Now that our problem had a name, I spent the following year researching dyslexia. I learned that children with dyslexia tend to be bright, inquisitive, and creative. They are thinkers, dreamers, inventors, artists, and dancers. Like Anna! Like me! They also need to touch, taste, feel, experience, and manipulate things in order to learn. They think in pictures, movies, music, feelings, and movement. They are full of talent, but often feel slow, stupid, different, and misunderstood.
I learned that dyslexia is so much more than a learning disability related to reading and writing. Dyslexia is a gift. As a parent with a dyslexic child, I had the responsibility to provide my child with the encouragement, education, and tools to become who she was meant to be. So I tried everything that the experts recommended—well everything that we could afford. But nothing really seemed to help her with reading. That’s when I finally gave up.
“Okay Anna, you can be an artist,” I told her.
I took her to the art store and bought her everything she wanted; she was in heaven. Day after day she created beautiful works of art. She even won a national art contest. Every morning when the other kids would sit at the table with their workbooks, Anna would spread out all her art supplies and sing little tunes while she worked for hours and hours. I knew that she was in her element doing what she was designed to do. But I really did believe in my heart that she needed to learn to read, and I knew that it couldn’t happen the normal way.
One morning I was looking over her shoulder as she finished a beautiful portrait of a woman dressed like a character from a Jane Austen book. I watched as she signed her name like a four year old. “God?” I prayed. “Show me how to use art to teach Anna how to read and write. I know that You want her to be able to read the Bible someday. I know that You know everything. I know that You answer prayers. Please show me how to teach Anna to read.”
A few days later I had an idea. I sat down next to Anna and began to draw a series of little faces. Happy, sad, happy, sad . . . “Anna, what comes next?” I asked.
I handed her the pen. She completed the pattern. Perfectly, of course—it was art. For the next hour, I played this little art game with her. I would draw a series of pictures, and she would complete the patterns. She thought we were just playing a fun little game, but I had a plan.
Eventually I began putting symbols, letters, and numbers into these artistic patterns and drawings. I wanted to see if including the letters in the art would somehow help her stop reversing the letters. Logic told me that she would never be able to move on to reading until she stopped confusing her letters. I felt like she needed to relearn the letters in the context of art. I believed the creative part of her mind could be tricked into reading without confusion, without reversals, without tears. Dyslexia Games was born.
At first Anna didn’t even notice that the patterns included letters and numbers. To Anna, the symbols were part of the cool design. I watched with amazement as she drew the lowercase bs and ds without any hesitation or reversals. Eventually, I added whole words to the art and patterns. At first the words were isolated from their meanings, but over time, the words became meaningful and had pictures with them. She began reading those words as if she had been reading all along. Next, I added phrases, sentences, familiar rhymes, and Bible verses. She didn’t even hesitate. The confusion was gone.
Two months later, my nine-year-old daughter was reading comic books and following recipes. She was writing emails, entertaining herself with chapter books, and eventually reading from the Bible. She also continued to develop her artistic talents with dreams of illustrating books for kids along with her sister.
As Josh and I looked at our life and remembered our dreams, we once again heard the calling on our hearts to let go of all the things that were keeping our feet on American soil and follow Jesus into the unknown. We had always wanted to raise our children on the mission field, but though we sought to go, the doors were always closed. But life was changing, and an open door was set before us. People sometimes tend to think that children will hold you back from serving God with your whole life, that having a child with disabilities would certainly mean that there is no hope of fulfilling any other calling. With God all things are possible, though. He used my daughter’s learning disability to enable our family to answer God’s call upon our life to help others. And through this method we discovered to help Anna overcome dyslexia, many children around the world would soon learn to read.