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Vocabulary word of the day: Strephosymbolia

My daughter reads and writes backwards. Very, very well. In fact, if you hold up something of hers to a mirror, it's perfect. On the upside, she's in good company with the likes of Da Vinci and Einstein.

On the downside, uh, um, it's backwards.

It's been interesting explaining that the light switch says "on" rather than "no" and other funny things.

Everyone said to us, oh all kids reverse letters, it's no big deal. Don't worry. Relax. She'll grow out of it. Except, she's not reversing letters. She's doing it all perfectly backwards, consistently.

So, my mommy gut kept tickling me, regardless of all the reassurances. Still, I told myself, she's a leftie, to her, this is natural. She's imitating how we all read and write across our bodies.

Her mirror writing skill developed, and solidified. I talked to lefties, and ordered "Raising Your Leftie in a Rightie World" or some such title (a couple of weeks ago...still haven't recieved it). I tried making sure I sat across from her during writing lessons. I'd try to intervene, carefully demonstrating the "right" way while trying to not make her feel as if she was doing it wrong.

Patience, though, is a sensitive perfectionist who is highly resistant to being taught.

There is not enough wool in the world to cover her intelligent eyes.

She got it. Got that she was doing it all backwards. If she hadn't figured it out, and hadn't gotten it from me, she certainly got it from other people who gasped and exclaimed, "Oh WOW! She writes perfectly BACKWARDS!"

I'd feel concerned again. I'd express my concern. And once again, be reassured that nobody cares until third grade.

When my daughter began refusing to write or work on reading at all, and her motivated curiosity deteriorated into staunch avoidance and refusal partnered with a huge frustration, I said, enough, we have a problem.

I called a licensed professional who interviewed us and said, tentatively, that it sounded like it potentially could be classic strephosymbolia.

That means: dyslexia.

She arranged for about four tests, which we went to yesterday. It took about an hour and a half.

At the end, the doctor told us she would have the results in about a week. She gave us some information and a few homework assignments. We're to have Patience writing her name frontwards by the next appointment.

When we went to the appointment, we had a few potential reasons for the backwards writing. They were:

(a) we stink at teaching our kids to read and write
(b) we're doing it wrong
(c) we lack teaching skills
(d) Patience is a leftie
(e) Patience is dyslexic
(f) we stink at teaching
(g) we're doing it wrong
(h) architecture and writing degrees do not actually come in handy for teaching reading and writing to young children

We left the office to take Patience to get her promised ice cream cone (read: bribe). As we walked to the car, Patience said, "That was not fun AT ALL," as if we had truly betrayed her. We all climbed in the car and sat silently.

If there was a photo of us sitting there, with talking balloons over our heads, they would read:

My husband: I think we just signed up for puppy kindergarten.

Me: I think we're about to get told options a, b, c, f, g and h are correct and I have a feeling the "therapy" is going to be teaching us how to teach better.

Patience: Parents have a stupid idea of "games and activities." There was not a single moonwalk there. I'm going to ask for cheese sticks too. These nutcakes owe me.

The discussion began with my husband saying, "Why do I feel like we just got diagnosed as the problem?"

To which I replied, "Because I think we just did."

There is no feeling in the world like being told, "Oh yeah, with regard to this aspect of parenting? You guys are falling down on the job."

Which is NOT AT ALL what the doctor said.

It is what we inferred with our guilty parent hearts.

Our goal with the testing is to discover why, and if that means "us" then so be it. We will be glad to know. Our goal with the tutoring is to discover how, and if that means "we change" then so be it. We will be glad to.

Already, I've done activities 1 and 2 of 3 today. Already, Patience is easily writing her name frontwards.

Apparently, as probably most parents know, you have to give them a starting point on the correct edge of the page. Further, apparently, writing it and having them trace it with a marker is key. Additionally---and here's where I feel really stupid---it's really important to do this with lefties.

I think we know who is disabled here. LOL

Yeah, I have that mixed emotion building into baggage thing going on here. Oh yeah.

By Julie Pippert
© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced. R.E.S.P.E.C.T that. Please. If you want to use something, write me.

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kaliroz said…
You aren't failing, love. You're just not perfect. Not a one of us is.

My child refuses to wear pants inside our home. She draws figures in a way someone told me she's going to grow up to be a criminal. She likes to talk about boobies.

We all have things we need help with. (If you can help me figure out the pants thing, I'd appreciate it. All though, I guess it's not so bad because she's not in public.)

Good luck with all of it.
Bea said…
You know I've been there - weighing up the advantages of each option: Bad parenting? Or something wrong with my child? On the whole, bad parenting always feels like the more reassuring option.
Unknown said…
Sometimes I think stuff like this is also due to a child having a particular talent or intelligence. You mention how bright she is. Her mind might just work in certain way that is going to help her later but for now, for her parents, it is frustrating.

I think it is important to do what you are doing but I do really suspect it is because she is very intelligent and this is just one peculiar thing she's doing with her intelligence.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…
Sorry. Double posted. I'm having a problem with that today!
It makes her unique. As Kaliroz said, you weren't failing.


Girlplustwo said…
oh...sister. no failure here. we are all doing the best we can.

it's so easy to blame ourselves. it's so easy. Too easy. And not right.
cinnamon gurl said…
I've only been doing it for ten months but it sure feels like parenting is a minefield. You just try to do your best and not have it blow up in your face.

You are so not a failure -- apart from anything else, you listened to your warning voice and sought help. That seems pretty good to me.
Julie Pippert said…
Thanks, everyone.

I'm feeling better with some guidance from the professional.

I'll be happier with the test results.

My mother--also a leftie---is (happily) here for the holidays and is being tremendously helpful.

She's a teacher (as I mentioned) and is helping Patience with some of the exercises.

I write right, but use left for almost everything else. I suspect it is being raised in a leftie house.

My mother said it is surprising---in a good way---to her how sensitive the world is now to lefties. She said through her grandaughter she is learning about herself.

So...okay. We'll be okay.


Roz, love, love you TONS!
Gwen said…
You know, I don't think parents are really supposed to be able to teach their kids the school stuff--not because we lack the skills but because the other, emotional elements get in the way. Or maybe that's just me and my children since I have friends who have "taught" their children how to read, and good on them, I say! I'm sorry the testing was so stressful for everyone. My gut tells me that your daughter will be fine, in the end, and that 40 years ago--or less--no one would even have noticed. Information is great, but it also makes us crazy. And you know, once she's fully writing forward, make sure she keeps her backwards writing ability because that? is one cool trick! :)

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