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Spread the Word: My Kid Can Read!

Reading gets derailed for kids with attention deficit when they struggle with memory problems, slow processing speed, or learning disabilities like dyslexia. But with his symptoms eased and his focus improved, my son now makes reading look easy.

Close up of word "learning" highlighted in dictionary belonging to ADHD person
Close up of word "learning" highlighted in dictionary belonging to ADHD person

Here’s what my nine-year-old son Edgar’s reading teacher wrote this week: “Strong vocabulary and high interest; motivation levels are hallmarks of Edgar’s work in reading. He has outgrown my expectations, and he should be proud of his continuous hard work. He is remarkable!”

A year and a half ago I couldn’t fathom hearing these words, though my heart knew what was under the shroud of undiagnosed ADHD.

Instead, phrases such as “lack of progress,” “behavior room,” and “not meeting benchmarks” were bandied about and then cemented in my consciousness. These words gave me nightmares because, as a high-school English teacher, I knew where such “terming” could lead.

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have Dyslexia?]

Out in public, I watched people — otherwise nice people — initially smile at my son’s adorable appearance then morph into contorted expressions of disgust at his behavior: eyes rolling, heads shaking, audible sighs and snide comments. That he was suffering brought us — and him — to tears. That no one would ever know him, least of all himself, brought us to the realization that something needed to be done.

As an adult who was once a child who experienced her own share of challenges, reading was my constant. Books were often my best friends. The arrival of the Bookmobile in my neighborhood was like a holiday; I still remember the powerful papery smell of all those books.

It gave me great pause to realize that my child couldn’t read, and didn’t have the tools to read, because of everything that is associated with undiagnosed ADHD. And though his childhood is not mine, it is similar in the sense that it has been full of struggle. I knew, once he could read, books would save him. They would teach him, inspire him, be still for him, let him spend as much, or as little, time as he wanted or needed to with them.

I also knew that it was going to require an incredible amount of work — on the part of his talented and dedicated teachers, his devoted parents, and Edgar — and that no small pill, crushed twice a day into a teaspoonful of applesauce, was going to do the work for us or for him. It was simply going to give him a chance.

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Fast-forward 18 months, and we have a child who reads at home, reads at school, reads in the car, a child who engages with books and empathizes with characters in ways that make it look easy.

Sandwiched between two brothers who do not know firsthand the struggle of ADHD, and for whom so much has been so easy, Edgar has arrived. He has earned this moment.

Remarkable indeed.