When I was in 4th grade, one of my classmates struggled to read and pronounced the word dog as (b- Ōg). The class would laugh as he read and uttered words. I witnessed how sad he became because he was being laughed at. It was not only the students that would laugh, but I even saw the teacher laugh as he tried to articulate the words. This sequence of events continued throughout the school year. I felt how more and more withdrawn my classmate felt every time we had to read aloud in class. My classmate started to withdraw from the other students. He was not playing at recess and ate lunch by himself.
The following year, my classmate that stumbled to read was no longer in my class. Our homeroom teacher told the class that our classmate had Dyslexia and he was going to another school. The kids in the class thought, “oh my gosh, how long does he have to live?” As is if this was cancer. Some kids asked, “I sat next to him, could I have gotten it?” Parents were also asking questions about could it “spread"!
Dyslexia is a learning disability that people have trouble processing words or numbers. It does not mean you are not smart or motivated to learn; it is a processing issue. Dyslexia is not a disease! It is a condition a person is born with, and it often runs in families. People with Dyslexia are not stupid or lazy. Most have average or above-average intelligence, and they work hard to overcome their learning problems.
Several years later, I saw my old classmate at Taekwondo. We chatted and talked about how the years have gone since we were in class together. He shared some fantastic art he had made and how he had adjusted after leaving our class. He went on to tell me how difficult it was to have others laugh at him every time he tried to read. He said he was even told he was dumb and stupid. Being only in 4th grade, he had thoughts of suicide as he felt so low from the bullying. Fortunately, he said his parents sent him to a new school that worked with him, and he has been able to read better, focus on new talents, and accept his disability as an ability!
Being from a small town in Idaho, we do not have the resources available as some big cities. I never want a child to feel as my classmate did because of the lack of knowledge of children, adults, and even teachers. I started Dyslexia Champion, ( www.Dyslexiachampion.com) a nonprofit 501c3 organization to have a venue to share ideas, programs, and be a resource for people with Dyslexia and others to learn about Dyslexia.
Grace Lutheran High School
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