By: Maralee McKee
A business acquaintance of mine experienced the reality of most moms’ educational dreams for their children. Harvard University contacted her son out of the blue to say they were interested in pursuing him joining their prestigious halls of learning.
“How did you feel when you read the letter?” I asked her.
“Honestly, I felt really, really great!” she beamed in reply. “I’ll never forget the feeling. I’ve already tucked the letter in a special box of family heirlooms.”
I’m genuinely thrilled for my acquaintance; however, it’s hard for me today to imagine that scene replaying itself in the McKee house when Corbett, my first-grader, will be about to graduate high school.
I’m not being harsh on my sweet little guy. It’s that our Harvard dream suffered a blow at 12:47 PM last Friday in the office of a well-regarded educational psychologist.
That’s when my husband and I first heard the diagnosis “orthographic dyslexia.”
“Mr. and Mrs. McKee, there are excellent avenues of help for Corbett. With intense remediation he’ll learn to read and write and will overcome his learning differences.”
“Orthographic dyslexia? He doesn’t have dyslexia.” I announced to her. “He writes all his letters and numbers correctly.”
The educational specialist then began our first lesson in the mysterious world of this unique way of learning and the many types of dyslexia. While trying to paint a positive portrait of Corbett’s future school career, she made it clear that he’ll face challenges every step of the way.
Addition, subtraction, basic grammar, telling time, reading, writing, and all the simple things of early childhood education will be as challenging for him as calculus would have been for me had I not kept far away from it in college.
“His severe case means he has special needs,” she went on to say. “I recommend that our first step for Corbett’s success is to enroll him in a school specializing in teaching children who have dyslexia.”
Special Needs. A Special School.
Those two pronouncements began circulating around in my brain, forming a mental tornado that caused me to close my eyes in shock. Then the room began to rotate; I couldn’t breathe; I wanted to run away, and fast.
Instead, I channeled all my energy into holding back my tears. I opened my eyes to look briefly at my husband for calm reassurance.
Instead, I found his face and body echoing mine.
I’m a planner by nature, an administrator at heart. The only surprises I like are the ones I’ll find under the Christmas tree in about three weeks. This surprise journey is a little too much. I’m scared. I’m sad. I’m angry that Corbett’s journey is going to require so much more effort than that of his little friends.
I’m also worried: worried about his self-esteem, about what college he’ll attend, about what prosperous career he’ll find one day, and whether my future grandchildren will be destined by ancestry for the same journey.
I know the wisest choice is not to allow anger, fear and worry to creep into my heart and mind. I’m doing my best to sweep them out with the brooms of faith, action, and hope.
I see God at work already. I just know from previous personal experience that the pilgrim’s journey, although blessed, isn’t brief or easy.
I’m dealing with it in the way I was created to deal with things. I’m planning for his success.
A large box from Amazon.com should land on our doorstep any day full of books about dyslexia. I’ll be reading and studying from dawn ’til darkness. This week and next I’ll be visiting schools and speaking with specialists.
My heart is sad but hopeful, and my calendar is full. For now, that’s how I’m coping.
I realize my blessings in the midst of our disappointment. Corbett’s disability is one of learning; so through work, assistance and prayer, like millions of other dyslexic learners (estimated to be 8% of the population), he will overcome and thrive!
In fact, like Walt Disney and the film director Quentin Tarantino, who both grew up with dyslexia, Corbett has that same spark of creative magic. My husband and I see it in the unique way he dreams and how he thinks in new creative ways.
In time, I’ll have a new educational dream for Corbett to replace the one that came true for my acquaintance. Actually, it’s forming now as I type.
It will be the day when his spelling test shows that he got most of his words correct, instead of all of them incorrect. That will be the paper I tuck into our box of family heirlooms.
The first stop of our journey will be a new school. For now, may I say a public “goodbye” to everyone at Corbett’s current school.
We love you all and will miss you deeply. I can’t yet believe he won’t be with you after Christmas break. He was so looking forward to making snowflakes and celebrating his birthday with his school friends next month.
To all my readers, this will be my last Monday Morning Manners column until mid-January.
I will be on Positive Hits Z88.3 FM each Monday morning through December 22, so please join me there!
May we all enjoy a Christmas blessed by love and hope and a New Year filled with renewed faith in the goodness of the surprising journey Christ has laid out for each one of us!