As the youngest of three kids in our family, my daughter Carter marched to the beat of her own drum.
She wasn’t interested in her brother and sister’s board books. She didn’t enjoy the nursery rhymes that brought smiles to her siblings’ faces. And it took forever for her to learn the ABC song, not to mention her address, her phone number and how to tie her shoes.
Her teacher told us “she had never encountered a child who refused to learn to read like Carter.” It wasn’t until the ;middle of first grade that she seemed to make her first attempt at reading. Little did we know that the stomachaches of first grade and the headaches of second grade were in fact signs of how much she was struggling in school.
Third grade was the tipping point. Carter got very upset about being behind on tests and in reading groups, and she watched other kids finish tasks much faster than she could. She was incredibly frustrated.
We fought the school on this decision as best we could. But in the end, Carter still didn’t receive an IEP.
To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. The frustration and desperation we felt was overwhelming. But we knew we couldn’t let Carter fall further behind in school.
So, we opted to have her tested privately. After a very thorough evaluation, Carter was diagnosed with , and .
Being able to name her struggle was a huge relief and extremely heartbreaking at the same time. We bounced around from one website to another, desperate to find resources that we could use to support our daughter. Helping her with reading issues like was our priority.
At the urging of an educational consultant, we found an Orton–Gillingham–influenced, multisensory phonics program. OG is a highly structured approach that’s known to work for kids with dyslexia. At first, we tried using an OG tutor in the afternoon. But Carter just wasn’t able to do more work after a long day trying to keep up in school.
I had no background in education, and it took my husband a full month to convince me that I should take Carter’s literacy into my own hands. Every school morning, I woke Carter up at 5:00 so we could work for an hour on the program.
After a few months of these new teaching techniques, Carter was making great progress. To our amazement, by the end of fourth grade, she was reading at grade level. We continued with the program for almost two years. Today, her reading isn’t as fluent or as fast as that of many of her peers, but she feels confident in her skills to decode any word she encounters.
Once we had begun to address Carter’s decoding issues, we set out to level the playing field in her classroom and on school tests. I was still in disbelief about the school not giving Carter services or an IEP. But I put those feelings aside and worked with the school to get Carter a . Through it she received classroom .
We consider ourselves incredibly lucky. We didn’t have an IEP, but each year, we had amazing teachers. Some had little knowledge about dyslexia or learning and thinking differences, but they all had hearts overflowing with empathy. Through trial and error, Carter worked with her teachers in grade school on accommodations that helped her get through the day. She received extra time and access to audio on tests, and more.
I believe there are infinite paths to success for kids with dyslexia. We’ve come a long way from when Carter was an anxiety-ridden third grader. Now, after traveling our unique path of dyslexia remediation, she’s a thriving ninth grader.
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About the author
Shannon Duncan lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children. Her youngest has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD.