Category Archives: reading

Best day ever

Oh happy day.

Seriously. Neither of my children has homework today. It might just possibly be the best day ever.

This morning I had a meeting with Dash’s teachers, because they wanted to talk to me about some observations they’ve made about his reading and his vision.

And after we’d talked about that, and agreed that I should make a new appointment with the eye doctor because the teachers are convinced that a lot of his reading hurdles are still vision-related, I mentioned that homework is always a battle, especially the reading portion of it.

They instantly said “Well, what can we do to fix that? Can he stay on here and do it after school? Can he do it during the day? You should have told us sooner.” I was flabbergasted. I had been meaning to mention it at our parent-teacher meetings next month, but I didn’t seriously think they’d be able to take the burden of the 20 minutes of reading, cornerstone of homework requirement, away. Just like that, they did.

They still want him to do a little homework, for the executive functioning reason of developing a habit of getting out your work, checking what you need to do, and doing something at home. But if he can do the 20 minutes of reading, so much the sticking point for us every night, at school instead, our quality of life will be enormously improved.

This evening was so peaceful. Mabel happens to have no homework this week either, though her homework is not a battleground, but it was just the icing on the cake.

I mean, she still didn’t get out of the bath the first ten times I politely suggested she should, and nobody’s asleep yet, but as evenings go, I’d like more of this sort.

Dash on his new bike

No homework? Time to get up some speed on your new bike.


Dash update – what next?

So as not to bury the lede: Dash is going to a new school next year.

Some time after Christmas I bumped into someone who asked me how he was doing and told me about a great school her daughters go to. It’s specifically for bright kids who have reading difficulties, or similar — just like Dash. I looked it up online, and on a whim I decided to go along to an open house one morning and see what they had to say. Mostly, I thought I might get some guidance, maybe a few names of tutors in my area or ideas about what we should do next.

At the open house, they showed us a video of interviews with students — and oh, the pathos — these sweet, bright, super-articulate children told the camera about how they’d felt stupid, they’d cried over homework, they’d hated school; and now it’s all turned around. As an ad for the school, I have to admit it worked like a charm. I don’t think Dash feels stupid, or hates school; but it may be only a matter of time before that starts to happen, and I’d really rather it didn’t. He’s certainly only getting the great grades he gets thanks to his unlimited time to finish things accommodations, and his school is not able to provide any sort of remediation that’s helping his reading get better. (It’s not their fault. They don’t know what to do with him. And they have a lot of kids to help – kids with bigger problems, who shout louder (literally) and cause more trouble.)

So I applied for this other school, since its application deadline for the year was just coming up. I thought, what the heck, if he gets offered a place, then maybe it’s meant to be. The other element, of course, was the financial one, because private schools like this are not cheap. We’d need to qualify for financial aid as well.

Fourth grade is their intake year, so he had a better chance of getting a place this year than any other, with a whole class (of 10) to fill. Also, not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good at filling in forms where I get to describe my children. Then they called us up and said that they’d like to invite him in for two days of school, to shadow a student and do some testing and generally see the lie of the land, to see if he was a good fit for them, and them for him.

I hadn’t planned on telling him about it at this early stage, when it was such an uncertain thing, but obviously he couldn’t spend two days there without knowing what it was about, so I did. He really rose to the occasion. I couldn’t have been prouder of him: he took the information on board and went along with a twinge of nerves but an optimistic outlook. I brought him in and dropped him off, and by the time I picked him up at the end of the school day he had made some friends, the teachers knew him by name, and he had had a great time. I think they liked him, too. The second day, he was happy to jump out of the car and head on in.

Since then, he’s been really sanguine about the not-knowing that was driving us crazy. He’d be happy to go there, but he’d also be happy to stay where he is. For all his rigidity in some ways – food, for instance – he’s amazingly flexible when it comes to the bigger picture, and he has a great ability to go with the flow.

He was offered a place, but we still didn’t know about the financial side of things. My laid-back “what will be, will be” attitude was taking a bit of a beating. The more I thought about it, the more I felt we owed it to him to make this happen, no matter how happy he is at the local school and how easy it makes our life to have two kids leaving the house at 8:45 every morning and sauntering up the road to school.

