Decoding Dyslexia VA

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Write Your Story

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Everyone has a Story to Tell

By Laura Kent, Founding Member Decoding Dyslexia VA


Have you ever heard the expression “Everyone has a story to tell”? How about “You never know what another person’s life is like until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”  Like many parents, you might be moving so quickly to keep up with the demands of everyday life… that you have not taken time to reflect. Decoding Dyslexia Virginia is asking you to do so.  We’re asking you to share your story so that others will be comforted in the knowledge that they are not alone.  That message is a powerful one as we strive to support our children with Dyslexia.

It really is a gift to yourself as well as, eventually, a gift you might choose to give others. Find a quiet moment to sit down and think about your family’s story to date. Just start writing.  Don’t worry about timelines.  Don’t edit your initial thoughts. Don’t be concerned with how your story may be received. Just get your story written.  You may be surprised that you end up with many more pages than you expected, and the emotions that are reflected on the pages jump right up at you. This can be a very cathartic experience. When you finish writing your story… take some time to reflect on your journey thus far and all the hard work your child has put into his/her learning.  Make sure you notice your accomplishments as well!

The next part does involve some editing. Keep your original copy for yourself. Take a second copy and begin to boil your story down to the most meaningful pieces. As a goal, try to position your story so that it is about 4 minutes long and around 2 pages. Beware: this may take multiple attempts! This is all part of the process. Take a look at the article “From Experience to Influence: The Power of a Parent’s Story” which is put out by the Pacer Center. This article offers great guidance on how to position your story to tell it to particular audiences. See what ideas fit for you and the style in which you tell a story. Do you want to quote your child? Do you have creative ways that you can use to highlight different parts of your story? This second version will be the one that you have handy when DD-VA members are called upon to tell their stories. As DD-NJ notes in their Grassroots Guide, “The goal is to get policy-makers to care about your child’s struggle. They do not need to hear about every injustice or a play by play account of the family-school conflict. They need to quickly come to know the roadblocks that you faced, how they affected your child and what needs to be done to correct the problem.”

The story of your journey will be added to the stories of other dyslexic children who are not receiving the support they need to grow and thrive.  These stories will be shared as we visit parent support meetings, schools, school board members, universities, helping professionals and lawmakers. You are not alone and together we can make a difference!


  1. Susan Barton says:

    Hi, Laura. You are welcome to share any of the more than 40 dyslexia stories on my blog, which is:

  2. Rut h Lature says:

    I am offering a 20% discount to Decoding Dyslexia members on my book, DYSLEXIA: A TEACHER’S JOURNEY, MEMOIR, Email me for the code What other Decoding Dyslexia members are saying about the book: “I ‘ve read many books on dyslexia but this is my favorite.” “Instead of a book that is dry and difficult to read, the subject comes alive through her relaxed and humorous writing style.”

  3. Shannon Duncan says:

    Our story with dyslexia…

    In October 2011, we were the parents of a kind, smart, happy yet frustrated 8-year-old dyslexic. She was born dyslexic, but we didn’t get an actual diagnosis until June 2012. That’s not to say that we didn’t know that Carter was different for as long as we could remember. She wasn’t interested in the board books that we had provided to her older brother and sister; Books that would entertain them for hours on end. She didn’t enjoy the nursery rhymes that brought smiles to her sibling’s faces. She didn’t learn the ABC song, which we considered a reflection of her being third in line and the busy schedule we kept raising 3 children. Her K/1 teacher made the statement to us that “she had never encountered a child who refused to read like Carter”. It wasn’t until the middle of first grade that she ‘seemed’ to make her first attempt at reading.

    She steadily plowed through the academics that were presented to her, successfully compensating for her deficiencies with her strengths. Little did we know that the stomachaches of first grade and the headaches of second grade were in fact common manifestations of a dyslexics struggle to keep up. That compensation continued to take its toll on her energy levels and overall happiness with school. Carter was always exhausted by a day of school. It was not uncommon for her to be in bed at 6pm, asleep by 6:30pm. She worked so hard to keep up in school and do a good job.

