Owning Dyslexia – A Family’s Victory

If you want to catch up with the Millers, you had better hop on over to the nearest sports field or wander around to their backyard. As the mother of three, Jennifer Miller is intentional about getting her kids involved in the kinds of activities where they shine, whether it’s organized sports, caring for the family vegetable garden, or spending time at grandma and grandpa’s farm. She also nurtures their love for learning with lots of books, access to toys that develop critical thinking, and trips that expand her children’s horizons with new experiences.

When it was time to start school, Jennifer’s middle child, Brandon, entered Kindergarten eager to learn, so when he started responding to school with anxiety and tears she became concerned. Although he was just five years old, Brandon became painfully aware that there were some things he couldn’t do that the other kids could do, like spell his last name or remember sight words This made him angry and his behavior also revealed feelings of anxiety. Most days he would cry before school, during school, and after school.

Owning dyslexia a family's victory


As she struggled to get through homework with Brandon each week, Jennifer, a high school English teacher, realized that her son didn’t feel capable of doing what was asked of him at school. When she saw that he was already falling behind his peers in Kindergarten, she asked his teacher about it. The only answer the school could provide was that Brandon wasn’t putting in his best effort, and when compared to other low performing students, there wasn’t anything to worry about at all.

Jennifer was not convinced. In fact, she was scared. As a teacher herself, she knew the demands that are placed on kids to use reading as a learning tool in junior high and high school. She also knew the glum statistics that predicted a high dropout rate in high school for kids who can’t read by 3rd grade.



Then one day during lunch with a teacher friend, Jennifer expressed her concerns about Brandon. Her friend told her about some work her school was doing with dyslexia and wondered if that might be what was going on with Brandon. That started Jennifer on a flurry of research.

“When you’re reading about dyslexia, it’s a scary thing. You see your child struggling and you don’t know if they’ll be able to read or not,” said Jennifer. “We had a little denial at first, but one day my husband said, ‘This sounds like me, too.’ The only question we had then was should Brandon be tested.”



Jennifer found True Potential Education as she was researching dyslexia and her first call to them lasted at least 45 minutes. They were so good at listening despite all of the emotion that came out when Jennifer talked about her son and her family’s difficult journey through the first months of Kindergarten.

She didn’t make an appointment with True Potential Education (TPE) to have Brandon tested for dyslexia until after she had also talked to practitioners at a large well-known university. These specialists advised her to wait, but this conflicted with Jennifer’s research that emphasized the importance of early intervention, and her gut instinct that told her not to wait another day. Sure enough, the test came back with a diagnosis of dyslexia at a severe level.



Jennifer enrolled Brandon in tutoring right away in her local community in outstate Iowa, but she was disappointed with a lack of results. She turned again to True Potential Education in West Des Moines because she felt that there weren’t any other practitioners that had their level of knowledge and skills. She wanted remediation done the right way the first time, so she and her husband decided to enroll Brandon in online sessions.

While Jennifer would not compromise on the quality of the programming, she was a bit skeptical about how virtual tutoring would work for her son. What she has found, however, is that Brandon’s tutor has been phenomenal in building a relationship with him, and she knows it works because of the results.

“She really understands Brandon. She took the time to get to know him,” said Jennifer. “Sometimes he’ll show her something he made with Legos and they’ll chit chat for a couple minutes, but because of their relationship he will follow her lead and they get the work done.”



Now with nearly three years of tutoring complete, Brandon has made great progress and looks forward to his virtual tutoring sessions. As Jennifer looks back, she remembers how tough it was at the beginning when Brandon would associate his weekly sessions with lost play time. Even as a first grader he noticed that his classmates didn’t have to do tutoring, but he did.

Progress has come steadily but Brandon has had his ups and downs. He has become depressed from time to time thinking that what he needs to do is unfair, or he gets down on himself saying that it’s too hard. Talking with a therapist at TPE has helped Brandon to realize that he’s not the only person in the world with this learning difference. Along with help from his parents, he’s been able to recognize his strengths and not just focus on what needs work.



Today, Brandon is a third-grader and is just one point away from reading at grade level. His confidence along with his reading skills has grown by leaps and bounds. He asks for help when he needs it, and he has even started volunteering to read aloud. Most importantly, Brandon has become an advocate for himself, educating those around him that dyslexia is not a disability but a learning difference, and he can recite the names of famous people who share the same difference.

“The reading is getting there, but the social and emotional impacts have been hardest for me as a mom,” said Jennifer. “To have him feel the confidence to read and own the fact that he’s dyslexic – that’s a victory for us!”

Note: Names are changed to maintain confidentiality.

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