By Kim Murphey
I have three daughters, Shayla is my youngest. She is so similar to her oldest sister Lauren that we used to joke they were twins separated by 9 years. They both have dyslexia but yet Shayla’s learning journey has been completely different than Lauren’s.
I didn’t know for sure that Shayla had dyslexia but by the time she was in third grade all the signs where there. I had her tested by a professional to make it official. With her form of dyslexia she saw things differently than Lauren. What helped Lauren learn didn’t work for Shayla. She had no younger sibling pushing her to try harder either. As long as I read everything to her, she had good retention and could answer questions. If she had to do it herself, she’d just give up and start crying. Other things were going on in our family that made it harder for both of us to work together. There was a death of a close family member, financial troubles and more. Homeschooling was not working for Shayla. We needed help. I found a small private school that specialized in kids with learning disorders and disabilities. Shayla started going to tutoring two days a week, even though she needed more, it was all we could afford. The next year, the school offered to take her in as a full-time student on a scholarship. That offer was a godsend.
From fifth grade through eighth grade Shayla was surrounded by a wonderful group of caring teachers that not only helped her overcome her reading problems, they gave her a passion to learn. She went from being a loner who was embarrassed because she couldn’t read well to a confident, outgoing leader in this supportive environment. She still loses patience with herself when she doesn’t get a math concept fast enough, misreads words, and spells things wrong but she doesn’t give up easy anymore. The skills she was given in that special small school have given her the ability to succeed with the next part of her learning journey. Shayla will be going to a public high school this year which she is excited about.
Every child and learning situation is different. What works for one might not work for the other. Having three daughters with completely different learning styles, strengths and weaknesses would be a challenge for anyone. In Shayla’s case I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t teach her anymore. Finding a different school environment provided her with the skills she needed to get over her own self doubts. The love and support from caring teachers, family, and friends helped too. Yes, her story is far from over and I look forward to watching her grow up.
2013 Update: Shayla has had a wonderful first year in public high school. The school is very supportive of her struggle with dyslexia. They made sure she was in the right classes and let her know they are there to help her should she have any problems. Shayla makes a good advocate for herself too. She has no qualms about talking to the teachers about what she struggles with. The teachers are more than willing to help a student who wants to learn. So far it is a win-win situation for her.