The Big Brain Club

“Creak…” It echoed throughout the classroom as I lifted the yellow-tinged wooden lid of my desk with each spelling word Mrs. Cook announced. Pretending to break my pencil and having to find another, I lifted the lid high, then glanced at my neatly placed spelling list inside my desk.

My teacher kept calling out the spelling words, “Problem… Apple… Farm… Fresh…” I knew that my plan would only work a handful of times before they would notice me.

For me, school meant finding ways to cheat, pretending to be sick, having friends do my work, not bringing my book to school, having to stay in at recess to complete work, losing homework, not understanding letter sounds, taking too long to get my work done. These are also all signs and symptoms of dyslexia.

That was over thirty-five years ago, but when I went to the dyslexia awareness meeting,
all of those feelings came flooding back like the spring thawing the mountains filled with glistening snow. Parents, hunched over, sitting in neat little rows, eyes glued to a PowerPoint, gripping their free bottle of water and handouts, hoping for an answer. How do you parent a child with a learning disability called dyslexia?

Where to Start if You Suspect a Problem
Kelly Arnold, founder of Northwest Dyslexia Center, says that focusing on the strengths of your child is the best place to start. Arnold’s philosophy is to teach parents to change their paradigm around dyslexia. She says that dyslexia is not a disability as much as it is a different way to focus on learning.

We belong to the big brain club. Our brains can do things other brains may not be able to do. Children and adults with dyslexia have a different brain structure. The right side of the brain is used more often, and is actually larger than a typical brain.

After being diagnosed with dyslexia, I still graduated from high school, college, grad school, and I got my master’s degree in special education. If your child is having trouble and you suspect a problem, get help right away. Early intervention can be life changing for a child with dyslexia.

Home Schoolhouse in Corvallis is a great resource. Take the screening test and, if needed, get a formal assessment. If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, the next step is talk to your child. It made all of the difference for me when I found out, and was able to give my struggle a name.

Here are some other things you can do to help your child succeed:

Wall of Fame – Kelly Arnold suggests a bulletin board with pictures of famous or successful people with dyslexia. There are plenty to choose from: Tom Cruise, Pablo Picasso, Joe Montana, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, and Andrew Jackson just to name a few. Arnold recommends taking a photo of your child doing what they do best and putting that picture on the wall.
Encourage a Love of Books – Read aloud to your child. I loved listening to audiobooks, and I still do. This format is a great way to increase your child’s interest. Audible, Learning Ally, and OverDrive are a few apps that you can download to listen to books. You may have to pay for a membership to some of them, but you can also approach your local school district about it. OverDrive is through your local library, so it’s free. It’s easy to use and you can ask a librarian to help you set it up.
Technology – I use technology daily for success. It is not a crutch, but a must. Your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must have some of these accommodations. Audiobooks, Dragon, talk-to-text apps, and navigational systems for driving are just a few tools that I use daily.
Focus on Strengths – I can sing, I am kind, and I am a great teacher. I see what my students can do when others say it’s impossible. Find your child’s abilities and strive to increase them. One mom I know has taken this to the next level. Her son loves making movies, so she is getting him into a filmmaking class, online courses, and helping him get connected to people in the industry to shadow and learn from them—hands-on learning at its best!

Parenting a child with a different learning style is hard, but once you find out what works to help them learn, you can sit back and watch with amazement.  Over the years what I have learned about myself is that I have mastered failing. Yes, I have mastered failing. I have failed thousands of times, but it has created perseverance and it has taught me that it’s okay to fail. You just keep going. Keep trying, working, and succeeding. Our current educational system is not set up to support our children in the best way they learn, so you are your child’s best advocate. Do your research, get them tested, and join the parenting movement.

By Guest Writer Kelly Fritz

Kelly Fritz grew up in a rural town in Montana, but currently lives in Newberg, OR with her husband and step-daughter. She has her Master’s Degree in Special Education, a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, and is a nationally recognized Autism Specialist. She is currently working as a Special Education Teacher with children who are impacted with autism, Down Syndrome, and sometimes, blindness. Kelly has struggled for years with reading. She does not read street signs, books, or doctor’s information sheets with ease. It’s a struggle to read for comprehension; however, this does not stop her. She was diagnosed at 35 with Dyslexia at the 7 percentile in 2010 during her second term of graduate school. Kelly blogs about this at

  1. Cynthia Johnson

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