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What Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities Have Taught Us: Sister Stories, Part 1

Welcome to Season Two of the LucyBlue blog! We took note of the posts you enjoyed most last season, and, without a doubt, they were those in which we shared stories about ourselves and our families. This is the first of a recurring series we're calling Sister Stories.

Your kids may have been in school for weeks already, or you may live in a state where school starts tomorrow. We decided back-to-school season was a good time to share something both of us have experience with: learning disabilities.

WENDY: My family was introduced to the wonderful world of learning disabilities when our son, Gabriel, was still not talking at 3.5. Finally, at 4, he started to string 3–4 words together. In first grade, his teachers called us in and told us he wasn't connecting with words and reading. We weren't overly concerned because he was so social and extremely athletic. Still, the school wanted him tested.

After many days of testing, it became clear that Gabe was dyslexic and had language processing difficulties. We were determined to get Gabe the help he needed. He was in an intense program to re-map his brain and awaken the parts he needed. Four times a week before school, he would go to his therapy appointments, and four times a week he would do rhythmic writing exercises at home on our blackboard after school.

Although he worked hard, at times we wondered if it was worth all the blood, sweat, and lots of tears. Finally, he graduated from the program and entered middle school as a "normal" student. "Normal" in that he no longer had therapy, but he was still dyslexic, and always will be.

Gabe proceeded to attack high school with a vengeance. He was a top athlete in two sports, while maintaining A's and B's. What most people did not know was that he worked twice, sometimes three times, as hard as his peers. Nothing came easily. Although some of his elementary school teachers cautioned he might not be college material, he was accepted to several colleges after graduation and chose Taylor University in Indiana.

He majored in marketing and was one of the captains of the soccer team. Again, he worked hard, took advantage of academic support, and had a successful and happy college experience. He also met his wife, Lauren, there. Today he works in a marketing firm here in Wheaton.

No one wants to hear that their child has a learning disability or dyslexia. However, there is so much hope!! True, the journey is difficult and frustrating, but there is an upside to all this hard work. Dyslexia and learning disabilities create the most determined, hardworking, persevering humans on the planet. They have grit and willpower others do not have. They have empathy and compassion for those who struggle and are willing to reach down and help because they were once helped.

SUSIE: While I was in growing up, academic testing wasn't common. It was certainly no secret that I never enjoyed reading, but I loooooved being read to. I could never—seriously, never—connect with a book on my own, though. Somehow I made it through high school spending minimal time in the pages of books others loved. I even drew illustrations of costumes to get through Shakespeare!

In college, I devised a way to learn the information without trying to unscramble the disconnected words and thoughts in the books that daunted me. I used every creative tactic in my arsenal to do this: I listened well in class, took great notes, went to any study group I heard about. and probably prayed a lot! After college, I still struggled, but it easier to avoid reading altogether. So I did.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I really started to feel like I was missing out. My mom, sister, and sister-in-law would talk about the latest book they had read. It was so frustrating to me, because they knew a whole world I had never touched. But I thought I was simply unable to enjoy reading, so that was that.

I'm not sure what happened, but a year ago a good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be in a book club with her and about 5 other interesting women. I knew I would love to get to know these ladies, but I literally laughed out loud and shared that, although I absolutely wanted to be in it, I had never finished a book before!

Well, we have been at it for 7 months, and I have COMPLETED 6 books!!! On top of that, I have loved every minute (well, almost every minute) I've spent with my nose in a book. It has been so life giving—opening my imagination like never before. Our conversations have enriched me. I don’t know what changed—probably lots of things. I have more time, less distractions, and the need to be in fellowship with other women. But it also just might be that I ready to take on a challenge I thought was out of my reach.. And what do you know—it really wasn’t!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: We hope you've enjoyed this insight into Wendy and Susie's lives. We will share more stories of personal determination and hard work in the weeks ahead, because those traits are part of the fabric of LucyBlue Knits. In case you're interested in the books shown in Susie's picture, here's the list: Do We Not Bleed? by Daniel Taylor; The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah; Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple; and Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

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