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How Dyslexia Taught My Daughter to Sing

What a night. My daughter was in the Arbor Park Talent Show. She prepared for months, after school every Tuesday and Thursday for months. After the show I was complimented by many people for my beautiful daughter and her Broadway voice.

I love it. I accept them easily, smiling and chit chatting about my daughter and her talent.The thing I must admit is that her singing voice has nothing to do with me. I can not carry a tune in a hand basket. This genetic win fall is not from me.

I will take partial credit for her being on that stage though and for being the confident young woman she is. I got her diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in 2nd grade. I know what you are thinking. What does dyslexia have to do with a wonderful performance at a Talent Show. I will tell you, it has everything to do with it.

At a young age Annais had dyslexia. Of course I did not know that. She could not read and began to fall behind in Kindergarten. By first grade she was not able to keep up with the class work that other kids did with ease.

She started to hate school. We would fight every night about homework. Many nights ended with tears, both hers and mine. I tried everything to get my seemingly defiant daughter to comply with the rules of the house. You do your homework period. But she persistently avoided it by every means she could think of.

As a parent who has been a stay at home mom for 8 years up to that point, I was perplexed to say the least. Why was my smart and able girl suddenly so obstinate, and especially about school and reading.

She grew up with books. We read books every night. We would make our weekly trip to the library and come home with an arm full of books. She had her favorites that we would read over and over. She memorized some of them and would read along with me. In Kindergarten she wanted a journal.

I obliged although she could not write yet. My 5-year-old would “write” in her journal every night. She would make unrecognizable letters and words as she remembered her day before bed and write them in her journal. I loved it. She was already expressing herself in the form of written word before she even knew how to write words.

So you see, my daughter’s behavior did not make sense. I knew something was off. Something was wrong. I started with the school. I contacted her teacher and she assured me that Annais was right where she was supposed to be. She was doing fine.

Not all students excel in 1st grade. She will catch up. She gave me some tips for getting Annais to do her homework. She chalked up Annais’ failure to do well on a bad schedule at home. “You need to sit down at the same time every day,” she told me. “Consistency is the key,” she said at the end of the meeting with a bit of a condescending tone in her voice.

I contacted her Title 1 teacher. (She had been placed in Title 1 because she was failing reading). She assured me that she was right where she was supposed to be. That some kids don’t learn to sound out words and she would be fine. That the title one program would get her to caught up to her school mates.

She also stressed how I had to get strict when it came to homework. How I needed to start imposing punishments for not getting homework done although rewards should play a part also. I talked with the principal, and you guessed it, she assured me she was right where she was supposed to be.

Again she placed the success of my daughter on her home life and how if I was better at scheduling and punishing my daughter, she would be fine. I asked for testing. I wondered out loud to these three resources if she had a learning disability.

They all said she did not have a learning disability and that testing was not necessary.This information did not assure me like it was intended to do.

This information did no pacify me. This information did not change my schedule or my reward/punishment system. This information infuriated me.

After these meeting I knew for sure something was wrong with my bright and smart daughter. Now this is the point that my Mama Bear kicked in. This is the point that I started to listen to my “I know my daughter better than anyone and I will do whatever I have to in order to help her” voice. I knew they were wrong because I knew my daughter.

I got her evaluated by professionals. I didn’t care how much it costed and I didn’t care if my insurance paid for it. I contacted my pediatrician and he gave me a referral. We went for testing on a snowy Saturday in December of 2008.

Her results came back three weeks later.    My daughter had dyslexia. She was sitting in the bathtub making herself a bubble beard as I walked in with the paper I had received in the mail with the results. And as I read her the results an amazing thing happened, a look of relief fell over her face. I will never forget that look. She cried. I cried.

We were not crying because of sadness; we were crying because we knew why she was not doing well now. It was not because my daughter wasn’t trying, it wasn’t because she couldn’t learn, it wasn’t because she was a defiant brat. It was because she had dyslexia. Elated might not be the right emotion to feel when your daughter is diagnosed with a reading disorder but that is how I felt.

Now we knew what was wrong. We could research. We could get resources. We could get advice from professionals that have dealt with dyslexia. I told her that she would have to work harder than anyone else if she wanted to write in her journal for real someday. I told her that it would not be easy.

She would have to do homework every day and sometimes more homework than the other kids. She would have to study longer than her friends if she wanted to get A’s on her report card. That is the moment that my beautiful, sweet, 8-year-old daughter surrounded with bubbles with the remnants of a bubble beard on her chin, became a fighter.

I researched dyslexia. I read, watched and consumed every morsel of information. I spoke with doctors, teachers, psychologists. I soaked up everything that I could in order to make sure she would achieve all her dreams and goals.

I spoke with the school and with my diagnoses in hand, I got her a 504 plan which allowed her extra time on tests and have a letter chart on her desk.

She started to excel. I learned that music and art is very important to a dyslexic brain. So I encouraged any music and art. She started to paint. She started to sing. She started to play the recorder which lead to the saxophone, which lead to the cello. She started to really excel. And then something amazing happened. Annais got her confidence. Her wonderful, shining, big and bright confidence.

She was unstoppable. She no longer cried when something was hard. She would dig in. It would become a challenge. Nothing is too big of a challenge and she never turns away from hard work. She gets straight A’s and she works hard for them. Long after her siblings are done with their homework and are playing games on their computers, Annais still has her nose in her books.

She loves music now and this has carried her along her way. She plays in the school band, is in a Youth Symphony outside of school and started her own band with a few kids from school. She not only got into the NJHS but she is the president.

She is not only on the yearbook but she is the editor. She not only was in the talent show for Arbor Park but she was part of the Creative Team and behind the theme for the show.

So as I watched as my daughter belt out the song “Sand Man” as I gushed with pride and tears, it was not because she can sing; it is because she is right where she is supposed to be! She is center stage, full of confidence, excelling and having the time of her life. And I will take credit for that.

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