Nelson Rockefeller, an American businessman, philanthropist, politician, and public servant, once said, “I was one of the ‘puzzle children’ myself- a dyslexic… And I still have a hard time reading today. Accept the fact that you have a problem. Refuse to feel sorry for yourself. You have a challenge; never quit!” Do you wonder what a puzzle child is? A puzzle child is someone that shows great strengths in some areas but has significant learning difficulties in other areas. These children pose a difficulty for most classroom teachers because they appear to grasp the big picture but struggle in areas that you don’t expect. The puzzle child may have great ideas but struggles to learn to read. He may understand math concepts but can’t seem to memorize simple math facts. I understand this seemingly complex puzzle because I am also a puzzle child. I know what it feels like to be a puzzle child. I remember what it’s like to be forced to read easy readers when everyone around me is reading chapter books. I also know what it’s like to hear kids giggle because they realize you’re not reading at their level. Unfortunately, I’ve only had a few teachers that really understood what dyslexia is and know how to help. I think this lack of understanding further helps to make the puzzle seem that much more complex.
As Rockefeller acknowledged, dyslexia certainly provides a challenge. Dyslexia has taught me to work hard and never give up. Being identified with the word dyslexia tells me that I have potential. It tells me I have a challenge but I am capable. I feel so fortunate though in knowing why certain things are hard for me. I am thankful to have a name, dyslexia, for this apparent puzzle. You see, things haven’t changed much since Nelson Rockefeller spoke about being a puzzle child. Today most people with dyslexia are never identified. They experience the challenges and they’ve heard the same giggles. They have felt the humiliation of being called on to read and letting everyone hear them struggle. Some have been told they’re lazy or they just need to work harder. Some even begin to believe it and others give up. They realize they’re different and often in a bad way, but without being identified with dyslexia, they somehow continue to remain a puzzle.