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  • Ashley

An Unlikely Gift

Our oldest son, nicknamed on the blog as “Spock,” has been given a gift that we are only just starting to understand. It took us awhile to know it was in his possession. Spock is dyslexic.

Confirmation of it is recent, but the journey to the diagnosis began in preschool when an evaluation revealed that Spock wasn’t “ready” for kindergarten. I remember feeling confounded. He could display his knowledge at home, but we also knew that commonly used teaching tools (such as flashcards) were not effective for Spock. We believed homeschooling would be the best fit for him.

First grade was a big year because we moved to a new state. Spock was starting to struggle in certain areas in school but we thought that was, in part, due to the move. When we sought advice from others, we were told that many of our observations were normal for the age.

Second grade was better, but I was growing increasingly concerned as he was having a hard time grasping and retaining specific concepts and skills. A gifted friend offered to tutor and he made some improvements.

But, as we began this school year, it was alarmingly clear that he was not growing out of anything. What concerned us most was that Spock was noticing differences between himself and peers. He was frustrated, discouraged, and embarrassed. He kept asking “why.” We couldn’t give him solid answers.

Christmas was just a few weeks away when I prayed in utter desperation, “Lord, I don’t know what to do! I don’t know the right questions to ask, much less where to go for help. Please show me where to go!”

A few days later I talked with a friend in Florida. She knew a professional in her area, Dr. S., who could give counsel. Dr. S called and freely gave an hour and a half of her time asking questions and listening.

“It’s going to be okay,” she assured me. “I’ll make a few calls and see if I can find a contact in your state.”

A few days later my phone rang again and Dr. S said she knew a colleague who was well qualified. “Do you happen to live near this town where my friend, Dr. Jane, is located?” We didn’t live near the town… we lived in the town!

Ms. Jane (as we would come to know her), called one afternoon on the way to celebrate her holidays. We wanted her to work with Spock and, in January, Ms. Jane began tutoring him twice a week. His response to her has been nothing short of amazing. His determination and hard work has astounded us all.

As we researched and spoke with doctors, we began to recognize the value of an official diagnosis for Spock’s present and future. But the price for weekly, year round tutoring plus the cost of the diagnosis was daunting. Medical insurance does not cover these areas. But we knew it would be a long-term investment for our son. God has relieved us of some of the financial burden in extraordinary ways.

(Because this is a commonly asked question: Although free aid from the public school would have been nice and was an option considered, the needs of our son went beyond the resources available.)

I had been praying that God would somehow provide when Ms. Jane asked if we would consider three days a week of tutoring because it would better benefit Spock. When I told her that we could not afford it she said, “You don’t understand. I just want to do it. This is the right thing for him.” My jaw may have dropped to the floor. God gave our son a professional willing to invest in him sacrificially. It’s amazing! I often refer to Ms. Jane as our Mary Poppins because that is very much who she has become to us. She gives us help and hope.

About a month after Ms. Jane started working with Spock, he underwent the evaluation that would provide an official diagnosis. I used to think that Dyslexia was simply reversing a few numbers and letters. We are learning is that it is so much more. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” dyslexic. Every case can be different and, therefore, needs and approaches to learning need to be tailored.

We knew that Spock desired answers just like we did. With some guidance from the doctors, we talked with him. We asked what would happen if we took him to a basketball game, gave him a soccer ball, and told him to play. The answer is that, though it would be possible, a soccer ball would prove to be an inefficient and difficult tool to play the game well. It’s the same concept with his brain and learning. Because he has a dyslexic brain, we need to utilize the right tools to help him learn best. We also talked about famous people that also had/have dyslexia and how they have unique abilities that enable them to do extraordinary tasks.

After all the nerves and sweat over that conversation, he simply responded with an, “Oh, okay! This is cool! I have the same brain as Albert Einstein!” Because of the dyslexia, some sounds in words are difficult for him to hear. So, he’s been talking about his “electric” brain to us and Ms. Jane. His brothers are totally jealous and want “electric” brains too!

Spock doesn’t know that dyslexia is labeled as a disability, nor does he connect it yet as the stem of many of his difficulties. That’s okay for now. Dyslexia has it’s challenges, yes – but there are great strengths associated with it too. As one of the doctors advised, we need to be willing to say the “D” word and to acknowledge his reality. We’re taking this one step at a time and at the rate he needs. Most of all, we’re choosing to trust that nothing about Spock is an accident. We want to keep conversation accessible and embrace this with him.

Though he has asked that I not tell the details of his struggles here, Spock agreed to let me share with you because we have talked a lot about God in all of this. We recognize God working in our lives and want to openly praise Him for it.

That doesn’t mean this is easy. Spock has a lot of work and challenges ahead of him. It’s been hard as a parent to process everything. I will share more about that part of the journey at a different time.

But I want to conclude this post with a story that happened last weekend. Our two oldest participated in a wooden derby race at church. Spock is the kid that, though very bright, is usually behind the others. I had prayed asking God to give him just one good run to savor. Both enjoyed several wins and walked away with trophies!

I fought back tears as I watched Spock receive his rewards because, for once, he was on top of the pack. What an incredible moment for him during this season! But what happened next does bring me to tears.

He sat in the van on the way home holding both of his trophies and the little wooden car in his lap. “Dad, what about the kids that didn’t win? Are they okay? What about the ones that didn’t have Dads at home to help them like you helped me? Can we do something next year to help them?” That heart is evidence of God at work.

Spock can empathize with what it is to give your best effort, but still struggle and be behind. Perhaps God is using Spock’s disability to create a concern and compassion for others. If that is the case then dyslexia may be an unlikely gift to our son and a great blessing indeed.

So we praise Him – our God never makes mistakes and lovingly creates each of us for His perfect purpose.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.Psalm 139:14
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