The Dyslexia Initiative
Dads and Dyslexia
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
by Mike Sexton
My son is an exceptionally bright boy. He is precocious, inquisitive, busy and gregarious. He loves to be the center of attention and he loves to make people laugh. He struggles sometimes with saying the wrong thing with the intent of making someone laugh. My son is me.
You see, about three years ago I sold my business and became a stay at home dad. My wife’s travel schedule and having a kiddo, it just made sense. My job: keep up the house, take care of the kid, keep him on his education path towards his epic destiny of being the best CEO of some multi billion dollar company.
We noticed he struggled with writing and with spelling, but my handwriting is so bad that doctors look at it and laugh. Spelling? Yeah, I should have a spell check tattoo I use it so much. He also can read like no one’s business. A voracious reader. He also has a very strong vocabulary. Stronger than most kids his age. You see, my wife and I take him with us to nice restaurants, our trips to places that aren’t typical family vacations, etc. We speak to him as an adult.
We spoke to his teacher and she said boys typically don’t develop as quickly in the writing and spelling department. Nothing to be worried about. He is smart, he reads well, it’s just handwriting and memorizing spelling. I worked with him every day. We spent one to two hours each afternoon working on his hand writing and spelling. Some days were good, some where bad. Some were him crying and me yelling. I thought he wasn’t trying. I thought he wasn’t paying attention. It would take two hours to write ten 7 or 8 word sentences. Full of mistakes, poor handwriting, etc.
We hired tutors. We bought workbooks. We took him to tutoring centers. His math was skyrocketing. His spelling and handwriting? Not so much. But he could read really well, so dyslexia wasn’t on our mind. When he really concentrated and put in the work, he could spell just fine and had decent handwriting. He was simply lazy. I said this for two years with my wife. We complained to the school. We talked to a number of people. My son, who is just like me, isn’t dyslexic, he just doesn’t try very hard on his school work. I was the same way.
Then my wife suggested we test him, just to see.
See Ty has a problem with sounds. Putting sounds together and writing those sounds. Rules of grammar don’t make sense to him. He also has a level of dysgraphia. I was shocked. I didn’t realize there was varying degrees of dyslexia. I didn’t realize that I had been crushing his spirit, his self confidence and his ability to interact well with others. I was constantly on him. I didn’t believe him. My son is not going to be some lazy man. My job as a father is to raise my son right! I’m from West Texas, there are expectations. I just thought I needed to be harder on him.
I cried. You don’t know me. I’m 6 ft, 250, former rugby player, West Texas football player, who grew up eating mayonnaise sandwiches because we didn’t have meat. I cried because I didn’t understand. What did I do to my son? My goal to make him a man, crushed him. Dyslexia isn’t something easy to understand. Kind of like being a stay at home father. It doesn’t make sense because it isn’t the norm. Once we knew what his issue was, we started to fix it. The yelling yielded to different conversations. Understanding, that he has to solve problems a different way. That “Take Flight” was going to help him decode sounds and spelling. That there are things that he will be allowed to help make homework more manageable.
That he could grow up and be a successful man with Dyslexia like so many other famous billionaires. As a father it is extremely worrisome to have a child that is different. Knowing how other kids treat differences. The funny thing is, my son became empowered. He knows why he struggles and he knows he is fixing it. I learned patience, different ways to look at problems and most importantly, I learned what my son needs from his father, and can truly provide it. Dyslexia has become an amazing gift for my family. Batteries not included.
Mike Sexton is a parent advocate for Ty, and we are honored to share his story with you.