The Dyslexia Stalker

The Dyslexia Stalker by Dr. Kelli Sandman-HurleyDownload the PDF version of this article here.

This morning I stalked a parent from my son’s preschool class and waited for him in the parking lot. Why would I do such a thing? What would provoke me to lurk next to my car waiting for a man I didn’t even know, in a preschool parking lot nonetheless? Well, it was simple. As I was dropping my 5-year-old son off in his classroom, I overheard a father sharing with the teacher, we will call her Ms. T, about concerns he had about his son’s reading.

I overheard him share that his son, we will call him Cash, was not recognizing all of his letters and was unable to identify the sounds letters make and was definitely not reading. He was expressing concern, because like my son, Cash was getting ready to enter kindergarten in just two months. Now, I usually don’t listen to other people’s conversations for many reasons. Usually I am not interested, or I am preoccupied or I am trying to be polite. But this time, I just couldn’t let it go. What really caught my attention and what turned me into a stalker this morning was Ms. T’s response and it went something like this:

Cash is fine. There are a lot of kids who go to kindergarten not knowing their letters or the sounds the letters make. In fact, there are a lot of kids who don’t have access to preschool and go to kindergarten without any literacy skills at all. Cash will be fine. He will catch up in the Fall, there is nothing to worry about.

As she was talking I was taking my sweet time getting my son settled and lurking around the room pretending to look for his jacket, or something. I wanted to hear more, but this is all she offered to this parent, who obviously knows something is wrong. So, I just couldn’t let this be the last thing this dad heard about the subject. I just couldn’t let Cash be a victim of the ‘he’ll grow out of it’ mentality. So, I waited by his car, which was conveniently out of earshot of Ms. T’s room.

I approached him and told him that I could not help but overhear his conversation and explained to him what I do and that I could offer him some good information if he was open to it. I made sure he understood that I was not making a determination that anything was wrong, but that I thought he should be armed with the correct information about early literacy skills. This father then began to tell me that he hated school and was held back in kindergarten, his writing still ‘sucks’ and he just stopped caring about school in high school. Ding ding ding….I heard all the red flags go up. He then proceeded to tell me that he reads to Cash every night and they buy him lots of books, but he’s just not getting it. He was telling me because he was feeling like he was doing something wrong. He shared that he did not know because Cash was an only child and he had nothing to compare him to. I have an only child as well, so I completely understand this dilemma. I told him it was not his fault and he is not doing anything wrong. He then went on to tell me how he doesn’t understand it because Cash can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Avengers, but he can’t read yet. So, I left him with some final thoughts:

  1. It’s not your fault.
  2. You’re not a bad parent
  3. It has nothing to do with intelligence. I have no doubt that Cash is smart.
  4. You are right to be concerned.

I then drafted this email to send him resources. Then I thought, everyone should have these early literacy resources, because there is no reason that a child could not be identified in preschool. So, here you go:

For an overview of dyslexia, watch this video. I am not stating that dyslexia is the issue with Cash, but just in case:

Early warning signs of dyslexia:

More early warning signs of dyslexia:

What every child needs to know before entering kindergarten:

Kindergarten screener:

I have to admit when I drove away I debated with myself about whether or not I had done the right thing, or if I had completely over stepped my boundaries. I called my colleague, Tracy, and she reminded me about the parents that always lament that they wish they had known sooner. Luckily for Cash, his dad was open to my comments and is waiting for my email. If we could identify these kids in preschool…could we actually prevent dyslexia from actually causing academic difficulties with early intervention? I think so (see Dyslexia: An Ounce of Prevention). Now I have to go pick up my son…


10 thoughts on “The Dyslexia Stalker

  1. Jenny Salowitz

    Now that I have a pretty solid understanding of dyslexia, one of my missions is to try to help students early, because the signs are so apparent, even in preschool and kindergarten. Helping students when they are very young, might prevent some of the anxiety and low self esteem issues that come with being diagnosed in late elementary, middle school, high school, or even adult. I have noticed over and over that the students who are given the proper tutoring beginning in first grade, have a much easier time closing the gap among their peers. I think this might be because they do not have to go through years and years learning reading in a way that is not helpful to them.

  2. Amber

    You absolutely did the right thing!! I wish I had little kids so I could be a dyslexia stalker and help parents before it’s too late.
    You just saves that parent so much time and that child so much heart ache if it turns out he is dyslexic.
    God Bless you Kelli!!

