Every time I meet a new expert, I bring so much hope to the meeting. By the time the appointment is over, I am disappointed and overwhelmed. There is no one answer and there are millions of opinions. There are so many doors before me, and I knock on each one.
Yesterday we met with a possible reading tutor. We drive miles away based on a recommendation from a friend. Her website wasn’t the most professional one, but I liked the red streaks in her hair. I definitely liked the way she answered her phone as I was leaving a message. She was the first person I talked to that agreed with me when I said it seems like Annie has dyslexia. And it was the first time I remember someone telling me Annie probably has more than one issue, which is why it’s hard to help her. This was the tip of an iceberg, this suggestion. Once you begin to feel comfortable with one possible diagnosis, people hand you five more possibilities, like they are candy, something one really desires. I’m not sure why random strangers want to add to your load with no real information. It’s not like they have even met Annie.
But back to the drive through the rain to the possible tutor’s little white house. It was a cloud of a day, and I handed the girls umbrellas for the short dash to the front door. The tutor has a hard to pronounce one-word name and the streaks in her blond hair were not limited to the color red. I noted blue as well, although I’m not sure if there were more colors in the mix. Annie noticed the egg chair right away, asking the tutor what it was. Soon enough, KK was giving her a ride, although Annie refused to put the egg top down. The girl is smart, not wanting to be in the dark at a stranger’s house.
I noticed the well-lived-in house with children’s tutoring manipulative toys and material covering every inch of the dining room and a diving apparatus with breathing canisters right by the front door. We sat at the table, and we were off for an hour-long romp. The tutor worked some with Annie, having her pull letter from the bag, place them down on the table and tell her what the letter was and what sound it makes. She got a few letter and a few sounds right, and the tutor noted that it was great that she oriented every single letter the right way. Annie picked animals from a basket, named them, and named the first letter of each animal along with the sound. She got a few of these right as well. From where I sat, I kept thinking about how complex it is to learn the alphabet. For at least 1 in 5 kids, learning 26 different sounds and attaching them to 26 weird shapes is so difficult. It was nice to see that Annie was further along in her journey than I thought. But man, the girl has miles and miles to go over a landscape that I can’t discern.
The tutor and I talked around the children. Eventually Annie and KK drew as we talked. I asked if her program was geared toward kids with dyslexia. It is. I asked why everyone recommends linguistic remedies. She said this is probably only because it is a local program. I told her how I was hesitant to have Annie tested further.
“I feel like they will tell me she is ADD, and I don’t think she is. I think her lack of focus is due to her frustration and people not knowing how to access her brain,” I say.
“Anyone who can focus like that [she gestures to Annie drawing intently] probably doesn’t have that,” she says. “You don’t need more testing for a tutor to know she has dyslexia or to figure out how to work with her.”
But then she does talk about more testing, telling me I should have her vision and auditory processing tested. This is how Annie takes in things she sees and hears and processes them, and has nothing to do with how good her eye sight or hearing is. If she has trouble processing, it’s something that should be worked with before she begins reading tutoring, the tutor tells me. This is where my hope flies out the window. There is no starting now with a solution, it seems. There are hoops to jump though, and here are a few more. But another tutor would recommend something different, I am sure. So who is right?
I can see that this tutor gets along with Annie and has a lot of great techniques for working with children. But as we pack up and head back to the freeway, I am deflated. We get stuck in a traffic jam, and the kids are quiet as I try to let the music take me away from all this. But it doesn’t. I am here. I am again wondering which way is next. Right now, Annie is seeing 4 different specialists, all of them new to her within the last 2 months. It’s a lot, and the fact is that I am not sure if any of them are right. I miss our old speech therapist that just moved to Virginia. She really knew Annie. Now Chris and I are the only two people with all of this important information. I hold it all to me, the sacred facts I have gathered since she shot into our world. I want to make sure the next step fits her like a favorite shirt. I am done offering her up to tutors that throw up their hands fifteen minutes in, asking for tips on working with this masterpiece of ours.