As a parent, what is your biggest fear?
While I do have a healthy respect for heights, hands down, my number one fear is losing one of my children. I am terrified just at the thought of having her lost or taken from me, not being able to get to her to keep her safe, protected, and free from danger.
Can you relate?
Are you constantly counting heads to make sure you've got everybody? Then you can understand the agony and anxiety I felt the first time we lost 2-year-old Katy, daughter number three, for over twenty excruciating minutes while in a large crowd at an outside event. Then there was the time when Katy was six years old, and the doors of an elevator separated me from her. When I finally found her on the top floor of a parking deck, we were both in tears. In those moments, as fear and fight surged through my body, all my mind could beg was, "God, where's Katy? Where's Katy? Where's Katy?"
As Katy grew, these waves of fear and similar feelings of helplessness kept showing up. I found myself continuing to ask the same question, "Where's Katy?" yet for different reasons. For instance, moments of parental insecurity and concern for my daughter's wellbeing caused me to question, "Where is Katy academically or emotionally? Where is Katy in regard to her life skills and independence? Where will Katy be in college and professionally?"
Katy, although obviously brilliant and articulate, struggled to learn to read. In her earliest years of school, with such an expansive vocabulary, I never imagined she would have such trouble. I believed that if we kept working hard and kept trying, things would somehow eventually click for her academically. Yet, it seemed the harder she tried, the less progress she made. It took effort, but I was somehow able to ignore the persistently scary thoughts that something was "wrong" with my daughter. Admittedly, I was fearful and in denial that my daughter was struggling. From my perspective as a young homeschooling mother, my daughter's struggle felt like a personal reflection of my own perceived inadequacies as a parent.
In retrospect, I realize it was when Katy asked me the question, "Mom, where am I? What's wrong with me?" that I experienced the true pivotal moment that shook me to rise up and face my fears. Finally, compelled forward, my journey from fear to freedom in regard to embracing Katy's unique learning style began. For that day was the undeniable day, I knew I had to get an answer for her.
The particular incident that triggered Katy to ask the question for herself happened in her sixth-grade Sunday School class. When the teacher passed out index cards and asked the kids to write down some of their favorite accessories as part of an opening ice breaker, Katy wrote purse "p-e-r-s" and jewelry "j-u-l-r-y." A classmate and friend sitting beside her reached over and, without saying a word, marked through Katy's answers and wrote the correct spellings above them on Katy's paper. As you can imagine, Katy felt like crawling under her chair. Instead, even though humiliated, she just gave a small giggle accompanied by a light shoulder shrug and mumbled, "Thanks." Well, that moment was a true tipping point for Katy, and when she came to me, I could tell by the look in her eyes, eyes that were normally full of laughter and optimism, that she was asking me to go to battle, not just FOR her but WITH her. She was ready to fight for herself and do hard things.
Thankfully, I turned to a friend with knowledge in learning differences from her profession as a speech pathologist. She suggested we have Katy tested for dyslexia. When the diagnosis was confirmed, Katy and I felt a bit of relief but were mostly conflicted with fear and confusion. However, with as much resolve as I could muster, along with two scoops of ice cream, I looked Katy in the eye and assured her we would face this together and do whatever it took to get her the help she needed. Because it was the best option for our homeschooling family, I completed the foundational level training to become an associate of the Orton-Gillingham multisensory learning techniques. Now it was time for us to dig in with daily persistence. As we did, progress came steadily. Over the course of the next two years, Katy's anxiety levels began decreasing. She stopped pulling out her eyelashes, and her stomach aches became fewer and further between.
When the diagnosis was confirmed, Katy and I felt a bit of relief but were mostly conflicted with fear and confusion.
As Katy was being taught in the ways she learned, she also increased in her independence. Katy began embracing her design and exalting her strengths. Through awareness of dyslexia, she began to understand and believe that she was created with unique gifts and abilities. Eventually, she even became proud to be dyslexic and proud to be an out-of-the-box thinker. As mom and advocate, I, too, made many important parental changes. Along with incorporating multisensory methods of teaching, I also learned to be more considerate of Katy, specifically by giving her room to explore her interests. I listened better to her when she was trying to find the words to explain what she needed or what was upsetting her. I began to relax instead of panic as I once would when she'd have what we now call a "pajama day." Maybe you've had a similar experience? These were days when Katy could not recall information that I thought she had understood. It was information we had just covered the day before or even spent the last week covering; however, on this day, she had seemingly no recall. Katy would say, "Mom, I think my brain is still in its pajamas. "I now understood to reassure Katy, take a break, and simply rewind and cover that material again. I can testify to you now that progress was happening even on those days!
Mom, I think my brain is still in its pajamas.
Most importantly, I learned that Katy needed her parents to be her biggest fans. Therefore, we determined to never give up; if something wasn't working, we would try something different. In hindsight, I realize that in the beginning, honestly, I was afraid of the possible answers to the question, "Where's Katy." Now I know that facing the truth, becoming informed, and being aware has equipped me to better help Katy and has even enabled Katy to help herself.
I asked Katy recently what were the top three factors that helped her navigate from fear to freedom in regard to being dyslexic. She said, "Firstly, my faith in God. Trusting and believing he had everything under control. Secondly, you, my mom and my teacher- knowing you would never give up on me and that you would do whatever it took to help me or get me the help that I needed. Thirdly, simply trusting myself to lean into what I was being taught and encouraging myself by being aware of my own strengths and giftedness. I had to trust in myself to follow through on what I was learning and put it into practice. I finally believed in myself to understand more about dyslexia and be proud of who I am."
So, by now, I've probably piqued your curiosity enough for you to ask,
"Where's Katy today?"
I'm glad you asked!
Katy graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo in Alabama with a degree in technical theatre. She is now living her life's dream and loving every minute of her career as a makeup artist and wardrobe supervisor for a major cruise line. She's busy embracing life with joyful vigor. I hope our story has inspired you to do the same!
Susan C. Beddingfield
Dyslexia Tutor and Author
TheHighFiveHouse.com | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest
Susan C. Beddingfield
Susan C. Beddingfield is a tutor for students with dyslexia and a retired homeschool mom of 4 daughters. Twenty years ago, dyslexia hit home for her family when Katy, her third daughter, was not learning to read. Even though Katy was obviously gifted with a creative and brilliant mind, it just seemed like the harder she tried, the more she struggled. At first, Susan was fearful and in denial that her daughter was struggling. From her perspective as a young mother, her daughter's struggle felt personal and almost as a reflection of her own inadequacies as a parent. In time, Susan began to embrace her daughter's unique learning style and realize her differences were actually the beautiful gifts of her unique God-given design. As Susan let go of fear and chose to trust God's leading, Katy began to excel. She not only progressed in all areas of her academics but in her emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. In time, Susan's journey to help her own daughter laid the foundation for her tutoring business, The High Five House. For the past 15 years, she has been helping dyslexic students realize their brilliance and proudly embrace their unique design. Susan currently resides in north Alabama with her husband and their four miniature dachshunds.
Where's Katy? One Mom's Journey From Fear to Freedom
A heartfelt, inspiring memoir of one mom's journey from fear to freedom as she learned to embrace her daughter's unique learning style and dyslexia diagnosis. You'll read honest accounts of obstacles encountered as she sought to understand what was going on with her child, as well as specific ways those obstacles were overcome. The author's authentic writing will expose the challenging impact learning differences can inflict on the lives of those who have them. The reader will be inspired to rise up and celebrate learning differences instead of being afraid of them. This story will encourage any parent navigating the road to support and guide the overall wellbeing of a child with a specific learning style or similar unique need. Perfect for book clubs or support groups.