Sometimes it’s a slow reader… and sometimes it’s dyslexia

When we learned that Cameron has dyslexia, a lot of people (all with younger kids – 7 and under) contacted me saying they thought their kid might have dyslexia, too. Without exception, those kids have turned out to not have dyslexia. They were just slow readers. Given time, usually just a few more months, they blossomed into excellent readers. I always told the parents that if they didn’t have a bunch of the signs of possible dyslexia, if it was just a bit of a struggle to read, to hold off on even considering testing. Because, usually, kids will learn to read just fine by about 8 (some without dyslexia will take longer, but most will at least be making significant progress by 8).

On the other hand, there are kids like Cameron who have huge warning signs and those should not be ignored. People kept telling me not to worry, he’d learn to read on his own, just relax. The problem is, sometimes it is dyslexia and the kid will never learn to read on his own. Today Cameron is reading pretty well on an early 4th grade level. Considering he is nearing the end of 4th grade, this is good. He’s not even a whole grade level behind anymore. He has gotten here through a lot of work and will continue working hard and hopefully catch up one day.

One day when Cameron was 9, I googled “dyslexia signs.” See, I knew there was something more going on than just a kid who was slow to read. When he was 6 1/2 we spent about 6 months teaching him the word “the.” A sight word that his older sister and middle brother (and most other people) learned in seconds. I knew that wasn’t normal, but figured he would get it eventually. But, three years later when he was 9 1/2, his reading wasn’t getting better. His writing was atrocious (3 years to learn to spell tree – he finally got it a few months ago!). I wanted to know just what we were dealing with so I could figure out how to help him. Someone once said to me “There are worse things than being illiterate.” I suppose that is true, but if I could help it, my son would not grow up to be illiterate.

So I googled. And that led me to one site after another that seemed to be describing Cameron. Sounding out was just hard for him. He read (still reads) very slowly. And so on, and, to top it all off, his father is almost definitely dyslexic, but by the time he was tested (in high school) he was able to compensate, so his diagnosis couldn’t be as specific as dyslexia. That website also gave me a new possibility for what was going on with Cameron: dysgraphia. I hadn’t heard of that before (and he definitely does have that, too).

If you have a child who is struggling with reading, especially if that child is over 8 or 9 years old, check out that list. Your kid may just be a slow reader, but they may have dyslexia. And if they have dyslexia, the worst advice is “give it time” or “just wait and see.” The good news is, while Cameron will always have dyslexia, it’s not all bad. I think a lot of Cameron’s problem solving skills and other strengths are because of, not in spite of, his dyslexia. It can be a challenge, but it’s a gift, too.