But what I heard on the phone blew me away.
My son, a sophomore in college, is an avid speed skater with a coaching certification. He’d called to tell me about a third-grade boy he coaches.
The boy’s parents had heard that my son has learning and thinking differences, so they came to him for advice. Their son has dyslexia and ADHD, like my son. And he struggles in school, just like my son did.
Recently in class, their son was asked to read aloud in front of everyone. He tried. But as he started, he stuttered, and kids in class made fun of him. He was crushed. The parents worried that his self-esteem was faltering.
My son could relate to this. However, as he talked to the boy’s parents, he realized they didn’t fully understand their son’s reading issues.
They thought their son was simply having trouble seeing letters correctly and reversing letters as a result. “He doesn’t see words with his eyes the way we do,” they told my son. They wondered out loud if dyslexia was a vision issue. And they asked my son how they could help their son feel better about himself.
My son listened patiently. Once they finished talking, he gently explained that dyslexia is a brain-based processing issue, not a vision problem.
He then told the parents that understanding and support is important to helping their child. He encouraged them to connect with other parents and suggested they visit Understood.org for more information. (I work for Understood, so my son had a reason to suggest this resource!)
This conversation was a turning point for my son.
When he was younger, he never wanted to talk about learning or thinking differences. Starting around his junior year in high school, he tried telling people that he has dyslexia and ADHD.
Unfortunately, he often faced negative feedback or a lack of understanding when he talked about his learning and thinking differences. He got made fun of for his spelling. Once he even told me that it seemed like a “waste of time” to try to explain dyslexia and ADHD to people.
But something changed when he talked with the parents of the boy he coaches. My son took the time to explain these issues because he was truly concerned. He saw himself in their son. And he got really positive feedback from the parents.
I could see that he was proud of all he knew and was able to share. It was fulfilling for him to give these parents advice to help them help their child.
Each time someone tells their story—even if it only helps one person—it’s a step forward. One more person who understands learning and thinking differences means one more child gets an opportunity to thrive. My son was proud to help make that happen for this boy, and that made me proud.
Looking for more inspiration? Hear from a mom whose son with dyslexia learned self-advocacy at an early age. You can also explore a collection of dyslexia success stories.
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About the author
About the author
Suzanne Lang is the parent and partner advisor for Understood at the Poses Family Foundation.