Caterpillar Stickers: The Story Behind the Book – Part One
We recently introduced Sierra Rene Flad, a Fifth-Grader with Dyslexia who co-authored an inspirational children’s book, Caterpillar Stickers, with her mom, Ruth Flad.
Caterpillar Stickers launched November 11 and inspires kids by sharing the message anything is possible! Below is Part One of the journey that led to discovering that Sierra has Dyslexia. Ruth Flad shares her family’s experience to help other parents facing the same situation.
Sierra’s Journey: Part One
When Sierra was only 9 months old she said her first coherent word. She has never stopped talking since. She has an enormous vocabulary. I knew she had a genius hiding inside her tiny body. Always bold, unafraid and still never gives up on anything, a true perfectionist. I should have paid more attention to the question she answered with her first word but I was too shocked that she answered me. We had just completed viewing and reading story books. Sierra appeared disinterested. I asked, “Don’t you want to read anymore?” Sierra answered emphatically “NO”.
Searching for a Diagnosis
Her pre-school teacher recommended we hold her out of kindergarten saying she does not know her letters and numbers and was not ready. Sometimes we regretted not holding her back, while she was ready socially, she did have this problem but we were certain she would grow out of it. It was much deeper seeded then we imagined.
We had lots of advice. We took her to see many specialized doctors for intensive hearing and eye tests thinking that maybe she can’t hear or see well. After thousands of dollars and lots of frustration, nothing seemed to be working. We tried bifocals at the 1st grade level then really expensive Prism rainbow glasses, neither worked. The hearing tests revealed she was ultra sensitive and pretty much hears EVERYTHING. At school being in an open classroom was full of distractions. She would hear the teachers speaking in the hall or next door or the toilets flushing in the nearby bathrooms and all were reasons not to pay attention. All along, I knew we were not getting to the root of her problem.
I was convinced that Sierra was very intelligent. One day I was just tired of all of it. How many hours can you force a child to do something they hated. I was frustrated not knowing how to help her. I felt helpless and could not begin to imagine how Sierra felt. I prayed for an answer. She hated school and reading books. She looked for every excuse not to have to go to school. The only thing she seemed to like was television. She was sad because her friends were excelling and she was trailing further behind each day. I am not sure what her early teachers really thought but they would send all daily work home. After an entire day of frustration she had to come home and finish the incomplete centers along with her regular homework.
I began researching her demeanor, moods, attitude and behavior on the Internet and borrowed the book Right Brained Child in a Left Brained World, by Jeffrey Freed, from our local Dallas library. After reading many different books and articles on behavior and ADHD, ADDD, and Dyslexia, and being sure she was not dyslexic, I skipped over much of that reading. I was still oblivious, because I thought dyslexia was only mixing up letters like b and d. I decided to try one of the tests from Jeffrey’s book. I held up a magazine and asked Sierra to look at the word on the top, this magazine happened to be the MONEY magazine. I said “Now make a picture of this in your head”. I let her look for about 20 seconds, then I put it down and asked her to spell the word in her “picture” BACKWARDS.
She did it and I was shocked!
I asked “What do you see?” She said “It’s easy, a hand holding a dollar bill”. I looked at the magazine. I was only seeing the title MONEY but below was a graphic of a hand holding a dollar bill! She memorized the whole picture and was able to tell me the letters YENOM in order.
I telephoned the author, Jeffrey Freed in Colorado. I was confused and left the most embarrassingly long voice message on his phone. He graciously called me back and said, “I know what is happening with your daughter. She has Dyslexia.” I was puzzled and he went on, “There is no doubt in my mind based on your description”. He offered to come to Dallas to work with her and we were trying to see how we could manage it financially.
We ended up seeking help at her school and requested that they test her at the end of her 2nd grade school year because she was turning 8, and that was a pre-requisite for testing. They did test her and found she had “tendencies towards dyslexia” as the school cannot diagnose. Honestly, it was such a relief to finally be able to understand what was happening, because now we could attempt to help her. If you don’t know the problem, how can you solve it? Sierra began special education classes in 3rd grade. She falls under the Texas state laws which allow her added classes with some accommodations in certain scenarios, such as spelling lists etc.
She spent Saturday’s at the Shelton School in Dallas as they specialize in Dyslexia among other things. She also went there the entire summer of 2011. This last year while in 4th grade, Plano ISD changed the curriculum for dyslexia using what the Scottish Rite hospital developed and Sierra really learned how to read, It was so amazing! She struggles still and cannot spell the same word correctly over and over and thus writing down her words is a trial. But hearing her say she likes books is music to my ears.
I couldn’t understand why she could never read little tiny words like “the, of, to” etc. but today we do understand it was because she could not associate a picture with that word. A dog, cat, or squirrel can be associated with a matching picture. Obviously Sierra has a great mind because she can memorize so well. It took us a little while to catch her tricking us into thinking she was reading. “Read it out loud, Mama”, and so I did. It only took one time and she had it memorized.
Part Two coming soon…