Even though it is currently summer school holidays here, my youngest daughter has been doing homework almost daily for the past month. It’s safe to say, it hasn’t been the ‘funnest’ holiday ever for her, but with her diagnosis of severe functional dyslexia being confirmed days after school ending last year, everyone (above the age of 40) agreed that she couldn’t afford to miss 7 weeks of schooling.
So I get to play teacher. Yay.
Some days start with tears and end with shouting. Sometimes we mix it up, and start with shouting and end with tears. ‘Why did I have to get the broken brain?’ she’d mumble after crawling into my lap for a hug. Every session ends with a collective sigh of relief – and I can’t tell whose are louder – hers or mine. But every day she amazes me with her persistence and tenacity.
Today I gave her an activity that she enjoys because she gets to use a packet of brightly coloured alphabet stamps. Hell, even I like brightly coloured alphabet stamps.
I gave her a page that had the following:
B E _
_ R I P
_ A M P
W _ G
_ E N T
She uses her stamps to make ‘real’ words (such as bed and red, drip and trip). It can be rather hit and miss, but it’s good for her to swap sounds and see how they affect words.
But little did I realise that the letter stamps were alive, all with unique personalities.
‘I want to go first’, she squeaked waving the letter M around. She hopped the letter over to the first word. ‘B-E-M’ she sounded out. ‘BEM.’ She sighed heavily. ‘Too bad M, back in the box.’
‘I’m scared,’ she whispered, waving the T around. She glanced sideways at me. ‘T is just a baby.’ She said by way of explanation. ‘Go T’ she cried in encouragement. ‘You got this!’
Having established that indeed BET was a real word, she turned to me – ‘I’m on fire!’ she said.
We made our way through the words. Very. Slowly. She’s very fair-minded and wanted to give all the letters a chance.
‘I want a turn’ the orange letter C cried.
‘Can I bring a friend?’ asked green S.
‘I’m X and I like being crazy!’ whooped the purple X.
‘Ladies first!’ huffed the pink J.
Soon, all the pink letters were lined up with a respective blue ‘boyfriend’ and were about to start a conga line. I was tempted to tell them all off, but the thing is – she was actually enjoying herself and she was making the words she needed.
‘Off you go D,’ she said encouragingly to a pink stamp as she bounced it towards _ AMP.
‘I have a good feeling about this,’ she whispered to me.
‘DAMP! Yes!’ she cried.
The next word was W_G and after a few false starts involving unpopular letters Z and Y, I told her she would need vowels to make it into a word.
‘Right then,’ she cried to the box of stamps. ‘I want all the vowels please. Line up! Come on O where are you? Don’t be shy,’ she pleaded.
Having made wig and wag, she moved onto the last word which was _ENT. She lined all the vowels up again to have another go.
‘You won’t need the vowels for this one,’ I explained. ‘It already has one.’
She cupped her hands around the stamps. ‘Shhhh Mum, you’re making them sad.’
Slowly she marched them all back to the box, whispering gently to them not to feel bad, and they’d get another chance.
And even though dyslexia will be a hard slog for both of us, I cannot but feel hearted by the fact that she has a love for letters and words. And maybe one day, with lots of work – the feeling will be mutual.