This is my Daughter’s Story

Claire Conlon/ 17.jun / blog

This is my daughter’s story to be shared with you all

Good luck with this vitally important work you do.


I look at this picture of you as a 4 year old daughter and I see all of the hopefulness in your eyes and I would often ask you,”What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you would say “A policewoman, mummy.. So I can throw all the baddies into jail”, and I laugh and think to myself you can be whatever you want to be.

You started kindergarten with the bravery and curiosity of all the rest. But by 7 or 8 or 9 years old, after years of struggling with what seems to come naturally to the others, after years of holding your head up anyway and trying so hard without success, you seem removed… Separate You realize this place is not for you. School is not for you.

Your pride is at risk and you must preserve what little self-esteem you have. You memorise things, avoid reading in class, act the class clown to protect yourself from the reality that you cannot read, but you are constantly surrounded by the printed word. Text messages, Emails, Magazines, Internet, Books and Exams. It is a constant reminder.

I would often think about you walking along the corridors of school, when you were 5 and 6. I can hear you laughing and talking. There is a peace in your voice and an eagerness about being at school.

Then I see you at 8 years old and I wonder when it all changed for you? I will tell the teachers constantly, I think you are dyslexic – you do not seem to be learning letters or sounds – and they all said “We don’t use the “D” word and it will all click for her, you wait and see”….. and I would think to myself, these were the professionals, they should know.

But you were heading down the same path as almost every dyslexic kid before you. An eventual label of dyslexia was stamped on your file after I had you assessed. The diagnosis was one thing, but the real battle was about to start.

You and I became a team as we go down a path of :
• Tutor after tutor after tutor
• Trying SPELD
• The Davis dyslexia program
• Neuro-feedback sessions
• Counselling
• Testing for glasses/tinted lenses etc

And you look at me…tired..”Mum what on earth are you taking me to now?

Teenage years, and the ensuing battle for you to get to school each day. After years of being brave and strong, the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and depression kick in which adds to these layers of struggle and we fight to keep this at bay. Your teacher calls me wondering why you are not at school today, why homework has not been completed, why the book has not been read, some teachers just want to pass you on to the next year level, not a clue how to help and work with you. There are others that are very eager to help but these are few.
It’s a confronting moment when you realize the system is not for your child. It’s a confronting moment when you realize that no matter how hard you try and no matter how hard the special education team is trying, school is structured in a way to benefit one type of child with one type of mind and abilities.

I get small glimpses of what it is like for you at school and what it must be like:

  • To sit an exam and sporadically colour in the multiple choice answers, because you cannot read the questions.
  • Asking what is on the board (embarrassed) and…
  • About how you don’t have any reading jobs and you want reading jobs because all of the other kids have them.
  • And all you ever wanted was to read “chapter” books.
  • Signing forms that you are not sure what they are all about, not sure how to spell the street name that we live in when completing the plethora of forms that you will be asked to complete over a lifetime.

I consider taking you out of school to learn in other ways, but I do not know how to teach a dyslexic child to read.

So I send you off to Year 10, trying to make sure you are not one more casualty, one more bright, capable mind slipping through the cracks, moved onto become next year’s problem, passed on because nobody quite knows what to do. Everybody is trying, but the system is not meant for kids like you.

I tell you that you are smart, creative, funny, but you are in an environment every day that does not always recognise this.

I drop you off at school each day and you get out of the car, and you walk bravely ahead, alone. I think about you sitting there watching the teacher write on the board. Maybe the other kids start writing right away, answering her question, responding “as they should.” Maybe hands shoot in the air. And I wonder what you’re thinking in those moments?

As we head towards the business end of your schooling life, I ponder can a bright, capable mind such as yours, actually achieve whatever you want to be? Can the current Victorian schooling system that currently does not facilitate and support a person with dyslexia, become a nurse, or a vet, or a policewoman so you can “throw all of the baddies into jail”?

The early childhood development years are almost past. What is the future for a caring, intelligent, nurturing child whose only difficulty is the written word? How can you become the nurse or the vet that your heart desires? How can a teenager with intelligence and compassion achieve the goals that she covets simply because she is dyslexic and is tormented by the written word. I feel we have explored many avenues for assistance but there are many dead ends. How many other children continue to run out of options and optimism? My daughter is bright, active, nurturing and has a great ability to work with and care for people and creatures in need.

As Albert Einstein once said – “Everyone is smart, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life believing it is stupid?” What more can be done to enable her to climb her tree?

This letter is distributed with the permission of Claire Conlan.


