By Ken Partridge
I have a younger brother. He’s smart, hard-working, has a great family and can do many things I would never even think of attempting. I’m proud of everything he has accomplished. What I’m not proud of is how I let him down when we were both much younger.
School always came easy for me. I rarely had the highest grade, but I was usually number two or near the top. I suppose, if I had put in the extra effort, I could have been number one, but it came so easily I rarely felt the need to stretch myself.
This was not the case for my brother. School was something he needed to really work at to succeed. As the oldest sibling, it often fell to me to help my brother with his school work. This was never a fun experience. I knew he could do the work. His intelligence was never in question; I knew he was capable of doing the work. It seemed to me like he just wasn’t interested, like he couldn’t be bothered.
This often led to arguments as I tried to force him to pay attention and do what I knew he was capable of doing. I remember one session in particular; I lost my temper, slammed shut the books and walked away from the kitchen table where we were working. I told my mom I couldn’t help him anymore because he wasn’t willing to try.
There have been many times since that incident when I’ve wished I could go back and have a do-over. Why? It wasn’t too long afterward that my mom had my brother tested and we learned he had a mild case of dyslexia. Letters and numbers appeared jumbled to him and it took much longer for him to force them into the correct order in his head, so he could understand what he needed to accomplish.
That’s why reading the Face To Face article in this issue was hard for me. Don Winn’s explanation of how the various forms of dyslexia rob people of their time and are easily misinterpreted really hit home for me. I found myself nodding many times during the article as I recalled the same feelings and frustrations he describes. I saw myself in the misinterpreted reactions to dyslexia. I wish I had read this article decades ago when I could have used the information to better assist my brother with his homework.
My chance to do that is lost now. My brother developed his own coping mechanisms. He went on to establish himself in a challenging career that involves the use of a lot of complicated math and calculations every day. He had setbacks, even left his education for a while, but he went back, dedicated himself to his goals and succeeded. I wish I played a larger role in helping him to do that, but I didn’t.
My hope is that anyone reading this issue will have the chance I missed. If they see any of the indicators Winn outlines in their children or in others they know, perhaps they’ll get an early diagnosis and can help ensure dyslexia doesn’t become a roadblock for their loved one. A learning disability isn’t something you would wish on anyone, but with the right support it doesn’t have to be an obstacle either. Act now, and avoid a lot of regret later.