By First Grade, We Were Losing Our Daughter: Anna’s Story Told By Her Mom, Jamie - Horizon Academy

By First Grade, We Were Losing Our Daughter: Anna’s Story Told By Her Mom, Jamie

Mar 31, 2023

I noticed Anna was having trouble even before kindergarten. She has an older sister, and I had also gone through preparing her for school. Anna’s letter retrieval was slow. She might know a letter, but it would take her a long time to name it. Other times, things just wouldn’t stick at all.

With her inability to process quickly came a great deal of stress and frustration. Eventually, Anna developed reading anxiety and refusal. Unfortunately, her teachers at the time had received little to no training on language-based learning disabilities and were convinced that her problems were more emotional, stating, “Anna worries too much.” At that time, the prevailing culture seemed to be that if a child was struggling, it was either the child's or the parent’s fault. While this might not be directly stated, it was implied.

We live quite a distance from the school, and I’m sure her teachers at the time were doing the best they could, but they were causing Anna trauma. They would repeatedly ask her to try harder and it only made her anxiety worse.

When it was time to read, Anna would often cry and refuse. When we were home during the pandemic and we were working on writing, Anna cried, telling me, “this is when my teacher gets mad at me.”

By first grade, we were losing our daughter.

Anna had lost her joy and it was heartbreaking to see.

Things won’t get better if we keep telling someone they aren’t good enough, or they aren’t trying hard enough.

You can see the self-perpetuating cycle at work here. This was a no-win situation. We knew we had to get Anna out of the environment and into someplace that could meet her needs. Saving Anna was our only priority. We considered home-schooling or a small private school, thankfully, we were quickly connected with Horizon Academy.

When Anna was diagnosed with dyslexia, the psychologist recommended Horizon Academy. We were lucky because our pediatrician’s son was enrolled at Horizon Academy, plus another physician in the same office also had a child enrolled! So, almost as soon as we knew the issue, it became clear what we needed to do.

By March 2021, Anna started after-school tutoring at H.A. and we took it from there. She’s enrolled as a student now, and the difference is night and day.

The biggest change was that her joy was restored; she was happy again, and it happened very quickly.

Right away she knew Horizon was different and knew somehow that they understood where others hadn’t. She started to trust people at school, knowing they really cared about her and were in a position to be able to help her. She felt seen for who she was, and started to blossom, becoming lighter and more talkative.

Often, we don’t see the impact of the dysfunctional situation until it has passed and we are moving forward. Once it is over, the healing can begin and that is how I see it, the whole family is in a healing process.

We as parents don’t always know or understand exactly what our children are going through or how much pain they are in. We need to try, to do everything we can to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. And that’s what they do at Horizon. They put the students first and always think in terms of what the experience will be like for these particular children, knowing their needs and understanding how they learn.

Through this journey, we have literally turned our lives inside out. All we want is for our kids to be ok. We do whatever it takes to make that happen. And it is happening. Anna can speak up now. She is listened to. She is a partner in her educational experience and that is a huge life skill.

My favorite thing about Horizon Academy, and there are many, but the ultimate to me is that they treat kids with decency and respect. The faculty, staff, and everyone there treats the students as if their thoughts and feelings matter, because they do. Human decency should be the rule everywhere you go, especially when dealing with children, but it’s simply not.

Horizon Academy helped us get our daughter back, they helped us get our family back, perhaps in a better version than before.

I want everyone to know about Horizon Academy. If anyone is in a conversation with me for very long, it will find its way to literacy, what education should look like for children, to amazing teachers who really get it and are the most committed to student success, which is Horizon Academy I try to raise awareness about dyslexia whenever possible, and want everyone to know about Horizon Academy, both families, and teachers when thinking about next steps in understanding and intervening with children with language-based learning disabilities. 

In my experience, there’s a tremendous lack of knowledge in our school systems regarding learning disabilities, the appropriate and evidence-based interventions, the potential of students with learning disabilities, insensitivity, frustration, and apathy toward the students and families of children with learning disabilities, and a lack of resources and commitment to the academic success of these children. Administrators and educators and in public schools need to know about Dyslexia, the early signs of dyslexia, and early and evidence-based effective interventions. 

They need to know about Horizon Academy and the work they do, the support they offer, and the resources and training they provide so that when there’s a child in need, they have the opportunity to get the help they need.