  1. Avatar Anne Cousens   •  

    My daughters are 8 and 11 years old and unfortunately your story matches theirs up to their current levels. Why is is so hard to get teachers to accept that dyslexia exists? It is so hard to keep on holding up their self esteem when the system seems intent on knocking it daily.
    We are on a break from tutors and interventions and have decided to simply live a little…….

  2. Avatar Cathy Eccles   •  

    Dear Claire,
    I like so many other mothers tear up when we read your story. My daughter is in year 7, she was not diagnosed until year five despite me knowing there were issues from kindergarten. I like you were consistently dismissed. Persistence finally led to a diagnosis, which was at the time a relief.
    I went to an education talk last week which was run by the department of education “experts” in the ACT. They wanted six months of intensive phonics tutoring before even starting down the road to diagnosis. I know took many years in our case. This would mean
    1. They recognised they were significantly behind.
    2. They then had a well designed phonics program.
    3. They had the time, appropriately trained staff, usually the least qualified person a mum gets to sit with your child.
    They then get reassessed and they say there are children worse than yours. I told them I did not care they had a lim it of 3 children and they were worse than my child, I just wanted my child to get help without me constantly having to fight with the school and after hours of tears and “I’m just stupid” .
    It is exhausting being “the tiger mother” constantly fighting for every tiny bit of help. The truth is reading will never be easy for her. I have to keep up the fight as you do for your child.
    The life of endless possibility is not yet limited for your daughter, with the right help she can learn to read.
    We are in the process of applying for the NDIS, watch this space. I believe that your daughter if she cannot yet read should qualify for this. If a well written application is received, I would hope she could get some very good one on one tuition. Supposedly there is no limit to money spent! Although I hear otherwise from other parents.
    Continue to fight for your daughter, I had dyslexia I believe, I did nursing and came second in Australia, I have 6 post graduate qualifications now. My mother to fort for me to get help. I only learnt to study and learn after I left school. I am sure your daughter has a brilliant memory, she had to so she could survive. There is help at uni also if you find the right one. I feel for you all, I feel your heartbreak. Don’t give up, there is much life ahead.
    Does she use voice to text like read write gold? Audio books? Modified assessment ? She is entitled to this and much more.
    Our children are in fact our greatest inspiration, my daughter came second in a rostrum speech last year out of 100. She spoke about “if you knew what I knew”. Her speech was about living with dyslexia, always giving 100%, but never getting there! She spoke about all the dyslexics who were told they would never make anything of their lives and succeeded.
    She had half the school of 500 in tears, and many of her teachers.
    When it gets hard we have to stand up and walk with them, never give up hope. You and your daughter sound like wonderful caring people, she will succeed in like because of and not despite of her dyslexia.
    I have hope for your family, I fear for all the children out there who’s parents can’t or don’t fight for them.
    Keep us all posted on your daughters success story.
    Kind regards

  3. Avatar gayna   •  

    I had the same problem with my daughter. The school seemed to be saying all the right things with the plans that they had, but with no effect. She was falling further and further behind. Every day I would drop her at school and she would visibly wilt as she walked towards the building. I had had her diagnosed in year 1 so I constantly told the teachers, but one teacher told me I should have her hearing tested as that might be the problem!!! I returned to uni and became a teacher specializing in learning difficulties and in year 5 I took her out of school and home schooled her for two years. She made a big improvement in her reading because I was able to tailor the learning for her with lots of down time to process what she had learnt. After two years she returned to school. She can now read as well enough to get through school but her spelling is very poor. Unfortunately her teachers have trouble seeing past the spelling She is in year ten now and is a very confident, happy teenager. It has been a long hard struggle which continues in trying to get the school to appreciate her intelligence, not her spelling ability. But it has been worth it. My husband is dyslexic and he has never let it stop him. He is an inspiration to what you can achieve.

  4. Avatar Sue Ashmore   •  

    I am a teacher and my own children have dyslexia so I have a lot of empathy for your story. I would like to share with you about a program which I have found to work… called Fast ForWord. I have had my own children complete it and they have experienced remarkable improvement. I have also recommended this for several of my students who have made excellent progress after completing the program. Fast For Word treats the problem of neural pathways which have not been established in the normal way and so learning for dyslexics is extremely difficult. I have seen a transformation into confidence and light bulb moments being set off by this intervention. Then the tutoring and hard work becomes worth the effort. It breaks my heart to see the hard work put in by those who have a learning disability for such little progress. My daughter said that she could feel the stimulation of the program working as she could feel a buzzing inside her brain. I hope that you can find something to stimulate the neural pathways for your child. It is never too late to use this program. My daughters were 7 and 16 when I enrolled them and it has changed their lives. My son is 25 and he has finally agreed to commit to completing the program after years of battling on with dyslexia. I hope this is helpful.

