I wrote about a heroine in CASSIDY'S COWBOY who has dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder. I've researched the subject but I'm not an expert. This blog isn't about the condition itself, but rather about the effects of it. The inability to decipher the written word is a subject we don't discuss much. But reading is such an essential part of life, I decided to explore the issue in this novel. As an author and a former teacher, it's important to me.
I had experience with dyslexia when I taught second grade. This disability concerns the part of the brain that decodes symbols. I believe teachers are more aware these days than even a dozen years ago and reading problems are caught sooner. Early intervention is paramount. But children have slipped through the cracks for many years. In my case as a teacher, the learning difficulty manifested in my students with behavioral problems. When a child feels he or she can't keep up with peers, when a child feels he or she is on the outside looking in, if this child feels unable to learn, behavior changes. Acting out is common. So is sullenness or withdrawal. A teacher working with parents tries to find the root of the problem. Now testing can aid in this cause.
My heroine had a reading disability that was never diagnosed. Her history in foster care helped her slip through the cracks until teachers and caregivers just considered her a difficult child. Fortunately she found a mentor who took her under her wing. But instead of addressing the problem, she helped Cassidy learn to live with it. Was she an enabler or a loved one helping Cassidy cope? Because she finally had people around her who cared, Cassidy learned tricks to hide her reading disability from those outside her circle. She had a great memory. In the same way a child memorizes a favorite book, Cassidy used her memory to retain information and absorb it. She learned to duck situations that could reveal what she felt was a flaw. Imagine the vigilance necessary to remember everything--signs, instructions, the meaning of symbols. Anxiety can become a huge by product in fearing the secret of being unable to read will be identified. However, in the end, Cassidy has to reveal her secret to the person she cares about most.
Unconditional love teamed with a dose of reality wins the day in Cassidy's story. I wish all of our children could be so fortunate.
©2013 Karen Rose Smith