Mrs. Ryan looked nervous as she walked into the cramped conference room and saw so many professionals sitting about the long table to discuss her son, Stephen. She felt overwhelmed as she tried to comprehend the mountains of information being presented by the social worker, classroom teacher, reading interventionist and principal. The psychologist added Stephen’s educational history and gave a complicated interpretation of his test scores, before expressing in words that her son had a learning disability. That is when I saw the tears in Mrs. Ryan’s eyes. My heart reached out to her.
Stephen was so intelligent, with excellent math skills, an above average oral vocabulary, and a sophisticated sense of humor that always delighted me. It was rare to see such great empathy in a boy his age and he made friends easily.
Yes, Stephen was dyslexic, but all that meant was that it was difficult for him to learn to read and spell.
Recommended for You
Smart On The InsideView on Amazon
At the meeting, Mrs. Ryan trembled as she asked, “Will Stephen be able to attend college?” and “Will he be able to get a good job?” and “When will Stephen get out of special education?”
These are questions that I have heard parents ask many times during my 30 years in special education. When I wrote Smart on the Inside, it was for people like Mrs. Ryan and Stephen. I wanted them to understand what life is like for someone with a learning disability and how success is possible with appropriate intervention and support.
Yes, dyslexia is a lifelong challenge. There are many meetings in Mrs. Ryan’s future and she will need to guide and encourage her son in adapting new ways to learn. But it is also a journey to find hidden talents, incredible insights, and love. Stephen, and others like him, should not be defined by their learning disabilities. In fact, the strategies that they will develop to compensate for their learning differences will most certainly help them excel in life.