Felton: I’m dyslexic, and so is my brother. Here’s how quarantine has brought us closer together.

 My brother Chad and I are dyslexic.

We mix up our Bs and Ds and Us and Vs. Neither of us cares to read out loud in class, and we thrive off autocorrect because our spelling is subpar.

Quite ironically, I decided to go into English and journalism, where all I do is write. However, my learning disability didn’t impact much of my academic life after the 5th grade. By the time I was in junior high, I didn’t have to leave class to take support courses with kids who read at my level. 

 My brother, however, is still developing his reading skills. The hardest part about watching him learn is seeing how frustrated it makes him.

My mom never let us get away with calling ourselves ‘stupid’;however, when all your peers are getting high marks with ease, it can falter your confidence easily. 

On his normal schedule, Chad takes seven classes — social studies, science, two English courses, two math classes and a study hall.He doesn’t get an art, PE or music class. 

Since he’s started junior high, I’ve felt that he is overburdened with core work and resents that he’s not given a creative outlet to escape.  

Now that my brother and I are sharing our days together, I often help him log into his Zoom classes or find the radius of a circle.  

It isn’t easy though. 

Being quarantined has me worried about not being able to help him sufficiently. Especially in subjects like math. 

Usually, students who struggle with math have another learning disability known as dyscalculia. According to Understood, an initiative that helps those who learn and think differently, experts say that 5%-10% of students have dyscalculia Some, however, believe it is just as common as dyslexia, which is close to 15%. 

We are unsure of mine or Chad’s math compression skills, but I will say that if we’re already mixing up Vs and Us, 4s and 9s are just another symbol in our alphabet soup.

I’ve never been able to conquer math like I did English, merely because you can go back and edit the first draft, but usually you can’t go back and retake a test. Miss one small variable and the equation is tanked, while if I forget to put a comma somewhere I can redeem  it with a strong thesis. 

Helping him with math is a lot of Googling equations and still trying to balance the time to get my school work done. Every so often, he’ll stop and ask how to say some word with too many Bs or write out an email to his teacher.

For Chad, his subjects have been easier and the course load does seem much lighter than what he was bringing home before quarantine.

My main fear, though, is this could lead him to fall behind more than he already is. Next year he starts high school, and social pressure to do well will become more extreme. 

A student with dyslexia’s goal is never to get perfect grades, but to do better than the semester before. I fear that after this, his motivation will drop and he’ll resent his education because he can’t meet social standards. 

There are some surprises to the current situation. Chad’s schedule isn’t littered with an overbearing amount of course work. He takes one class a day for only about half a day, then he’s free to do what he wants. 

He’s usually in the garage fixing up his bike or painting models in his room. His walls are paved with drawings and despite struggling with reading, he has a real love for comic books.

That’s the cool thing about my brother:the things he can do with his hands. I think that despite his education being so fleeting at the moment, his creativity that’s usually hidden behind textbooks has gotten a lot of light this quarantine. 

He’s been my best friend the past couple weeks, and I’d do anything to help him get through this semester, one misspelled word at a time.

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