Friday, August 26, 2011

The Boy who couldn't Read

There are these quiet, dark whispers incessantly nagging: What is wrong with my child?

He was a stunningly beautiful  boy with large blue eyes fringed with thick black lashes, always smiling. Over ten pounds at birth, he continued to grow faster than his peers. At one, he was the size of a two year old. He hit all those gross motor skills milestones very early but by two, all that came from his mouth was gibberish.

I tried to do all the right things, read to him, sing to him, reward any attempt at speech with applause. Gradually words came; very poorly enunciated, but words nonetheless. At four, he was the size of a six year old but spoke like a three year old. I sent him to speech therapy. Before the insurance would pay for this, he needed to be 'professionally' evaluated. The evaluator's conclusion: not only was he grossly deficient in speech but he seemed to be mentally challenged as well. I had no business sending him off to kindergarten the next year as he so woefully was behind. Well my baby boy could play chess and passed every little logic test that I could think of. I knew he was bright though maybe I was just a blind mama bear thinking the best of her cub. The speech therapist  worked wonders. Although he had vastly superior gross motor control, he had no control of his tongue.

By kindergarten, he no longer spoke 'funny'. He also had  superior social skills and usually found himself to be the most popular boy. He was the first boy to be picked on any team and invited to almost every party.

All was going well except for that he could not read. He disguised it very well and listened carefully to classroom discussions. He took home all his books which I read and told him the highlights. As he became older, more and more books for me to read and quiz him over. If some of you wondered why I couldn't find time to clean my house, well this is a hint. He did fairly well in school. He was able to parrot back what we went over. Spelling however was torture. At one point he was in a third year advanced French class. This turned out to be impossible, learning a foreign language was just too much. He did well in math. What is going to become of a boy who couldn't read? How will he earn a living? He worried about these questions himself. I suggested that he become an engineer as he had the math ability and there was no foreign language requirement. As he was fascinated by cars, I suggested he go to this engineering school affiliated with the auto industry. Sure, sign him up.

During his senior year, we took the family to NYC for X-mas. With us was Julia, his girlfriend of 6 months and Shanna's fiance (not whom she eventually married). He was recovering from mono and still felt quite ill (Julia did not catch it). I had bought books for us all to read for the long ride including a Harry Potter book for Naomi (who turned out to have a more severe reading disorder). At some point, Josh took Naomi's book and didn't put it down. He then started reading everything he could get his hands on. Even today, he reads well into the night. A light suddenly dawned on him. Before it didn't occur to him that he needed to actually pay attention to the words written.

He did well in college though there were a lot more non-engineering classes he had to take thus more books for me to read and discuss than what I had hoped. The guys in the fraternity would study together. He helped them out with CAD classes in which he was a whiz and they helped him with everything else. He went to a co-op college: classes for 3 months then work for 3 months: back and forth for 5 years. His corporate sponsor kept him and gave him credit for his co-op years so he has a fair amount of seniority for one so young. With all the slicing and dicing in the auto industry, he is one of the youngest left. They think quite highly of him. He was the principal inventor on a patent which saved his company millions. Recently they offered him a promotion in charge of eight engineers. He was hesitant to take it as it would take him away from designing but to get ahead, you need to be a supervisor. They told him he could spend time designing also and do special projects involving international travel. When it comes time for someone to present the department's work to those above, Josh is the first that they ask to do this; my little inarticulate bear cub all grown up.
There are a few left overs of his challenges. He can not spell or remember names. He mispronounces simple words. Yesterday he called me to look at a map and try to figure out the name of a street he needed to go to in Plymouth. He had written it down somewhere but lost the strip of paper and didn't want to pester the person again. Sounded like Fairfax or something. I blew up a map and carefully pored over it looking for something that would sound similar to his ears and  guess. As he did not call me back, I must have guessed right. I am trying to get him to learn at least a little Portuguese for his trip in a few weeks but I know he won't. In Germany, he couldn't repeat the name of his workplace as it was a compound word a mile long. He just hoped to find it on his own.

So there are happy endings. Will a miracle occur with my baby who is still finding herself?


Cheryl said...

Some stories do, indeed, have a happy ending. There is one thing that stands out, your 'little boy' was blessed to have a Mother who loved him and believed in him. The miracle of a 'Mother's Love' Sue.

Cheryl said...

Have just lost my comment.
Now it will be a condensed version Sue.
Some stories do indeed have a Happy Ending. Your 'little boy' was truly blessed to have a Mother that loved and accepted him.
I am wondering if he could have had a 'cross dominance' problem. Did he have difficulties recognising his right from his left or reading maps?

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

He is dyslexic. Various teachers did notice but assured me that he was so bright that eventually he would figure out a way to compensate, which he did. He will not read a map. I've left several in his car. He will use a GPS so the phone calls to me Where am I now and where should I go are not so often. I love maps and have a good sense of direction. I can draw the main streets of any city I have spent time in. This has not been passed down to my kids.


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