Struggle and Thrive*

My daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 2nd grade.  She read slowly.  She spelled poorly.  Over the last 5 years she received good interventions and accommodations from her caring and supportive Nashville public schools.  Today she is in 7th grade.  She reads slowly.  She spells poorly.  But you know what? She is THRIVING and I am not worried about her one bit.

What I have learned from watching her journey and advocating for her for 5 years is that even with great interventions and accommodations, many children like her with severe dyslexia may never read quickly or spell well. That does not mean they cannot learn, read, write or love books.

Yesterday was my daughter’s IEP meeting. As I reviewed her data, I noticed that her oral Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.06.43 PMreading fluency is only at the 12th percentile. On paper, she is a highly at risk student, but I know better. In reality, she is a girl who LOVES books.  If she has free time, odds are she is listening to an audiobook or reading a graphic novel.  She recently got big check from her grandma and immediately after she opened it she shouted “I AM GOING TO SPEND IT ALL ON BOOKS! BOOKS ARE MY LIFE!” Each holiday or birthday by far her favorite gift is a gift card to our local independent bookstore, Parnassus.  On the top of her bucket list is to visit Powell’s book store in Portland, Oregon – the biggest bookstore in the world.

Her IEP also says that she has “severe struggles with spelling and grammar” such thatScreen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.06.57 PM she has a disability in written expression.  It is true that she spells very poorly, rarely capitalizes proper names and is very unclear on the purpose of commas.  Does she have a disability in written expression? No way.  She can express herself in writing in the most amazing ways. In fact, she has spent the last month writing an amazing and empowering 34-page book that she dreams of getting published.  When she comes home after school she goes right to editing and adding.  We spend dinnertimes talking about how to make a pivotal less “flat.” The writing in the book is fantastic.  I could not be more proud of her.

So let’s all be very careful when we look at struggling readers as “unteachable” or “uninterested in literacy.”

Some of us can struggle and thrive at the same time…

*Thanks to the over 1.2K who have liked and shared my Struggle and Thrive tweet. I have loved the stories you have shared with me and the well wishes you have sent.  Please keep sharing.  If you want to support Decoding Dyslexia TN, I would love it if you bought a Struggle and Thrive T Shirt.  Thanks so much.Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.43.40 PM


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Anna Thorsen

I am a parent, attorney and advocate. I and my middle school daughter both have dyslexia. During the 2015 legislative session I was a tireless advocate to help pass the much needed Dyslexia Legislation in Tennessee and am proud to participate in the 2016 Bill Signing. I now serve on the Decoding Dyslexia TN Leadership Team and serves on the TN Department of Education’s Dyslexia Advisory Council. I have been a presenter for the past two years at the Tennessee Association for Assistive Technology annual conferences. I also does frequent speaking engagements around Middle Tennessee on the topic of dyslexia. My family's dyslexia story has been featured in several articles, including Mindshift's October 15, 2015 article "Why Recognizing Dyslexia at School Can be Difficult."

One thought on “Struggle and Thrive*”

  1. I have a child with dyslexia and another child with dysgraphia. I am so glad my friend Tiffany pointed me towards Decoding dyslexia. I hate that I missed the T shirt sale! I look forward to getting more plugged in, especially here in Nashville.


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