  3. Lisa Butler

    This is so amazing. As a speech pathologist working in the schools, I am constantly amazed how the schools gloss over reading difficulty (until the child is failing of course, and then it’s the child’s fault for not caring anymore). What you did for this man and his child probably changed their lives.

  4. Lori Philley

    As a parent that was stalked – keep it up! I call her my angel, but I was stalked and had one very sweet caring lady tell met son needed testing. He had just finished 3rd grade. He was a stealth dyslexic with an IQ of 130. Now 3 years later, he has skipped a grade and is doing great. I wouldn’t want to thing of the path we would have been on if it wasn’t for someone who cared enough to tell me he was Dyslexic. His younger sister has also been diagnosed and enter a dyslexic specialty school in first grade. She is now reading 2 years above her grade level. —— keep stalking!

  5. Sandy

    GOOD FOR YOU in stalking the dad!! When my son was in kindergarten, we were concerned and pressed the school, but no help came until we filed for due process at the end of second grade and forced the school to acknowledge there was a problem (our son was showing NO signs of learning to read). Fast forward to fifth grade after being in reading resource class for a couple of years and our son STILL wasn’t reading. When we expressed concerns in our IEP meeting because my son wanted to go to college, one of our school admins snapped at me, “He will probably NEVER read well and he is certainly NOT college material! YOU just need to lower your expectations!” We ditched the public school the next year, homeschooled, and my son has now graduated from college and earned his B.S. degree Magna Cum Laude!! NEVER GIVE UP! AND, don’t accept that there is no help or lower your expectations! We’ve known for DECADES (fifty years) **HOW** to teach children with diagnosable dyslexia to read and in my way of thinking, there is simply no excuse for the ongoing “he’ll grow out of it” or “lower your expectations” mentalities. You CAN DEFEAT Your Child’s DYSLEXIA!! <– I wrote a book about how to do that.. It CAN be done and moms can do it! We need more stalking parents spreading the word that there IS help, there are programs for teaching kids with dyslexia to read, and the earlier intervention is started–the better. Can you tell you struck a cord?? LOL! I'll put my soapbox away now. THANK YOU for helping Cash's dad!!

  6. Suzanne Arena

    WOW, I felt like you were talking about the first time I did this…right down to the putzing around purposely. I now have made it a point of doing this and have business cards printed as a self proclaimed Parent/Child Advocate. I have finally gotten over the knee jerk anger that I immediately felt when that teacher would say “Oh don’t worry…” and pretty much what you described. I now smile and shake my head. I LOVE the fact that you are posting this.

    I have since started Decoding Dyslexia RI and joined the other 46 States that have “Decoding Dyslexia”, which also encompasses not just reading, language but Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia and the decoding challenged.

    We need more of us Stalkers. One caveat to note, sadly not everyone wants to receive the gift of our knowledge and there are those that are disgusted with our stalking connection – lol!

  7. Pingback: The Dyslexia Stalker | Dyslexia Training Instit...

  8. Marilyn

    I wish someone had done the same for us a long time ago. The teachers just kept saying “You know sometimes it takes boys a while to get it.” I had no idea what Dyslexia was, although I did suspect it in preschool, I was afraid to get a diagnosis because I didn’t know that there was something that could be done. Never feel bad about stalking and sharing your knowledge, even if they don’t want to hear it right then and there it may help in the future.

  9. Sherry

    ‘Cash’ is my daughter perfectly. And I was told don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it, it’ll click eventually. And I believed them. Because she has come up with some compensation skills on her own and has good reading comprehension they refuse to call her dyslexic or offer any services. Please, stalk away!! If I had known earlier we wouldn’t have this problem (their denial and refusal).

  10. Barb Barker

    I wish someone would have stalked me!!! I am a homeschooling mom. My son who is now 12 showed all the signs of Dyslexia. I even went to the public school and had him tested because I thought he had speech problems! They told me he would eventually read and not to worry, that he had tongue thrust and I needed to see a dentist! I ended up sending him to a speech therapist( out of pocket) because I did not know what to do. I found out he had Dyslexia by Google! I then went to a seminar on Dyslexia by Susan Barton and decided he def. fit. He then got evaluated and I was able to help him. They could have saved all the tears and the I’m so stupids. That took years. Please don’t ever feel bad for stalking. If I could go back and diagnosis earlier, I totally would.

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