When our daughter Amrita started speaking at one, reading at two and tackling chapter books at five, I attributed them to my efforts in our daily read aloud sessions and early exposure to the written word. But when our younger daughter, Sam, did not show similar milestones in her reading even at the ripe age of ten, it gradually dawned upon me that the earlier success with Amrita was more of the result of her brains being wired for the written word and less of my effort in teaching her! She could have taught herself to read for all I know! So, despite the fact that I didn’t really panic when Sam still could not, or would not read at the age of ten, it did not cancel out my efforts to goad her to read and write. (Sam dug out her old notebook to show me what I had made her write many years ago!) We had a good laugh!
But at that time, it was no laughing matter. Mummy was determined to make a reader out of this obnoxious girl! So determined was I that I drew out a reading schedule, enforced a reading quota, and started a points chart to entice her to read! Needless to say, older sister was way ahead in her points as she was a faster and better reader. So instead of motivating her, Sam had pretty much given up on trying! “What’s the point?” She must be thinking, zaza (older sister) will always be better than her! That explained the numerous tantrums and tears from her rebellion of reading and writing.
I had suspected that she had dyslexia when I checked the symptoms with a friend’s child who was diagnosed as having this condition. But I had refrained from having her diagnosed because I didn’t want her to feel that she was handicapped in any way. However, I did tell her that it was a possibility that the reason she was struggling with reading and writing was that she might be mildly dyslexic, as deducted by my friend. This somehow offered her some relief because she now realized it was not because she was stupid, but rather it was the fault of this thing called “dyslexia”! It explained why words made her brains tired and writing exhausted her more than running up ten flights of stairs. It also explained her description of how she thinks: “I think in pictures, not words. Words somehow mysteriously turn into pictures!”
When we accepted the fact that it was a condition of the brain that caused her some delay in this faculty, we eventually relaxed somewhat and gave her time and space to master the thing she dreaded most. Initially we did send her to a dyslexia center upon the recommendation of our friend, but after a couple of days there, Sam asked, “Why are you sending me here? They teach kindergarten stuff!” So it was back to square one: letting her learn at home.
And guess what? She DID eventually read and write better! Watching lots of Japanese Manga videos helped – she had to speed read English subtitles!) and playing online games improved her spelling because she had to spell correctly what her opponent was drawing online. Oh, and her interest in singing also helped because she had to read the lyrics! Yet she still does not like to read books – unless they come in the form of comics. She gets upset if we gave her books as birthday gifts instead of toys. But this was not the end of her story. The next thing we had to grapple with was far more severe than dyslexia……(to be continued)