  5. Avatar sally mckay   •  

    What a lovely letter – made me realise i’m not alone – my daughter is just going into year 10 and as she has mild D the senco has nothing to offer (she does not qualify for extra time as hers is a cognitive issue and does not show up on the schools in-house testing system) and the teachers say she must try harder! Just how much harder do they think she can try??

  6. Avatar Glenda Holding   •  

    Wow, this letter is amazing. I am a teacher and I have children with dyslexia in my class but they are not diagnosed as such. They are in Grade 2 (7 years old) and I can see the hope in their eyes to be someone one day – the little girl wants to be a nurse like her mom and the boy has so many issues at home that he cannot see the future but just says he wants to go to Grade 3 next year where he will “do Grade 2 work” as he is in my class doing Grade 1 work. It is so difficult here (South Africa) to get a diagnosis that parents give up as they cannot afford the numerous assessment tests needed. The children are sent from 1 “specialist” to the next and even then they are not assured of a correct diagnosis. I am trying to do what I can for them in my own small way, by never trying to make them feel different but giving them different work, but I know that when they leave me this will change and my heart aches. The other children in my class notice that they are given other work, but I have not made an issue of this and so they don’t either. It is amazing to see them handing out worksheets and all they say is “must x and y get this worksheet?” I wish that the little girl could do everything orally as she has such potential, but that is not an option for her in a mainstream school and her mom is trying really hard to not send her to a “special needs” school.
    The little boy has so many other issues but he deserves a chance. My hope for both these children is that one day they reach the stars and their dreams are achieved.

  7. Avatar gwen   •  

    i am pretty sure i have it and i will sit there and just cry becouse i dont know what to do i struggle to read spell do math and more and i cant memerize anything i had my sceince teacher say i dont try when i try 2 time more than any other student i love sport so when school is hard i have to have a 2.0 to play sport or stay in sport so it hard becouse i sarred i am going to get kickout which has happend but the school said that she doesnt need to be test so i am 1 year behind i am going inti 8th grade and i have such a hard time with math sp much my english teacher this year said i dont try hard enough that when i ask my mom to get me test then she asked not that hard to do so and they said it would help me to get test i hate that my teacher dont helpme i had 3 teacher help me in 2 years i grow up in a privet school and i got one on one help and now im not i am at a pubice school and i get like no help i just cry i just have no idea what to do i have a feeling that i am going to fail 8th grade and that mean i cant do softball or cheer which are the sports i do if you have any advice please send it to me thanks

  8. Avatar Elaine wray   •  

    I’d just like to say I’m disgusted my daughter has struggled through school and finishes her 3rd year at uni and was only diagnosed in Dec last year . Her dyslexia is quite bad , she has been told by the time they get any specific help for her it’s too late as she finishes in May. We just thought she wasn’t particularly interested in school , I can’t believe it wasn’t picked up but then I was told that would be because the school/ college would have to pay. Saying that we are very proud of her for sticking it out . She is studying special effects and prosthetics she needs to get a degree as that’s what is required for this type of career . Please help is there anywhere I can complain to or is this the norm .☹️☹️☹️

  9. Avatar Felicia Seamon   •  

    My daughter and husband wrote a book recently about actual events that led to her questioning the term dyslexia, and him having to decide in that moment if he would share the secret that he had been harboring from the world for so long. He recollects his childhood fears and difficulties that continued into adulthood. The open conversation that he had with my daughter was quite a relief for him and ultimately has made our daughter an even more compassionate person. We are going to get more involved in the awareness and stigma removal process around learning differences and I am grateful for blogs that I come across like this one, where families have opted to share. There are so many who will not and it exacerbates the problem. The name of their children’s book is, “Daddy’s Big Secret, Jordan Learns the Truth”.

  10. Avatar Izzy Selby   •  

    This article was so helpful! I am doing a report on how dyslexia affects young kids and this helped me so much. Thank you for sharing your daughter’s story.

  11. Avatar Liz Dunoon   •  

    Thanks for the feedback Izzy and so glad Claire’s story has helped you. Kind regards Liz D

  12. Avatar Emily Thuysbaert   •  

    I have dyslexia I am now a childrens author I go into schools and do a dyslexia awareness project.
    It is very hard to help a dyslexic as I can not say what a non-dyslexic sees.
    It is very frustrating when the brain shuts down and you cant take anything in.

    It is the most challenging thing as there is no pill which can make it better. We use the wrong side of the brain to do everything this is why we are so tired.

    I have taken it upon myself to research and develop workbooks to help with dyslexia

    But my main message I am sending out to people is believe in yourself. You are not dumb you are not stupid you are uniquely beautiful and we will find a way xxx

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