Yesterday we got word that it’s happening. He’s going to the other school. Come September I will be complaining about traffic and early mornings and trying to bilocate (or call in favours) in order to be in two places at the same time for school pickup – but Dash will be somewhere that’s exactly right for him, with teachers who know how reading works and who see how his brain works and who show him tools to get around learning when reading is extra hard, and with friends who have similar challenges. Even if we can only swing it for one year, it’s going to be a good thing.

Dash is excited about having a locker, like in the Arthur cartoons. He’s disappointed he won’t get to play the trombone in fourth grade, which he’d just signed up for (but who knows, maybe the new school has trombones too). Mabel is annoyed that she won’t be able to wave to him in passing in the hallways any more.

I’m relieved. I think this is called doing your best for your children, and if I have to get up early and hit the beltway morning traffic to do it – sure, we’ll give it a go.

Why learning to read is not like training for a 5K

I’m not training for a 5k. But I have done, once, and my husband has trained for more marathons than you can shake a stick at, so I feel confident enough to say this. When you train for a race, you start out small. You run a short distance. The next day, you run a bit further. You build up your stamina, you strengthen your muscles and you enlarge your lung capacity by adding a little more every time until – hey presto! – with determination and persistence and hard work, you can run as far as you want to. Hooray!

Learning to read doesn’t work that way.

My daughter started kindergarten this year knowing the letters and most of the sounds they stood for. She could sound out simple words. But she couldn’t read yet. Somewhere along the way, and with help from a great teacher, things clicked. Now she looks at words on a page and knows what they are, without having to think about letters and sounds and how they all fit together.

There was a point for her when that leap from decoding to knowing just happened. It’s the leap that didn’t happen for her brother, the third-grader, the one with dyslexia. He still has to decode every word. That’s what takes so long.

So my kindergartener is testing above grade level for reading. Like, way above. “But,” her teacher said to me, “I’m worried about her fluency. It’s not there. Is she reading for 20 minutes a night?”

“No,” I said. “I read to her for at least 20 minutes a night.” She reads a few lines, or a few minutes, or whatever she feels like. She’s reading all the time – I see her eyes lighting on words she knows as I read a book that’s way above her own level. I see her reading signs and lists and packages and posters. She’s reading.

“Well,” said her teacher, who is a great teacher, who knows exactly how to get the kids reading, “she needs to start reading by herself for longer. Start her at five minutes and move up to ten and then fifteen. When she’s in third grade she’ll be taking the PARCC tests, you know. They have to read for 90 minutes at a time.”

This is where the running comes in. That’s how you train for a 5K, but it’s not how a child learns to read. That’s like saying that your three year old needs to attend an academic preschool where he sits at a desk and learns his numbers and letters for a good portion of the day, because he’ll need to do that when he’s five. So he’s got to start practicing now.

No, he doesn’t. Your three year old needs to be running and jumping and feeling different textures and finding out what fits together and what goes inside what and looking and listening and smelling and tasting. He does all that to prepare his body and to connect the dots in his brain so that WHEN he’s five – or six or seven – he’ll be able to sit still for a while and learn in a classroom setting, given a sympathetic teacher and material that interests him.

My six and a half year old may be able to read and understand a lot of words, but that doesn’t mean I can hand her my seven volumes of Harry Potter (UK edition) and expect her to immerse herself for the afternoon. She loves Harry Potter, but she’s not ready to read it yet. And I’m unwilling to sit her down with a book and a timer and make her read a little longer every day, because that’s not how it works.

Some day when I’m not watching, she’ll pick up a book and get comfy and find that an hour later she hasn’t moved because she’s been reeled into another world, where James flies a giant peach or Hermione saves a hippogryff or Anne accidentally dyes her hair green. It will happen with a leap, the way your toddler went from having ten words to fifty in a week, or the way one day your preschooler could whistle (and didn’t stop demonstrating for a month). It will happen when you’re not paying attention.

