Fourteen years ago, I stepped into the role of a long-term substitute for a dedicated first-grade teacher who was on maternity leave, eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second child – a beautiful baby girl. As time passed, what started as a professional connection blossomed into a deep and lasting friendship.
Through the years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing her transformative journey from an elementary educator to a fierce advocate for students grappling with reading difficulties, especially the challenges posed by dyslexia. This passion was ignited by her own son’s struggles and triumphs.
This summer, she graciously shared a profoundly moving story with her circle of friends, a story that resonated deeply with me, and one that I believe must be shared with all of you.
Here is their compelling story:
“I have two precious kiddos of my own! Child number one I was constantly trying to throw letters and sounds down his throat! I totally could not understand why he could not retain them and why his sound/symbol correspondence was so low! By the end of first grade I requested for him to be tested for dyslexia. He got help at the beginning of second grade and I will forever be thankful for his dyslexia specialists and teachers! I threw everything I had into learning about dyslexia. I became a dyslexia therapist and felt that I could save the world!
Second child just breezes along with ease in elementary school! I was excited! Now, those dyslexia specialists that knew me best knew that I worried about her orthographic processing, but she was never below level in reading and was always fairly fluent. COVID hit at the end of her fourth grade year and her fifth grade was heavily impacted. By sixth grade, the world was getting back to normal- we had some personal loss with Covid that led to some anxiety for her, but she was tackling junior high. Junior high was hard, but she was placed into a humanities class and I just thought maybe there would be a few bumps along the way!
By her seventh grade year, my daughter advocated for herself and asked that we (her parents) request to have her tested for a learning disability. She realized that school should not be this hard and she was not retaining information when she read it. Now this might be surprising to some, but we have a very high level of awareness when it comes to learning disabilities in our home.
Low and behold, as you can probably guess, my sweet baby girl is also dyslexic, thirteen years old and things had just gotten too hard for her to continue to compensate without supports.
So what do I do? Have mom guilt and cry? Well, yes, I did do that, but then we got to WORK! We got accommodations in place and began therapy! I decided to begin her in an Orton-Gillingham based program designed for older students and adults. We completed an entire book in just two months… her growth has been exponential! Her baseline assessment was at 44% and her post test assessment she scored 84%!!!! That amount of growth is mind blowing!! For her to see those assessments side by side has made her a believer also! We are building confidence along with reading skills!
Now, for the point of my post! Do not give up on those older kiddos! Get them help!!! They can make progress!!!! I know that early intervention is best and I wish I would have begun her in more explicit instruction then when her little brain was more malleable. But, I just cringe at the thought that she “missed the boat.” Nope, not here! We are going to throw a lifesaver at her and paddle as hard as we can!!
The story doesn’t end here. This mother and son are a dynamic duo dedicated to helping others. The mother co-founded a company with colleagues, aiding children across the region in conquering their reading challenges. Meanwhile, her son, a senior this year, speaks to education majors in their Special Education classes, narrating his personal journey and the imprint of dyslexia on his school years. He candidly shares the accommodations that helped him, a practice he began in seventh grade. Today, he elaborates on the differences in his dyslexia and his sister’s, aspiring to equip future educators with insights into dyslexia’s realm and strategies for student success.
I hope this family’s story inspires you to fight a little harder and dig a little deeper into helping students on your campus thrive, despite the obstacles dyslexia can put in their path.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.