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It’s Too Big!

Our first ski trip to the mountains as a family did not start out exactly as planned.  The kids had taken lessons and skied in the Midwest and were fairly decent skiers.  We anticipated a fun and successful skiing experience as we began our trek up the Colorado mountain.  However, as we rode the chairlift up I could feel the anxiety creeping up on my son.  “It’s so big,” he whispered.  “I’ll never be able to ski down this.”  We reassured him that he had the skill to do it and that ski runs are rated by difficulty level so it wasn’t any harder than what he had done successfully at home.  But the damage had been done.  All he could see was the mountain looming in front of him.  What proceeded was a long run down the mountain where I continued to cheerlead and pick him up to get down the hill, but it wasn’t easy.  The next day we were smarter and enlisted the help of a ski instructor.  After a family ski lesson, most of the fear was gone and we were able to have an enjoyable time skiing together as a family.  A few weeks later as I went with my son to a local Midwest ski hill he immediately went out without any hesitation and tackled hills rated well above what he skied in Colorado.  “This is easy!” he commented enthusiastically as he reflected about how much smaller the hill was than the mountains he tackled in Colorado.

This idea of challenges seeming too big has been a reoccurring theme for me this month.  Recently one of my favorite leaders in education, George Curos shared a similar reflection in his blog, The Road Right in Front of You.  Here he reflects on how it often becomes paralyzing to pursue our goals when they seem too big.  He shares his experience of not being able to run up a large hill until he was able to shift his focus to the road just in front of him.   Similarly, Hal Elrod in his Achieve Your Goals Podcast 201, shared how we can often become paralyzed by our goals because we focus on the outcome rather than the process that will get us to those outcomes.  For example, in sales rather than focusing on the number of sales you made, which can often be out of your control, you can focus on the number of calls you make each day that will lead to sales if you do it consistently.  The message here is to focus on the process rather than the outcome.

It seems the universe is trying to give me an analogy and a message to help me understand.  My current mountain is dyslexia.  Despite all I have learned and the work I have done to help the schools understand and my children succeed, right now it seems like a mountain that’s just too big to run up or ski down.  If you’re not familiar with dyslexia, it is an unexplained difficulty in learning to read.  It’s effects more than just learning to read though.  It effects your child’s belief in themselves and their will to continue to face a challenge that seems impossible.  Intertwined with the challenges of dyslexia are problems remembering isolated facts, difficulty organizing and sharing ideas in oral and written form, difficulty achieving automaticity in things like math facts and procedures, and all the motivational issues related to repeated failure.  Even as a parent with training in education I battle against this mountain of dyslexia challenges.  I just want to turn away and not face this mountain.  But I learned a valuable lesson on our ski trip.  After the rough trip down where I skied shoulder to shoulder with my son willing him the courage to ski down, he realized he could do it and if he could do that he might be able to do just about anything.  He also learned not to give up but to just keep taking that next step.  So, I’ll take the next step in front of me and meet once again with teachers to see if together we can teach skills that will help my children. I’ll try to stop fighting the mountain and try to learn the lessons it is trying to teach me.  I’ll focus on what I can do today and hope that step by step it helps my family reach its goals.  I’ll educate.  I’ll cheerlead.  I’ll push.  Most of all, I won’t give up!

Want to learn more about dyslexia.  Check out some of my favorite resources:

This website provides a variety of resources for students, parents and educators.  Run by leading dyslexia expert, Sally Shaywitz, the information on this site is based on research and clinical experience with dyslexics.

Founder, Ben Foss, created this site to support dyslexics and to help them understand their gifts as well as their challenges.  Particularly useful is the Map Your Dyslexia feature which allows students and parents to map out challenges and strengths related to dyslexia.  Information on how to write and IEP and a sample powerpoint presentation is particularly useful for parents new to school accommodations and advocacy.

A collection of courses and resources to help parents and educators learn about and understand dyslexia.  Their Dyslexia for a Day kit helps those working with students with dyslexia understand the frustration and difficulties of their reading learning difference.

This film is a must see for anyone wanting to understand dyslexia.  It covers the challenges as well as the strengths and the hope for helping students with dyslexia realize their full potential.

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