Jennifer Widemire Smith
From One Dyslexic Warrior To Another...
Updated: Jan 7, 2018
Since Thanksgiving Landon has struggled more than usual. He’s had meltdown after meltdown after meltdown at school as the testing increased in preparation for EQT’s (end of quarter testing). His grades have all been excellent but the struggle with dyslexia isn’t in not knowing the answers. It’s getting the answer out and onto paper. This struggle often leads to anxiety and anxiety attacks. For some it can even lead to constant battles with depression.
Dyslexia is a daily struggle. It’s a daily battle. It’s an ever ongoing war. Standardize tests are the enemy of any dyslexic and must be conquered, without mercy, for they will surely conquer the unprepared dyslexic.
One test caused an anxiety attack in my eight year old. It was no one's fault. I had just gotten out of the shower and looked at my phone. I had messages on fb messenger, texts from both his special ed teacher, his classroom teacher, the school nurse and my mother, who was wondering why the nurse was calling her at work. Suffice it to say, I dropped everything and rushed to the school to calm him down and figure out what had caused it---standardize tests strike again.
His teachers, Josh and I talked him through it. We found the problem. We all reached a solution. And all of us agreed that the only thing a standarized test is good for is kindling. No matter how we felt though we still had to get him through it.
His teacher Mrs M. has had a sharp eye on him all year. She and I have conferenced and conferenced and conferenced to stay on top of all issues, no matter how big or how small. It's her first year of teaching and having a kid with severe dyslexia has been an eye opening experience for her as her education degree and extra credit courses had not prepared her for the daily front lines. Just like war nothing truly prepares you until you're on the front lines. Mrs M and I became friends and a co-parent/co-teaching relationship took root.
Mrs M is married to an Operation Iraqi Freedom Army Veteran. Her students all call him Mr. Cool. Mr. Cool was in combat when an IED exploded throwing him into the air and wrecking havoc on his body---he was one of the lucky ones. During his recovery, from a traumatic brain injury, his brain did some rewiring. Dyslexia reared it's ugly head. Spelling suddenly wasn't easy. Reading became difficult and arduous. It's been an adjustment for him.
When Mrs M told Mr Cool about Landon. About how he struggled everyday Mr Cool could relate. There are days she goes home and cries for how hard the struggle is. Her dyslexic warrior reminds her, this is the battleground that the honorable profession that is called, teacher, fights on. There are days she watches her husband fight the same battles.
Dyslexia doesn't dissappear just because you learn to spell and know how to read.
Despite the hardships the testing presented during the week of EQT's Landon pushed ahead. When he was done he handed Mrs M his reading test. She doesn’t usually grade right away but then again she only has one child in her classroom she has to remind to breathe deeply and have a Superman style pep talk before going into battle.
Her red pen came out and Landon's face began to fall as the ink continued to flow page to page.
He watched his teacher’s face for clues, sighed, and resigned himself to his fate. When she was done he said, “How bad is it?” With absolutely no faith he’d made a good grade.
She kept her face stoic giving nothing away. He searched her eyes again the playful suspense killing them both. “IT’S A B!!!” she proclaimed.
“What!?” He grinned and did his goofy dance of triumph. He'd just made honor roll.
On the last day of class before the Christmas break a party took place. The grinch tried to steal away the kid's candies and popcorn until the magic grinch dust came out to ward him off. One by one the kids gave each other hugs and wished each other a happy holiday season. Nearby, under the classroom christmas tree awaited a very special Christmas present. It's card read:
“From one dyslexic warrior to another. Keep up the good fight!” -Mr. Cool
It was a jacket which had kept one solider warm, dry, and safe when bullets were flying and bombs were exploding half a world away. Now that jacket had a very different duty---making another warrior feel safe, warm, and comforted.
Landon came home from school and collasped from exhaustion. He tucked himself into a ball in a chair under the weight of his new warrior's armor.