I don't know why they waited to tell me, perhaps they were afraid. How does a parent break it to a nine-year-old child that she has dyslexia? I know now that they didn't tell me because they didn't know. I remember being taken to specialist after specialist. I remember having my eyes checked and my deep wish that a simple pair of glasses would fix it all.
I'm not upset with my parents for the way they did tell me, for it was kind and full of love. I do wish, however, that there could have been some way they could of helped me to understand. We waited a year to know of my learning disability; because of this I spent a year of not understanding myself in a time when differences were not easily excepted.
|Mrs. Spencer and I on the last day of school.|
I'll never forget that day the students went to the rug, because it was the first time I was truly classified as different. Mrs. Spencer came to me and told me that I didn't have to go because I didn't have the same spelling work. I had my reading and writing lessons at the Resource Lab in the mornings. The lab was in a trailer at the end of the kindergarten playground. Through the large windows of our third-grade room we could see the edge of the trailer and a good half of the small lawn. The specialist would come in the back door of the classroom and and walk with me to the lab.
As we would walk along the edge of the lawn, past the class windows, I could feel all my classmate's eyes following us. The side of the building was lined with rocks that crunched under our feet. I looked down at them so I would not have to see the children's faces. That was the first time I decided to be invisible.
Back in the classroom, my desk was on the very end of a cluster of desks, and I was careful to keep the pencil drawings on it as black as I could. It was always upsetting when I was forced to wash the desk; hours of work down the drain. Now I stared long and hard at these drawings as the class passed me on the way to the rug with their treasured spelling books. I thought, or hoped that if I concentrated hard enough I really would be invisible. But they did see me, and they new why I wasn't getting a spelling book out of my desk. It was as if they could see straight through the rust painted metal of my lone desk. They knew I didn't even have a speller.
Could they see me struggling that first day we had them? Could they see the words in my brain shattering like glass until I could no longer tell they had meaning at all? Could they see the shards cutting my fingertips as I tried to follow along? Did they know I couldn't read?
Now could my classmates see the wall I was building with their words as they passed me on the way to the rug? "Lucky," they whispered. "Why?" they asked. "Stupid," they teased, but worst of all, and the one that still calls out to me like the cries of a wolf pack circling their pray in the night, "Retarded!" So there I sat alone in my desk building my walls, as I drew.
I didn't know words then. I didn't know one book or poem or play. I lived in a silent world. I could speak like anyone else, but as I sat at my desk and looked at that spelling book on that first day they were handed out, all I could see was defeat. The words meant something, but what? What was I supposed to do? It bored me. My head hurt to try; to make sense out of it. And so I drew.
My classmates read on and on as pages flew by. It was as thought it were easy. I looked back at the page. Surly I missed something. Maybe I'll see it this time. A picture, a sign, some kind of clue. What was I doing? Nothing, just words.
Mrs. Spencer sat at her desk. I turned and looked at her. She looked up. I turned back around. "How much longer must I sit here?" She must have felt my pain, because just as quickly as I had found that red and yellow book on my drawing pencils, it was gone. "Kristen, you don't need to do this, we'll find something else for you to do," she apologized. It was almost like she had made a mistake by giving me the book. She seemed to have forgotten something.
What does she mean? Why don't I get the spelling book? What was in it? What made me so different? Then all of a sudden that dreadful book that I hated to think about became a desired book and without it I was a stranger. I was different!
My parents didn't tell me about my learning disability until the following May. After a long year of testing. The next school year I changed schools and started a new life. With the knowledge that I needed a new learning strategy, I blossomed. Things were finally starting to be explained in a way that made since. Although it wasn't until I was a sophomore in college and I had a tutor who really helped reading click. I don't know if it was my age, or the simple instruction that I had never had before.
But even now, when I here children make fun, or someone implies, that malicious word calls back to me soft and cold from a nine-year-old's mouth, "Retarded."