    She saw many successes in her short academic career. And those successes had her excited to return to school the next day and do it again. However, third grade was the tipping point for her satisfaction level with school. Our happy third grader became very upset with her pace on tests and in reading groups, as she watched her peers complete tasks much faster than she did. She was incredibly frustrated by the effort she was obviously putting in, without the results that she wanted.

    Her sadness with what she considered her failures was what prompted us to ask the Elementary School Administration to ‘begin testing’ in December of 2011. They agreed to an observation that resulted in feedback that Carter may be a little bit inattentive and a little bit anxious. But no further testing was recommended at that time. We opted to have her tested privately. After a very thorough and comprehensive assessment, Carter was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and ADHD-Inattentive Type.

    Carter was overwhelmed and relieved all that the same time when we named her learning difference for her. It was good to hear that she wasn’t ‘just stupid’ and bad to hear that she was different. She has struggled every day since last June to get comfortable in her own skin. Little by little, we have been successful in convincing her that her small steps in reading are really big accomplishments to be proud of. But school continues to get harder for her and her failures in reading were piling up higher than her academic successes, resulting in an increase in more frequent ‘I hate fourth grade’ statements during her exhausted crying spells on our car rides home from school.

    Carter spends the majority of her waking hours in school and we insisted that we be able to find a way to make those hours pleasurable and satisfying. We would not put ourselves in a situation where our work life was filled with failure, frustration and unhappiness and we didn’t plan on allowing it for our daughter. Carter needed help right away. She needed an IEP that would help her level the playing field she shares with her peers. She needed research based direct instruction everyday with a trained instructor that could help her to develop the phonological awareness that comes so easily to most of her peers. Her time for successful compensation was running out quickly. We needed to get her help right now, so that she could tackle her future academic workload using all the tools available to her in this day and age.

    In September 2012, we fully expected our local screening committee to agree with us that Carter needed help. She had more than 2 standard deviations between her verbal IQ and her reading score; 3 standard deviations between her verbal IQ and her written language score; her naming speed was in the 12th percentile; her reading fluency was in the 2nd percentile. A dyslexic like Carter should not have to fail and hate school before receiving help for a documented disability. However, our school system was not in agreement. We were told that Carter was denied access to special education services based on a lack of educational impact.

    In our opinion, our child was denied her right to a free and appropriate education. She has a learning difference, like 20% of her peers, that requires a different method of teaching that our school system ought to be able to provide to that population of children. But our focus remained on Carter’s immediate needs. Without the financial capability of removing her from the public school system and into a private school, we searched out other options and found an Orton-Gillingham influenced, simultaneously multisensory, explicit and systematic phonics program that was researched based and peer reviewed.

    Within a four-month period, Carter closed the gap in her reading level lag. At the end of fourth grade, she was reading at grade level. Her reading is not fluent or fast, and she continues to guess, omit and swap words throughout her reading but she feels confident now. She feels like, with extra time, she can decipher almost anything that crosses her path because of the tools that she has been given. Proof positive, that with a different kind of learner success can be seen with a different kind of teaching. Carter’s 1) multisensory reading program, 2) stimulant medication to increase focus and 3) the empathy and support of her fourth grade teacher created an environment conducive to repair her damaged self-esteem.

    We know that, with the right help, Carter will grow into a happy and academically successful young woman, who looks forward to the challenges her school day brings her. We know that she has a bright future in whatever career path she chooses. She already knows how to work hard and be determined. She wakes up every school day at 4:30am to put an hour of work into her multisensory reading program, so that she remains confident. We want that hard work and determination to result in more successes than failures, so that we can keep a smile on her face and happiness in her heart.

    We will continue to push for change in our schools for these kids. We want early identification screening in Kindergarten because the earlier kids are identified and remediated, the less they need to suffer and the better the outcomes will be. We want Orton-Gillingham influenced, multisensory, research based programs used by trained professionals and delivered with fidelity. We want our teachers to be trained in the facts about dyslexia so that they can help to identify children and understand the strengths and weaknesses associated with this learning difference. These three simple items would greatly reduce the widespread suffering dyslexic children endure everyday. If you’d like to join the fight, contact Decoding Dyslexia in your state and join hundreds of parents trying to make a difference for their dyslexic children.

    Ryan and Shannon Duncan

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