Absent dyslexia, it will happen.

Piles of paper

Dash, who is driving me nuts at this very second by insisting on putting his new laces in his runners instead of starting his homework, because a life where you don’t stall till the very last possible minute to do your homework is not one worth living, has taken to writing short fiction. Very short. Always ending with someone’s bullet ricocheting off a handy ceiling beam, to their ultimate, and very surprising, demise.

But plot aside, what impresses me about his writing is the fact that it sounds like a child who has read a lot. He hasn’t, of course, what with the reading disability, but all credit to his father, who has been Dash’s main reader-at-bedtime since, well, since his sister was born. His spelling is horrible, his handwriting takes some practice to interpret, but he really does phrase things nicely. Like this:

A man walked up – and swiftly walked away.


Maybe it was something about the bat, maybe about the night, maybe something was special about his parents, but the bat didn’t turn Alexander’s parents into vampires!

or simply this

He flipped through a few more pages, then ran out the door.

I’ve corrected the spelling there, but the wording and the punctuation – check out that use of a dash! – are all his own.


Right now, a few days after I wrote that, Dash is making battling math-fact cards so that he can get his Pokemon-obsessed classmates to play with those instead, and then not get into so much trouble if they’re found in possession during lunch or PE. I applaud his thoughtfulness, but his optimism is sometimes overwhelming.

Mabel said, “I don’t think you live with the right girl to have enough paper to make all those.” She does go through a lot of paper, that girl.

Paper, markers, headless barbie doll

We shall not discuss what happened to Barbie. Or the spoon.



Many times in the past couple of years I’ve thought, “Well, at least he’s not dyslexic.” Because when you think of dyslexia – or at least when I did – you think of kids who mix up d and b, who can’t tell tab from bat or din from nib. When we had Dash’s vision assessed back at the end of first grade, one of the tests was to read words just like that. When the eye doctor went over the results with me, she said “This is one they’d use to identify dyslexia, for instance.” He did fine on that one.

But “dyslexia” just means a learning disability focusing on reading. Some people with dyslexia do see the words moving around on the page, and are liable to read them backwards just as easily as forwards – but Dash’s dyslexia is not like that. I think if it was, we’d have come to this particular label sooner. (Label. Labels are good. They help people get the help they need. I’m all for labels.)

Dash’s test results (this time) indicated that he processes things slowly, including reading. His lack of fluency in reading might simply stem from this, or there might be something else at work, maybe. The “Reading Disability” and the “Learning Disorder, NOS” due to slow processing are two diagnoses, but one probably influences the other.

He’s really good at decoding words and applying the rules. But too much of English doesn’t follow the rules. (We wondered if he’d be “less” reading disabled if we spoke Spanish, or Russian, or anything with fewer irregulars.)

It’s not just speed, though. He doesn’t have any sight words, or hardly any. He’s not recognizing the shapes of words as a whole the way most of us do. He reads every word as if it’s new to him. He hasn’t “automatized” the reading process, which is the stage that just comes for most people with a little practice. We’ve been waiting and waiting for it to just come, and it just doesn’t.

Of course, some people are just slow readers. There’s more going on here: when there’s a clear disparity between their intelligence in some areas and their abilities in others, you begin to look for a specific cause. This is what’s happening here – just to brag/antibrag, let me quote a couple of his results:

On the Verbal Comprehension Index, Dash scored in the 99th percentile. On the Working Memory Index he was in the 91st. On the Processing Speed Index he was in the 2nd.

In both the Listening Comprehension and Oral Discourse Comprehension tests he was in the 99.6th percentile, but his Oral Reading Fluency was at the 0.3rd percentile.

And so on. Of course, some of his scores were right in the average domain too, but it was interesting to see the huge “scatter” (as it’s called) in his abilities. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but the report said this was a bigger span than most kids his age.

