Thursday, April 30, 2009

Invisible Learning Disabilities

Tonight, a former student of mine hit me up on chat. Yeah, I was a newbie once and let the kids do crazy things like have my IM name. In my defense, I now have a policy that you must be a legal adult with a high school diploma to be my Facebook friend or similar. But I was under duress back then, not just being a newbie but also leaving my first school and I was going to miss them desperately. ANYWAY.

So we chatted for a bit about how college is going for her, and then she dropped a bombshell on me: She had been evaluated at her college and been diagnosed with dyslexia. I was shocked to hear this. Shocked. For one thing, the girl loved to read and write, and I know that many dyslexics avoid both because they are challening for them--particularly undiagnosed dyslexics. She kept a journal, wrote poetry and stories, and read fantasy and "urban" fiction quite a lot. She was incredibly motivated and engaged in school, and we became pretty close.

Now, I know that kids with learning differences can definitely be and do all of the above. But kids with undiagnosed LDs, as we all know, tend to be frustrated students. They need evaulation and services to succeed, which they certainly should have.

But I'm stunned, first of all, to learn that this hyper-driven high achiever had an undiagnosed LD. And I'm also deeply disappointed in myself that I never suspected a thing. She could be a terrible speller when she was really on a tear with writing, but most of the kids at my first school were terrible spellers, and she generally self-corrected pretty well on final drafts. I just never considered for a moment that she had a problem.

She wanted to know if I would tutor her. Of course I said yes. She's away at school right now, but I said she could get in touch with me when she got back and we'd set something up. I gave her encouragement, said that her attitude about it sounded good and that she was still as brilliant and hard-working as ever and everything would be fine. Plus it would just be great to see her again--I genuinely like her, as a person, and it would be nice to catch up as well as help her out.

But I'm still troubled. I'm wondering what else I might have missed.