I’m extremely pleased to welcome Liz Dunoon, Mother of three, Author and Teacher from Australia! Her first book, Helping Children With Dyslexia, came out in Australia at the end of September – with plans to make it readily available in the states soon. (You can purchase it now, however, through her website! I’ll let her tell you her story and her journey to help her children succeed in school.
Without Further Ado, Liz Dunoon!
For the last three years I have been writing a book titled ‘How To Help Children With Dyslexia’. It has just been published. No I’m not a scientist, or a neuro-psychologist or an educational specialist. I am a past teacher, but more importantly, I am a parent, a parent of three, beautiful, happy children who all struggle with dyslexia. Here is the story of how my book came about.
In 2004 my oldest son started school. I held him back a year until he was six-years-old. This was because I knew as a youngster he had been a slow developer. As a past teacher I understood the value of reading, so as he grew I would read to him every night before bed. A routine we both loved. He was so clever, although he could not identify any of the individual words, he could memorize whole stories perfectly and even used the relevant expression. We would laugh and laugh.
Starting school however was daunting for my son, he found reading writing and spelling virtually impossible and when he bought his readers home from school and flash cards of simple sight words, I noticed he could not read any of them. When I taught him a word on one page of his reader he could not transfer that learning to the next. I was as confused as he was. Why couldn’t he remember words? I always assumed even as a teacher that learning to read was a process of ‘osmosis’, the more times you saw a word, the more likely it was to become stored in your working and long term memory. So why wasn’t this happening for my son? To top it off, he found writing difficult and controlling his pencil almost impossible. He became unsure of himself and I began to worry. I was a trained teacher why couldn’t I help him.
A trip into the classroom 3 months later proved frustrating and even more worrying. The teacher at his school had no knowledge of his struggle. I felt completely alone and I remember sitting in my car after this meeting, crying in despair. In response I ramped up my efforts at home to teach my son, but this just resulted in teary anxiousness, which led to defiance and lots of him shouting of, “I just can’t do it”. What was going wrong? I just didn’t understand it.
Eventually we changed schools to a much better one that had a great learning support department and offered lots of extra help. The learning difficulties eased but they did not go away. Completing homework was a nightmare for my son and for me too and his schoolwork was getting harder as each year progressed. He had become anxious and stressed and I didn’t like the path this was taking.
Not one to sit around and wait for things to improve, I felt it was time to take things into my own hands. I got on the internet and used the phone and rang as many so called dyslexia experts as I could find. I found very quickly that many were linked to remedial programs that were very expensive and I immediately disregarded them. Then by chance I found a woman who provided the answers to my prayers. Thankfully she was nearby and we drove for two hours to reach her. She assessed my son and gave me the answers I was seeking. Finally I knew how to help him.
So began my journey as this wonderful woman was ‘switched on’ and she knew what was and was not available to help children with dyslexia. Only with a diagnosis of dyslexia, did my son receive support and guaranteed assistance throughout his schooling. But how come the teachers did not tell me this. I discovered later as I continued my research that nearly all teachers including me are not educated or trained in teaching and assisting children with dyslexia and there is much confusion and misinformation.
Acquiring a diagnostic report of dyslexia from a trained professional can cost up to $1200 and most parents do not know they need one, as very few people know exactly what dyslexia is. Children with dyslexia continue to fall through the cracks as psychologists continue to treat depression, anxiety disorders, delinquency and substance abuse, whilst often leaving the root cause of dyslexia undisclosed.
Now you can see why somebody needed to do something to help children with dyslexia. My second son also has dyslexia and my daughter too, but all of my children exhibit different symptoms. My husband struggled at school as well, but worked hard and went on and did very well. I guess the one common denominator shared by all is an ongoing difficulty to read and spell, slow processing speeds and ongoing mental fatigue.
I wrote my book to address all these issues. I am not an expert, more of a reporter. Really I am just a parent who was once a teacher, trying to make a difference and help others. Every chapter heading in my book comes from parents and addresses a fear worry or concern that had been raised and needs to be addressed. In fact over 120 families read my book to make sure I got it right before it went to print. It is funny when people pick up my book and say, ‘But this book answers all the questions I have ever wanted to know the answers too’.
‘Amazing!’ I say, but it not magic. It was parents who gave these to me in the first place.
I have used many world leading dyslexia experts to help me write this book and include all the latest research on colored lenses, brain science, genetics and why dyslexia even exists. These incredible people gave me access to their research and then proof read my work to make sure I got it right. Then I also used more experts to offer strategies to support children with dyslexia, to rebuild their confidence and get them reading and learning confidently again.
This is just the beginning of my journey. I am determined to change the way the world perceives and deals with dyslexia and will not rest until I have achieved this aim. This book is a great place for parents and teachers to start when they are on a journey to help a child who may have dyslexia. I have also created a website full of free resources to offer even more support. Until Governments step up and put appropriate support systems in place to help our children with dyslexia, parents must support one other.
From one family affected by dyslexia to another, I wish you and your family every success.