My Daughter Has Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Anxiety, and SPD—and She Feels Just Fine

Lee no longer apologizes for her disorders, nor is she embarrassed by them.
Mom Is the Word | posted by Jennifer Gay Summers
Self Acceptance: My Daughter's Grasp of Her Mental Health

It was time for my daughter’s dental cleaning, and she wasn’t going. The last time we were there, Lee complained that none of the hygienists was gentle during a cleaning and, even worse, she’d overheard one tell me to “give her the guilt treatment” if she didn’t take better care of her teeth.

“How dare she do that behind my back?” Lee fumed.

She was 17 now, old enough to leave her childhood dentist behind, so I took her to mine. We walked into the waiting room, and I watched her eyes dart around, taking in the adult environment. There were no noisy children playing with toys and no reminders taped on the wall to earn stickers for brushing your teeth. Just a woman patiently waiting, reading People.

The receptionist asked Lee to fill out a new patient form. Lee took one look at it and handed it over to me. With a laugh, she said, “Mom can fill it out.” The receptionist raised her eyebrows, probably thinking Lee was old enough to do it herself. I thought, Little do you know how difficult this is.

Lee spoke up. “I have dyslexia and the lines all go together when I look at those forms. Plus, I have dysgraphia, which makes it hard for me to write small.”

My mouth fell open. Hearing her voice her disabilities in that clear, confident voice was nothing short of a miracle. What a long road we’ve come down, I thought, remembering all the times she couldn’t explain something because she felt ashamed. How many times had I wanted to cry when her cheeks turned fiery red as she stared down at the ground, hoping for a hole to swallow her up. I gave her a quick hug around the shoulders, and we took a seat.

I started to fill out the form. Then, Lee jumped up and started pacing. Back and forth, back and forth, she strode the length of the tiny waiting room. The woman next to us glanced up, her eyes curious and amused. Lee smiled at her and said, “I know, I know, I pace a lot, but it’s because I’m hyper. I have ADHD.”

Wow, I thought. She just revealed that she had dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD…all within five minutes of entering the dentist’s office. Talk about self-empowered! The woman stuck her nose back into People, unsure of what to say.

The hygienist walked in and gestured us back to her room. As she put a bib around Lee’s neck, she asked, “Do you floss?”

Lee said, “I can’t floss. It sets off my sensory processing. I get shivers flowing through my brain and that causes me anxiety. I already have generalized anxiety disorder, so I don’t want to add to it. Just give me those soft picks like they gave me when I had braces.”

Angela smiled, nodded, and started to clean.

Well that about covers it, I thought. She just gave Angela the remaining disorders, SPD and anxiety, without a trace of embarrassment. I was there for support, today, but it was obvious that I wouldn’t be needed much longer.

When we were leaving, Lee turned around in the door and waved goodbye to the receptionist. “Don’t worry, she said. “I’ll fill out the forms when I’m 18. I’m just enjoying what’s left of my childhood!”

I laughed, but I wasn’t seeing any trace of a child with me today. A strong young woman was walking by my side.

 
 
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