Some of the bits of the report I particularly noted were:

  • D presented as a well-groomed child. (Heh.)
  • He easily separated from his mother. (Take that, AP deniers!)
  • He was sometimes tangiental in his thinking. (Ahem.)
  • While D took his time to provide his answers, the responses that he formulated were articulate and complex for his age. (There you go.)
  • D often made unique connections or had ideas that were outside the box. But he often had difficulty producing the simplest, most logical response. (Yes.)
  • He read words such as “photograph” and “equipment” accurately, but he sounded out all the words including such basic ones as “cow” and “they”. (Yup.)

We have an IEP meeting set up for next week. In the meantime, if you’ve any resources to recommend, books I should read, whatever – have at it in the comments.



I mentioned a while ago that we were getting Dash tested for … I don’t know, stuff. Whatever was making it so hard for him to read. Long story short, today we got our answers: he’s officially dyslexic.

That is, I should say, he has a reading disability, and what’s called a Learning Disorder NOS due to deficits in processing speed. (That makes him sound like a computer. His CPU is a little whirry.)

NOS stands for Not Otherwise Specified, because processing speed disorder is not, as of right now, a recognized thing for the purposes of insurance or school services, but it falls under the general LD umbrella.

Dyslexia is a fairly broad term without any specifically internationally recognized definition, but it basically indicates any reading disability like this, and seems to be a nice easy way to explain what’s going on with Dash without having to get into technicalities.

My gut reaction when the doctor said “reading disability” was “Great!” because that’s honestly what we needed. He’s not ADHD (though he does have some of those characteristics sometimes), he’s not ED or ASD or SPD or any of those things that didn’t really seem to fit with him. He’s LD. He’s really good at some things and really slow at others, and sometimes he’s really good while being really slow at the same time.

So now we have what we need to get help at school. More help than just giving him extra time, which is what we had up to now (with a 504 plan, the baby brother of an IEP), but actual one-on-one time with a reading specialist. The school mostly thought he was fine, because his grades are good and he’s technically reading on grade level – but only because they gave him a ton of extra time to do the reading test. (I feel like that’s a bit of a vicious circle thing. We got him extra time, so it looks as if he’s doing fine; maybe in fact the extra time wasn’t doing him a favour and he’d have been better off failing so the school understood his needs better. But I don’t want to see my smart kid failing just to make a point to the school; that’s bad for his self confidence and for his faith in the system that’s here to teach him. So, on the whole, it’s good that he’s had the extra time because that’s given us the cushion we needed while we searched for this diagnosis.)

This doesn’t come as a shock to me. I’ve been through the “But how can my baby be other than perfect?” stuff and the “Did I drop him as a baby? Did I skimp on the vitamins at a vital point in his development?” stuff and also the “But if we were in Ireland he’d never get this help” stuff last year when we started vision therapy, so I’m already at the “This is a positive thing that gets us the things we need” stage, mostly.

I could go back through old posts to find when it was I first felt that Dash had more difficulty with reading than maybe was normal. But the reality is that never having seen a child learn to read, we didn’t know what it was meant to look like, and when people keep assuring you that it will come so long as you have books in the house and you read every night and they do their mandated 20 minutes a day, you think that they must be right and this is what it coming looks like, even when it sounds painfully difficult to you and you don’t remember it ever being like that when you learned to read.

But at some point I said “This isn’t the way it’s meant to be” and we went down the vision therapy route, and that was helpful, but it wasn’t the Answer.

So maybe, maybe now we have the Answer. And it’s just the beginning.

Dash with globe jigsaw

I think I only see how big he’s getting when I look at a photo. He’s even starting to grow into those ridiculously enormous-seeming two front teeth.

Sundry updates

It’s one of those times when real life whizzes by faster than blog time, and I end up having to give you a list just to get things you need to know* out of the way.

*Need to know for full and complete appreciation of the blog, I mean.

So, without further ado, and in roughly chronological order, these things have happened:

– Mabel started school. So did Dash, of course, but this year Mabel’s the one with the big changes. I wrote a little bit about it here. She started last week, but after the long weekend of Labour Day, going back this morning was the roughest one yet. How long do I have to keep buying her bribes for? Until middle school, just?

