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    Posted June 17, 2014 by
    Kernersville, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Raising a special needs child

    Dyslexia & Payne

    What do you do when you have a child that is smart and creative but has trouble reading, writing and spelling? You become an expert researcher and advocate. Since Payne has been able to talk he has much preferred to sit at a table full of adults and join in their conversations than to run around playing with children his age. He not only engaged in the conversations like an adult but sometimes even lead them. That’s why it was so surprising when he was in kindergarten and we were being told how immature and behind he was. It was suggested that we hold him back but we knew that wasn’t necessary so on to first grade he went. Unfortunately for him, he was our first born so when we were doing homework in first grade and it took hours, we just thought this was how it was supposed to be and it was going to be much harder than we thought to get everyone through school. We would study spelling words every night, all week long just to have him miss them on Friday. His first grade teacher said she dreaded Fridays because she knew he worked so hard all week but he would miss his words on Friday and break down and cry. After many meetings and discussions with his teacher and a lot of tears we decided to have Payne repeat the first grade because we didn’t know what else to do. We had no idea that he was dyslexic and dysgraphic and how damaging retention is for children like him. Although my husband and I bear the burden of unknowingly hurting our son due to our ignorance of dyslexia at the time, he is the one who has suffered due to that ignorance. This is why we have decided to share a little bit of his story.

    We started researching and came across the word DYSLEXIA again and again. We thought we finally had what we were looking for and went to his second grade teacher looking for resolution. We showed her his spelling tests which still had reversals of letters that wasn’t normal for his age and when we tried to explain to her that they shouldn’t be marked wrong because we thought he was dyslexic, she told us she didn’t know what to do with that information. So this started our journey with Payne, his dyslexia and weaving through a public school system that doesn’t currently understand students like him. When he was in 6th grade we were at our wits end trying to have his school enforce his Individual Educational Plan’s (IEP) Accommodation that stated, “grading on content only, not spelling” because due to his dyslexia he would answer questions correctly but spell them wrong. These correct answers were being marked wrong even though it was in his IEP not to mark them wrong. After hitting a wall with the school over this we emailed our governor about the issue and his office acted on Payne’s behalf and the accommodation was then followed. This is when we realized that we had a voice and could possibly make change for the better for children like Payne.

    Through Payne’s many years in the public school system and special education system he has learned to become an advocate for himself. He has had some great teachers that saw his potential and worked with him to help make him successful, like Mrs. Burnett, his 5th grade teacher and Mrs. Clark his 8th grade teacher, they will never understand the profound influence they had and are still having with his current success in school and with simple accommodations on spelling and time Payne can hold a 4.0 GPA. If the accommodations are resisted, he pays for the misunderstanding, so we have to hope every year for an understanding school, staff and no problems with his accommodations. You cannot see dyslexia, it is not an in your face disability and therefore, it’s hard for some people to understand.

    Not only is Payne an advocate for himself in school but for other dyslexic students as well. He has gone with us and met with both state senate and house representatives to talk about dyslexia and the need for dyslexia understanding and legislation. He has also written Arne Duncan and others in the United States Department of Education, as well as, our U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives. He is also a member of Decoding Dyslexia, which he has represented at different events.

    Payne is now 15 years old and just finished his freshman year in high school. Reading, writing and spelling are not his strengths, his strengths are in the visual arts (he takes beautiful photograph), Oral communications (he can talk circles around most) and his compassion for other people (he is very open to listening to others and they seem to gravitate toward him). He unfortunately doesn’t see his strengths yet because of the importance put on reading, writing and spelling which are the things with which he struggles the most. He uses technology to help with his weaknesses like spell-check, speech to text and to use the term from Ben Foss, author of 'The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan', he “ear reads.” Right now he is “ear reading” "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett via audio technology.

    We can tell him 50 times how smart and talented he is but it only takes that one person to tell him that he is lazy because they don’t understand dyslexia and that just knocks him to his knees. The important thing right now is that he keeps getting up, dusts himself off and continues to move forward and thankfully that is what he is doing.

    What is dyslexia? Google it, it’s that simple to a better understanding.

    decoding dyslexia special education advocate nc
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