Re-Defining What Reading Means Now That My Son Has Dyslexia

Sitting across the desk from my son’s neuro-psychologist, I finally understood. This is what people are talking about when they hear news, but can’t process it. I knew he was talking, but the words didn’t make any sense.

“This took him so long.” “And this one, it took him much longer than it should have.” “I finally moved on to something else because it was taking him so long.”

My mind was processing, processing…what was he trying to tell me? Was there some sort of cognitive disorder that had to do with time management?

Why did it matter how long it took him to copy a word? When he was done, it was very beautiful, wasn’t that a good thing?

Apparently not.

“So, wait, I’m not sure I understand. Are you trying to tell me he has a learning disability? Dyslexia?”

The Doc tilted his head and looked at me a little funny, “That’s what I’ve been saying.”

You say tomato I say potato I guess, because somewhere among so slow, so slow, so slow, I missed all the other stuff.

And so, he started from the beginning.

worried about dyslexia



Have you ever felt as if you had two minds in your head? One that is sure of something, and the other that is sure of the exact opposite thing. 100% sure. On both sides. Totally different.

That was me. I was sure Isaiah was dyslexic. So sure that I decided to have him tested.

I was sure that as a homeschooling mom, I was doing a horrific job teaching him to read, and that was why he couldn’t read. So sure that I decided to have him tested.

What I wanted, more than anything, was for the doctor to tell me it was my fault. My fault, and we could fix it by getting him a “real” teacher to teach him to read.

While we were waiting to find out, I researched what it would mean if my son had dyslexia. And what I read did not comfort me.

“He will never read at the same pace as his peers. He will always need assistance, even in college,” said the Doc.

“Aren’t you happy you know that it’s something real?” Asked everyone. I know I should be. Right? But I’m not.

I am not happy that he will always struggle with reading. I am not happy that you cannot “fix” dyslexia. I am not happy that he will need help to get through college. I am not happy that someone else will have to teach him to read. I am not happy that this is one more thing that makes him feel different.

He feels different. He thinks people won’t like him when they find out he has dyslexia.

“But dyslexia is something that is just a part of you, like the color of your eyes, or having food allergies. You wouldn’t not like someone because they were allergic to peanuts, would you?”

I am passionate about reading. I am always reading. My family? We are readers.

Like the Jewish families in Woody Allen movies who whisper the word cancer, as if by saying it out loud you might catch it, we whisper the word dyslexia.

But I shake it off, because this is our new reality.

I will change my definition of reader. I will change it to encompass my glorious voracious reader of a boy. Yes, he is a voracious audio reader.

While I have not been able to pass on my passion for the written word, on paper. I have passed on, quite successfully, my passion for the telling of the tale.

In the car, my first choice would be to listen to my Pandora “Girl From Ipanema Mix,” Isaiah’s first choice is an audio book. It always has been, and I have never denied him that.

The minute we get in the car in the morning, it’s a race to see who will ask if we should “listen to our story.” Because, of course, I am enthralled as well.

We will redefine what it means to be a reader in this family.

And given that new definition, have the ability to take advantage of all the resources that exist to help a person with dyslexia become a successful reader, by any definition.


Jen Kehl started blogging 6 years ago, when she realized there wasn’t enough encouraging information available about her son’s many special issues on the internet. This journey has taken her through many special needs, learning disabilities and neurological issues.
She is the author and creator of JenKehl.com, Break the Parenting Mold, Homeschooling My Way, and Beyond Blog Design. She has been published on BlogHer, BonBon Break, Scary Mommy, Mamapedia and several other parenting websites. Her work is included in the best-selling anthology The Mother of All Meltdowns. When she’s not writing about parenting special needs, 70s music and keeping the man from poisoning our kids, she’s watching Laverne & Shirley with headphones on to block out the kid with the missing volume control button.

This post was originally published on the website Break the Parenting Mold, which Jen created to help parents share stories about their children with special needs.

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