Mabel in classroom

– The PTA book sale was a great success, in spite of a massive thunderstorm that rolled in on Sunday evening, shutting us down early and making some of our stock unusable. We had tarps to cover the tables, and put as many boxes as we could up there, but any boxes still under the tables that were in direct contact with the ground ended up sopping wet.

book sale under tents

– I may or may not have been a bookseller in a former life. But I should probably be one at some point in this one. I loved it. I loved the tetris-like challenge of “reshelving”, I loved remembering where I’d seen something that would go with this one, I loved seeing the droves of people buying so many books that they’d never find anywhere else, and by the third day I was talking to the books. Maybe that’s not a good thing, but they seemed to like it.

kids on ride at funfair

– I have Lyme disease, did I mention that? At least, I don’t actually have any symptoms, but I’m on antibiotics to make it go away. I had an odd fever with a stiff neck while we were in Italy and it was only when we got home that I decided, paranoidly, that maybe I had Lyme. I got checked rather than leave it to be a Thing I Obsess About In Bed At Night, and hey presto, I do. I never noticed the tick bite and have no visible rash. But we do live in a very high-Lyme area. My only lesson for you on that is: don’t be too paranoid, but do be just paranoid enough.

– We’re getting Dash tested for I don’t know what, a Learning Disability or something maybe, because vision therapy was great but it wasn’t the Ultimate Answer to his reading difficulties. The doctor I spoke to was trying to steer me in the direction of ADHD, but I honestly don’t think that’s it. I think he’s got some form of dyslexia. Or Overachieving Parent, it could be that. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, Third Grade seems Very Serious. Homework starts this week; I’ll see better how he’s keeping up when we get that.

Loft bed with desk underneath

– Or maybe I won’t, since he got a new bed and he’s going to do his homework in his bedroom now. Maybe I’ll just have to deal with Mabel’s homework. I’m really hoping that K homework is all drawing and stuff she likes to do.

All caught up now? Good.

(I’m making the photos big. If this has a terrible effect on your download times, tell me.)

Pandora’s Potter

I thought it might be nice to start Harry Potter with Dash this summer, maybe even with both kids. I had visions of us cosily (that is, coolly) curled up reading of an afternoon while the sun beat down outside. But Dash was surprisingly against it. He’d heard B and me discussing it, probably, and talking about how the later books are pretty scary; or maybe he’d just decided to be ornery and that he wouldn’t like it just because we thought he would.

A week or so ago, B was away at a conference and I needed some sort of bedtime carrot. I announced that I was going to start reading the first book. Mabel was interested, even though Dash said he wasn’t, so I sat on her bed and started in on the description of Privet Drive.

Dash was brushing his teeth, just about within earshot. By the time he’d finished up in the bathroom he’d changed his mind, and came in to listen to the rest.

But then.

Then it turned out I’d opened a Pandora’s box. You’d think I’d have known. I did know; I just chose to forget. When Dash gets into something, he’s like a dog with a bone. He won’t leave it alone. He wants to know what will happen. He wants to hear the next chapter. He can’t deal with a cliffhanger. But then it keeps him awake at night … And he’s started campaigning to watch the films, of course. I’d like us to spend some more time just with the books first, so that they have their own mental images well cemented before the movie version imprints over them.

A few times I’ve said “If you want to find out what happens so badly, read it yourself,” and yesterday he did sit down and plough through a couple of paragraphs. But it takes him FOREVER. The words aren’t hard, but he says the print is too small (even wearing his glasses) and he has terrible difficulty reading things like the stylized all-caps of the chapter titles. I’m wondering if I should look for a “large print” version in the library, or download one onto the Kindle that I can change the size on. Hmmm….

Boy reading

That’s not HP, actually. This photo is for general effect only.

I tried to keep both kids at the same place in the books, but once B came home again that went out the window. Now B and Dash are streaking ahead on book two, and Mabel and I are proceeding at a more measured pace near the end of book one. Dash keeps bugging me to read him another chapter (which, just sometimes, is good leverage) and asking me questions like “Do Harry and Ron ever get expelled from Hogwarts?” Much as I hate giving away the story, I accept that sometimes he needs an answer so that he can relax and stop worrying.

