Sitting at the table with my family during the Passover Seder used to make me so nervous. That’s because I’m dyslexic.
Passover is the celebration of when Moses freed the Israelites in ancient Egypt. To commemorate the holiday, Jewish families come together for the Seder dinner.
Part of the Seder tradition is reading aloud the story of Passover. It’s a tradition that gave me nightmares as a child.
As a family, we would go around the table taking turns reading paragraphs in Hebrew from the Seder book. I felt so much pressure to take part in this important tradition. The dinner meant a lot to my family, and we bonded over rituals like this one.
But secretly, I wanted nothing to do with it.
When I read aloud at the Seder, I stumbled and made mistakes. I felt anxious. My heart would pound. It didn’t help that Hebrew words are so hard to pronounce.
To make things easier, I came up with little tricks. While waiting for my turn, I would count the family members ahead of me and figure out which paragraph I’d have to read for my turn. Then I’d try to memorize it. I always hoped for a short paragraph. Sometimes I’d even plan strategic bathroom breaks so I could avoid my turn altogether.
I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia (along with and ) until my junior year of high school. I’d been evaluated for learning differences several times before then. When I finally discovered I had dyslexia, a lot of things made sense.
Decoding had always been hard for me. Reading aloud was like shining a spotlight on my biggest struggle. It brought out some major insecurities.
Thankfully, once I got my diagnosis, my parents were truly supportive. They helped get me all the help and support I needed in school. They made sure I got , like not having to read aloud in class, which was a big relief.
Ironically, though, this accommodation — not reading aloud — wasn’t applied at home during Seder. I think it just didn’t occur to my parents. After all, the Seder wasn’t school.
Of course, my parents never told me I had to read at Seder dinner. But they also never said I didn’t have to. It was an unspoken assumption that everyone in the family read, which made it difficult for me to speak up about it.
After college, I finally worked up the courage to tell my parents that I didn’t want to read aloud at Seder anymore. I told the rest of my family they could just skip over me.
When I finally spoke up, I felt an immense amount of relief. My family was really understanding and didn’t make a big deal about it.
“Opting out” of this part of the Seder tradition actually sparked other family members to join me. For instance, my mother—who has reading issues—now only takes her turn to read when she feels comfortable.
In the end, I’ve come to realize that family traditions like Seder aren’t about rituals like reading. They’re about being with your family. Looking back, I’m glad I finally had the courage to speak up and my family listened.
If you’re a parent, I have one piece of advice for you: Remember that learning and thinking differences don’t just affect kids in school. Sometimes kids need accommodations at home too.
- Learn more about the skills dyslexia can affect.
- Find out how dyslexia can play a role in your child’s social life.
- Explore conversation starters kids can use to self-advocate.
About the author
About the author
Jillian Levy is the web production manager and technology liaison for Understood.org.