

I seen her struggle and I have watched her persevere.  I admire her tenacity and stick-to-it-tive-ness.  

I have learned that adversity comes in many forms.  If we really have a dream, a desire then no obstacle is too tall and no challenge is too big.  

It’s your viewpoint that matters.

It’s our fears and our stinkin’ thinkin’ that stops us from moving our lives forward.

My daughter didn’t really realize that she had an issue because it is all she’s ever known.  She has learned to accommodate in a way that helps her to excel.  She knows that she learns best through doing versus typical classroom learning of lectures and writing notes.

I take a look at her and then at myself and I have to ask, how can I accommodate?  What can I do to move myself forward?

What are my deficits and what is ONE thing I can do today to move myself forward?  

What I did was I FINALLY published my first LinkedIn article.  I was terrified but I did it anyway.

What about you?  Do you find yourself living a life of mediocrity?  Do you have a dream?  Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but you’re putting it off?  What is one thing that you can do today to move yourself in the right direction?

Do what I did, take a lesson from my daughter.  She has overcome so many odds.  She has truly taken her struggle and turned it into her passion.  

Instead of running away from your issues.  Take a deep breath and run towards them.  That is where the magic happens.

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