I know there are recordings. I know I could borrow a book on tape from the library or download it from Amazon or whatever. But half – maybe all – the fun of introducing your child to a book you’ve enjoyed is reading it to them; even when that child then does their best to squeeze all the joy back out of it by bugging you to read until you’re hoarse.

I tend to read in my own voice with little distinctions for anyone except Hagrid, but B gives everyone a different accent, which is (a) very impressive and (b) far too much like hard work for me to even attempt. He only has about three accents, mind you – dodgy Scottish (McGonagall, mild Hagrid), dodgy Cockney (Ron, Fred and George, possibly Neville), and dodgy French (not yet, but wait till he gets to the fourth book). Also “extra-Irish”, for Seamus Finnegan, and some sort of basic “English” for everyone else, with varying tones from Dumbledore (deep) to Ginny (high pitched), whiny (Hermione) and Alan Rickman (Snape, obvs).

I don’t know how far we’ll go with this – I suspect the third book might be a lot for Dash to take and he might want to stop before, during or after it and metaphorically put the series in the freezer for a while. Whatever happens, I have a feeling it’s going to become one of our defining memories of the summer.

Part two of this saga that might have lots more parts yet

About half an hour after I wrote that last post, I wrote more, because I still had lots to say about how I was feeling.

(Hello, have you met me? I process my thoughts by writing them down.)

If you want to know what happened at my meeting with the school, skip to the end. If for some reason following the inner workings of my psyche is not fascinating to you. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. It’s an endless source of entertainment for me.


If you met him, you’d say Dash was a great kid. He’s not a bundle of neuroses or a group of symptoms. He’s a fun, polite, active, well-behaved, loud, annoying, thoughtful, responsible, curious, hilarious, infuriating eight-year-old boy, just as pretty much all eight-year-old boys are, probably. I don’t know, I only have this one. I like this one that I have.

He just happens to be quirky, and two of the quirkiest things about him are the way he eats very few foods and isn’t great at reading.

My next thoughts swirl, maelstromy.

1. If I had left Ireland more recently I would be concerned about not taking steps that wouldn’t be taken in Ireland, because those would be American-type steps, probably over-hyping, over-diagnosing, finding problems where there are none, trying to fix things that were not broken.

2. I’ve been here in the US, and a parent here, for long enough that that isn’t happening. Also, I got through all that, mentally, for myself, last year when we started on the road to vision therapy. That was like diagnosis lite.

3. Nonetheless, there is an element of feeling USA privilege here. It’s like white privilege, which it is too, except that it affects everyone who can afford health insurance and has access to the US health system. Which while not remotely perfect, gives us a lot more opportunities than we would have in Ireland or in many other parts of the world.

4. I don’t fear labels. Labels are good because they help people come together and get the things they need. In our case, we need Dash to be put in the right class next year so that he’s challenged but not struggling. If we need to find a label, some sort of diagnosis, to help the school do that, then that’s what we want to do. If the school can find the right place for him without a label, then we don’t even need to go down that route.

5. Unless the reading + the eating + things I’m not even noticing because they’re just Dash = Something Together that the school wouldn’t even consider thinking of (because the eating part isn’t relevant to them). And if that Something, whatever, contributed to a label that would help, then we should try to find out about it. Because that might better enable school to do what we need them to.

6. Or is he just a slow reader and a fussy eater?

7. I wouldn’t care, except that he’s starting to notice. He knows he’s in the wrong class this year. He’s getting teased for being the smartest in class, which he wouldn’t be if he was in the right class. But then he’d be the slowest reader and maybe get teased for that. He’s worried about what he’ll eat when we go places.

8. That’s a lie. I want him to love reading the way I love reading. I want him to crack a book and get lost in it. I want him to discover Harry Potter on his own. I want him to read the damn cereal box instead of asking me why there’s a picture of Spider-Man on it.


Cut to the chase, Maud.

