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Mom Talk: Seeing The Gift In A Dyslexia Diagnosis

Written by Monica Berg

Photography by Photo Courtesy of Monica Berg

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and to mark the occasion, mom, teacher, and podcaster Monica Berg has released The Gift of Being Different, a beautifully illustrated and written children’s book that looks on the bright side of a dyslexia diagnosis. Below, Monica recounts her personal story when receiving a dyslexia diagnosis for her daughter Abigail (co-author of The Gift of Being Different), and how they’re reframing the experience for themselves and others.

Every parent sees the magic in their child, it kind of comes with the territory of having children. However, my daughter Abigail’s brilliance is something that I saw in her right away. She is only in fourth grade, but from the time she could speak, it seemed one profound observation followed another. I recognized her wisdom and encouraged it in her, always looking to learn from her insights and perspectives and delighting in her almost supernatural gift for communication. It is also the reason why, when she came to me to say she was struggling in school, I got really curious.

Reading hadn’t been a strong suit, even though her communication was leaps and bounds beyond her peers, but as we started second grade it was more than just a few trip ups. Her challenges with reading were beyond what would have been typical for her age. She was working twice as hard as her fellow classmates—three hours of tutoring a week and another two hours of homework daily—but progress wasn’t happening. We continued to investigate, to look deeper, and eventually she was diagnosed with dyslexia.

This was not my first experience in receiving a diagnosis for one of my four children. My son Josh was born with Down Syndrome and, while that was a very different experience and one I have written and spoken about many times, it prepared me for this new experience. I wasn’t afraid of what her diagnosis meant and my only true concern was wanting to make sure her natural confidence remained intact. So often when children are facing a challenge, parents unconsciously make it about them. They project their insecurities and fears onto their children and, in so doing, create more harm than help. Instead, it’s on us as parents to reframe these moments for our children, helping them to see the opportunity in the challenges they face. Sometimes this means confronting our old beliefs about ourselves.

As a child, I had my own negative beliefs about my intelligence and my abilities that were exacerbated by a particular teacher who had it out for me. Luckily, I later outgrew these false narratives and have since come to know and appreciate my gifts. It would have been easy for me to allow those old voices to take over in the face of Abigail’s diagnosis, but instead I felt honor and pride in the fact that my daughter felt safe enough to tell me she was having a hard time. I let the news not be “a big deal” and instead chose to see her learning difference as a gift, a unique superpower inside of a girl who is already pretty super!

The result of our experience is The Gift of Being Different—the book that Abigail and I wrote together that is being released this week. Abigail didn’t want to feel ashamed anymore, nor did she want other kids like her to feel ashamed. Instead, she wanted to convey the idea that often, our greatest gifts are hiding within our struggles and this became the blueprint for our book. She transformed her challenges with reading into a book and the perfection is not lost on me. In fact, one of the most powerful messages in The Gift of Being Different is that you don’t need to know how to read to write a book.

Abigail may not have been able to read with proficiency until the third grade, but she did have a voice and she wasn’t afraid to use it. She believed in herself and her story. She is a shining example of what can be done if we embrace what makes us unique and dare to transform it into a superpower!

As parents, our job is to support our children in revealing who they really are and encouraging them to be all they are meant to be. Part of that process might be facing our own beliefs and narratives, but that just becomes another blessing. We can relax the muscle that tells us we need to teach our kids who they are and instead look for all the ways they are teaching us.

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