DyslexiaLand is an imaginary place, but it’s based on the very real, and unnecessarily frustrating, journey that dyslexic students and their parents take through the education system.
In DyslexiaLand: A Field Guide for Parents of Children with Dyslexia (2018), Cheri Rae helps you navigate this strange land: from getting that all-important diagnosis to graduating from high school without losing your mind along the way.
Rae knows what she’s talking about: she successfully helped her dyslexic son through kindergarten to grade 12. He graduated from high school with honors, despite not learning to read until he was in 7th grade. Rae has advocated for hundreds of other families and founded the Santa Barbara Parent Resource Center in California.
Lucky for us, she has poured her years of knowledge and experience into this compact, clever and beautifully illustrated guide. The illustrations are by artist Liz Taylor, who also parents a dyslexic child.
If you find yourself in DyslexiaLand, you need to set your GPS to “The Land of Full Potential.” The Land of Full Potential is full of opportunities that will set your child up for success–things like understanding, collaboration, information, courage, evidence-based instruction, tech-support and accommodations.
To get there, you’ll need to overcome many obstacles, such as the understanding the “d-word,” the bureaucratic swamp, the lake of emotions and paperwork mountains.
The first obstacle you’ll face–and perhaps the most shocking revelation for parents–is the “River of Denial” that greets you when your child gets their dyslexia diagnosis:
“Parents are surprised, even shocked, to discover that most public schools do not teach dyslexic children in the way they learn, and they must take action and overcome many challenges to get the quality education their children deserve and is required by law,” says Rae.
Getting started? Make sure to pack:
- excellent research and advocacy skills
- positivity and perseverance
- a protective (mama-bear) spirit
- a support network (online or otherwise)
- snacks (helpful at IEP meetings says Rae)
- a sense of humour
It’s not cheap to get to the Land of Full Potential, and Rae outlines the costs in Chapter 11, What you need before you go. She also provides a helpful list of 8 ways to get help (p. 218-221).
Sadly, the costs of assessments and tutoring are out of reach to many families. That’s the reason so many parents, like Rae, become tireless advocates: “It’s not about us; it’s about creating dyslexia-friendly experiences in our schools and communities and beyond.”
Why I love this book
- The guide gives practical and useful advice; it’s premised on the belief that there is much parents can do to help their children thrive in school, at home, and in the community (this is not a book you’ll read once and put back on the shelf; this is book you’ll keep close at hand and read over and over again)
- It’s dyslexia-positive (I love Rae’s strength-based definition of dyslexia)
- It’s easy to read and use
- Illustrations are picture-perfect
- It’s empowering without glossing over the challenges. Rae acknowledges that parent’s need to “expect the unexpected.” Just when you’ve solved one problem, another one crops up. Most poignant is a mantra Rae created (and shared with educators) when her son faced a particularly difficult–and preventable–emotional and academic period as a teen: “I don’t care anymore what you teach him, just don’t hurt him.”
Yes, that quote resonates with me. I’ve been at that exact spot in DyslexiaLand more than once. When you’re feeling lost, Rae says it’s helpful to remember what matters most: to “benefit the most precious people in our lives–our children, who depend on us to provide and care for them.” There is a whole wide world beyond DyslexiaLand, and it doesn’t hurt to take a break or change directions once and awhile.
A few practical notes
The guide contains some information (for example, education laws and policies) that is specific to US readers. However, I found most of it was relevant and helpful to me as a Canadian parent. (In case anyone asks, I’d love to create a Canadian edition of DyslexiaLand!)
I’d also love to see the map of DyslexiaLand available as a pull-out postcard or poster, or as a download. Wouldn’t it be nice hanging up in a classroom, library or home office? Of course, this is a costly endeavor for any publisher, but it would be a bonus.
Where to get the guide
Find out how to order the guide through the DyslexiaLand website. You’ll also find a myriad of resources, including a photography project called “1 in 5: The face of dyslexia” and Rae’s own art.
Obligatory disclosure: I received this book for free from the author without any obligation to write a review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. I was not paid for writing this review.
A big thanks to Cheri Rae for gifting me a copy of her wonderful book!