The meeting with school went really well. I went in saying, “I don’t know if I need to convince you that he’s really smart or really slow,” and they all said “Well, we know he’s really smart,” so that made it much easier. I talked about the way his reading is slow but he’s smart in all the other respects (sheesh, it would be so much easier to just have him sit down and read a paragraph for them, but I suppose then they’d say he might have been nervous or something; his actual teacher was not in the meeting because it was during class time).

And I gave them the “final report” from the vision therapy people, which I had called and asked for last week. I explained the situation and asked them to be sure not to say “Hooray, he’s totally cured and just like any other kid now!” So the report was a little more restrained in its declaration of his success, and included key phrases such as “may benefit from extra time to complete examinations and schoolwork” and “remaining concerns about reading speed and fluency”.

On foot of that, they said “Well, how about we give you a 504 for next year saying that he gets extra time for assignments and testing, would that work? And you can amend it if it’s not working out or we need to add more.” And I said “Yes please, that sounds ideal.” And then I stayed a bit longer and we got all the paperwork filled in and signed off and photocopied and now it’s in his file and all his teachers will know about it and be required to abide by it.

Easy as that. I was really impressed by the school’s responsiveness and willingness to work with me to find the best solution for Dash. Just like they’re meant to do.

So the urgency for figuring out other testing has waned a bit, at least until we have the food specialist meeting next week and see what they say. I was afraid the school would tell me they couldn’t do anything without some more official sort of diagnosis, but since that wasn’t the case, I’m happy to row back a bit for now.


I’m a little blocked up. Congested. My head is full of stuff and nothing’s coming out.

This is both the literal truth and a metaphor. I have a cold (thanks, Mabel) but I’m also waiting for things to resolve before I blog about them. Which is silly, because life never resolves. It moves on, but it’s not done (till it’s done). It’s not as if they’re secrets; just that I like having the end, or an end of sorts, to tell when I tell the beginning. Making a complete narrative, like.

It’s mostly Dash-related, so there’s also the writing-about-your children thing that raises its head more the older they get. When does it stop being my story and start being his, to tell or not tell as he wishes? But on the whole, I tell his stories to help other people who might be in the same position, and then say that makes it right. I don’t know if it does or not.

Tomorrow I have a meeting at his school to talk about his class placement for next year. He’s hard to place because he’s smart but his reading’s so slow that it mightn’t look like it. He’s good at math and has a great memory and his vocabulary is wonderful and he’s technically reading at a fourth-grade level. But he needs extra time for reading assignments. It’s a little as if he’s dyslexic, but he’s not dyslexic.

Next week we have an appointment at Children’s Hospital with a feeding specialist, or a dietician, or whatever that person might be called. To talk about the lack of variety in his diet – which is not apparently having any impact on his health or growth, but is starting to affect him socially. He’s worried about what he’ll eat when we’re on vacation this year. This is the first time he’s expressed a concern like that – before, he never seemed to care if he ate or didn’t eat when we were in a different place. Maybe it’s because we’re not going to Ireland, where at least he knows they have toast and bread and packets of peanuts. (We’re going to Italy. Mabel will be happy with pasta and pizza, but not Dash.)

I don’t know what we expect the expert to do. It’s not as if he’s going to uncover some new food group consisting of a range of healthy foods that Dash just happens to love. I don’t even know what I hope he’ll do.

It’s possible, you might be thinking, since I’m bringing these two issues up on the same page, that Dash’s eating issues and Dash’s reading issues are connected. That there’s some umbrella Thing that will draw a line from one to the other, stopping at his other quirks, ones that are maybe just the other side of perfectly ordinary, along the way.

Maybe there is.

I’m calling the insurance company and trying to figure out what they will cover assessments for, if we go outside the school system, which it looks like we should do because when a kid’s neither failing nor disruptive, the school doesn’t feel the need to test them. (You can demand that they test them, but they probably won’t find anything much.) So far it sounds as if insurance only covers assessments for ADD and ADHD, but I think I’m just asking the wrong questions.

Lots of maybes. Lots of questions. Following avenues, asking for stories, listening to my gut. Trying.