Since September 2015 I’ve had the distinct pleasure of teaching at Congregation Bnai Jeshurun’s Staten Island Hebrew School and the rewards have been hard to articulate. One of the greatest benefits of my position there is getting to meet families like the Schwartz family and their daughter Leia. I consider myself a member of the warrior mom club and when I met Ayelet Schwartz- well her MOM WARRIOR power blew me away- her unflappable belief in her kids and their unique talents and strengths struck a real chord within me and I feel honored to be able to share their story and invite you all to read my my favorite Dyslexic Renegade’s BOOK and to attend a special book SIGNING that she will be at on Saturday March 12, from 10 am to 4pm right here on Staten Island At Barnes and Noble!
And now for a little back story- Leia’s Mom Ayelet shares her daughter’s triumph and challenge.
Leia was always an artistic and funny kid, even when she was a baby. When she was 18 months old though, we noticed that she wasn’t watching TV and she was really klutzy so we had her vision checked and discovered she has a neurologically based eye condition that doesn’t allow her two eyes to work together on top of poor vision. So she wore glasses. I cried because she was already different.
She had two eye surgeries, one at 3 and the other at 9. Fast forward, she went to kindergarten and everything seemed fine. First grade was fine. Second grade we noticed she was having some difficulties but we attributed it to her vision issues. We got her enlarged print and her teachers were understanding. I told the school about my concerns and they said she was fine, very articulate and well behaved. In third grade, it was clear that she was behind academically. She started refusing to do her homework and started to not want to go to school. I spoke to her teachers. They said she was fine, very well behaved, helpful and participated. Something wasn’t adding up though and she failed every single test in third grade. We had her evaluated at school but got no real answers as to why my bright, confident, artistic, happy child turned into a grumpy, no longer outgoing and not confident child.
We took her to a neurologist who recommended a complete neuropsych evaluation which we did. That was extensive and confirmed dyslexia. This was four days of testing which Leia did happily. Once the diagnosis was given she was afraid then relieved. There was an explanation for everything that was happening! She asked me to get her a blank book so I ran to AC Moore and bought one for her. She came to me a few days later and said she wrote a book and asked me to type it for her. We printed everything out and she cut and pasted the text and drew pictures to match. She carried it around with her everywhere and she was so proud of it. People were encouraging us to get it published so we did.
And of course This post would NOT be complete without Leia’s perspective!
TSIF: How did you become the Dyslexic Renegade?
Leia:I became the Dyslexic Renegade when I went back to school after I found out I am dyslexic. I thought would get help. I thought school would help. They tried a little but they weren’t so nice about it.
TSIF:What was your favorite part about writing the book?
TSIF: What do you want people to know about dyslexia?
Leia: That dyslexic people love being dyslexic but school the way it is not for them. You have to learn a certain way. It’s called multisensory and Orton-Gillingham. I did not want to go to school, I felt dumb. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I was embarrassed. I liked doing group work because then other people can do the work and I could help but then no one would know I couldn’t read something or spell something. Sometimes kids told me to go back to kindergarten because I have a hard time spelling. My teachers did not know how to teach me. It was a terrible feeling to get tests back. I always got ones. Reading and spelling will always be hard. Being dyslexic though means I am creative and have a lot of ideas. I am a good problem solver. A lot of famous people are dyslexic. I think they wouldn’t be famous if they weren’t dyslexic.
Bottom line: I don’t know about you- but all I do know is that Leia’s battle is proof that we are capable of anything and I think spending some time on Saturday getting to know her and bringing your kids along is one of the best ways you could show your kids that their dreams are within their reach.