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Andrew's journal: Growing up with dyslexia and AD/HD

From second grade through high school, Andrew has shared his story of getting through school with the dual challenges of dyslexia and AD/HD.

By GreatSchools Staff

Starting at age 7, Andrew* began telling his story about his struggles to understand and manage his learning disability and also to identify his strengths and talents. With help from his parents and teachers, he has provided us updates for each subsequent school year. His journal chronicles one boy's journey through public and private schools, the special education system — and the lessons he's learned along the way.

* Andrew's last name withheld to assure confidentiality.

Second grade: Discovering my dyslexia

I am dyslexic. I was born this way. Being dyslexic is not that much fun.

Many smart people are dyslexic. Some famous dyslexic people are Charles Schwab and John Chambers, who runs a big Internet company.

When I was in first grade I was not doing good. It was hard for me to read. It made me act mad. In first grade, kids used to tease me. It made me feel sad.

When you are dyslexic it's harder not to fight back. In first grade, I had a fight with my teacher. It was about the word "bot." She said it was not a word. She looked it up in the dictionary, and it really was a word! I felt happy. (Bot: the parasitic larva of a botfly.)

My parents took me to the University of California, San Francisco, to be tested by Barbara. She said grown-ups should tell me the words in reading. I could do sixth grade puzzles that other kids couldn't. I was smart, but I thought I was not because I had trouble reading.

Things are going better in second grade. Reading is funner. I'm not so angry anymore.

I am a very fast runner. I am very good at math. I am improving in reading. You'll find out the rest in third grade.

"From the very beginning, Andrew's mom and I saw that he was especially smart….... We also noticed he seemed more impulsive than other boys his age….and it seemed to us he was never listening. In first grade he was a newcomer to his public school. The more he was shut out by other kids, the more he tried to get attention by misbehaving. We enrolled him in a private school where [with positive supports from his teacher, his mom, and me], his behavior improved. But his [academic] progress wasn't much different from public school, so we had him assessed. We learned he was bright and dyslexic. In second grade, good things happened. Andrew worked with his teacher and an education specialist to develop tools to keep him focused and 'on task.' With help, he could negotiate the school day." — Andrew's father

Third grade: More reading, less teasing

Remember in second grade I was reading small books, and I was sad because I was getting teased a lot? And because I was getting teased, I acted angry.

Well, now I am doing a lot better. I'm in third grade, and it is easier because things are different. I am better at reading than I was last year, and I'm not getting teased as much.

I'm a little more organized, but I have some difficulties, like spelling quizzes. I kind of feel left out a little bit because I see other kids doing a lot better, but I feel good about my work now.

"As a third-grader, Andrew progressed nicely. As parents, we were challenged to help him focus his playfulness productively. Spelling was still difficult for him, but his reading vocabulary grew and he read chapter books. He played with friends, went to Cub Scouts, and participated in sports." — Andrew's father

Fourth grade: Getting organized, gaining confidence

As you know, I am Andrew, and I am still dyslexic ... duh! I am in the fourth grade now and at a new school, Farallone View Elementary.

My new school is great, but it was hard at first because kids like to pick on the new kid a lot. But that's how it goes at pretty much every school. Kids who pick on other kids are usually the ones who get in trouble a lot. So I just don't bother them and try to stay away. If they do tease me, I just walk away and try not to show any tears because if I do, then they'll just keep it up.

I have improved in reading and writing, and now I am starting to learn cursive. My favorite subject is social studies because it's interactive. I get to draw a lot and learn about other people and places. My favorite month of the year is Black History Month when we get to read stuff about Martin Luther King, Jr., and other great black leaders.

The first quarter I didn't do very well in math because I forgot to turn in my homework. In the second quarter, I did a lot better in math because I remembered to turn in my homework! The trick was to write the assignment down in my Cub Agenda. When I finished the assignment, I stuck it in my binder in a special plastic pocket so I would remember to turn it in the next day. I can't wait to see how I do in the third quarter.

I used to think I was stupid because I wasn't doing well with everything that had to do with reading and writing. A lot of people have helped me, like my mom and my daddy and my brother Will. And Barbara, she helps me because she is my tutor, and I've known her since I was 6. Barbara figured out how to help me. She knew I wasn't stupid and told me, but I didn't believe her at first.

For Christmas, my Auntie Lou and Uncle Billy gave me the set of Harry Potter books. I didn't think I would be able to read them. Then one night at bedtime, I picked one up, and I couldn't stop reading! Now sometimes I read until 12 at night, but usually my parents don't know. I love reading all kinds of books, but my favorite books are about Harry Potter.

For the people who are reading this now, you need to try new things all the time. I didn't think I could read Harry Potter, and at first I couldn't. But I kept trying, and now I can. Just don't give up on yourself, keep trying, wait a year, and believe that you can do whatever you want.

Comments from readers

"Where can I find a school like that to move to. we live in San Antonio, tx please help "
"As a children's librarian, and the mother of a middle school boy with ADHD and dyslexia, I found Andrew's journal very helpful. I saw many similarities in Andrew and my son. I'm going to have him read it also, to provide an opportunity for discussion with my son about his struggles and triumphs. "
"Thank you for putting this article on line. I can send this to family and friends who have children with ADD. I never get around to buying books to give out. This makes it easy to help inform parents that don't know what life is like in the head of an ADD kid. Andrew, keep up the good work. You are doing a great job. Good luck to you in all that you do. Gran"
"Thank you so much for this article.I have Three sons all with learning promblems.The article gave alot of hope."
"Want some additional information, answers to questions, or support? Please consider joining and posting them at the 'Learning and Attention Difficulties' group found here at GS to receive to receive practical suggestions from parents who have faced similar challenges:"
"My daughter is dyslexic and just began her freshman year. We read this journal as she can relate to it. She struggles but is the hardest working child I have ever been around. She made all 85's and above during her first six weeks. She is also very involved in dance but I keep a very close eye on her. She made a point of speaking to each of her teachers regarding her dyslexia and it really does help! I am glad Andrew is doing well also."
"What a POWERFUL story. My 13 year old son has experienced some of the same things you have! I am his biggest ADVOCATE and sometimes is gets very frustrating to explain his Auditory Processing Disorder to teachers year after year...even with documented paperwork, some still look at you like they do not understand. There are some wonderful teachers out there who really want to see their students succeed,AND it also takes the parents and child to do their part as well. With all of us, the child CAN and WILL be successful with the gifts bestowed upon them :) 'Special Education' that word needs to be revamped and called 'Resource Services,' a more friendlier type of title that does not label the child 'Dumb'. "
"Thank you for sharing your thoughts. "
"Andrew, I am very proud of the way you expressed your thoughts and feelings about your dyslexia. I like how you have taken ownership of how you learn and how you are better able to help yourself. Your journal will be an inspiration to students, parents, teachers, and society. Have you read Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Falker? I wish you continued success in your life."
"Hi Anderew, Thank you for sharing your story. What helped you the most in learning to read? Did you ever use the Wilson or Spire programs? Thank you for your response. I am a teacher and would love to know what works for children who suffer from dyslexia. "