Dyslexia – Is Dyslexia Passed on from the Father or Mother? And How Healthy Eating Impacts Learning.
Blog Interview with Stefanie Thayer
Welcome to Dyslexia Solution’s podcast channel where I interview parents and teachers of dyslexic children. I interview adults and I also share personal stories, so we have a three-fold purpose here.
First is to empower you, so that you are aware of the current actions and opportunities. Secondly, we want to encourage you so that you know that you’re not alone in your challenges and yet people have questions just like you do. And thirdly, we’re always seeking sponsors to help us keep our message going forward. Dyslexia impacts one in five children and it needs to be addressed now.
I’m Dr. Marianne Cintron, founder of Step-By-Step Dyslexia Solutions. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. I’m also a published author of “A Message of Hope: How Music Enhances Reading for Dyslexic Children”. I’m an app developer of the famous music and spelling app “Dunking Dyslexia” and I equip heroic teachers with an effective literacy program to remediate dyslexia so we can close that achievement gap, stop the school to prison pipeline, and prepare kids for success in school and in life.
I believe that every child has a right to read and so today I have a very special guest for you. She is a teacher and a parent of a dyslexic son. She’s also a health coach, which really got my attention, and she teaches CrossFit. Stefanie Thayer has passionate leadership skill. She lives her life out in many areas, sharing about her fun faith while homeschooling two exceptional children. She loves the outdoors, and she runs a non-profit and health coaching business. Her background is in psychology nutrition and project management and she uses all these to help and relate to people. She finds the joy and positivity in most things and hopes to bring this information to you as well today.
So welcome Stefanie Thayer, it’s nice to have you today.
Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here. I just love when we met and you talked about wanting to bless these kids and not have the school-to-prison pipeline and you had my heart at that.
We had several connections and I just love that.
So I’m going to ask you some very good questions, why don’t you start and let the people know a little bit about you before I ask you the questions? I get so excited, I want to jump right in.
Oh, sure, sure. My name is Stefanie. You already heard a great introduction. I sort of fell into the dyslexia world by accident. I have five children, three are my bonuses and two I had to birth. The youngest, it’s always the youngest that’s the wildest or the one you can’t totally figure out, ended up being dyslexic and we didn’t know that. I didn’t know what to do with it and so we ended up going down that path but I think as life moves you find that one area of your life relates to another and so we’ve been able to pull a lot of resources to help our son who now thrives. So it’s just fun to connect with you here.
How old is your son right now?
The youngest one, he’s 13.
So how did you learn about dyslexia?
By accident, so we had him in a small private school, and we thought maybe he was a little bit behind. He was really high in math but couldn’t be bothered to read. And so, we kept him back in kindergarten, we had him do it twice and he started getting in trouble. He’s really funny and entertaining. And so my husband and I actually big argument and started homeschooling because we didn’t know what to do with him. We just couldn’t, and he was a good kid, but he started getting labeled as trouble and there’s not a bad bone in this kid’s body, you know. He’s always laughing and smiling, and we ended up having him tested for ADD the next year because he’s all boy, like I mean, he rolls all over, you know. You couldn’t encapsulate this energy and the school, or the child psychologist recommended that we test him for dyslexia, and we did. And sure enough, it came back dyslexic and I just said, “I have no idea what to do with that, what do I do?” and she recommended a couple books. I read two books that day trying to understand how to help a six-year-old in this way.
So you got him diagnosed really young?
Yeah, I knew my other son who’s only a year and a half older was either very gifted in reigning or my younger was behind and I couldn’t tell. I’m not a teacher by trade, right? I love to teach but I wasn’t an elementary school teacher, so I didn’t know what signs to look for.
Okay, so what were some of the things you tried with him that you maybe learned from the book or from other people telling you?
Yeah well I learned right away that he had a really good memory because he could memorize the spelling list or the story or whatever, right? So, we immediately went and met with a tutor she was not dyslexia trained. So that’s a learning that I have that was a mistake. Although she was very helpful there were some things that she was quite rigid that I don’t think are a good fit for dyslexic, so that’s one of the things that I learned is find someone that really has dyslexic specific or dysgraphia training depending on what your needs or your child’s needs are. But in that meeting, my husband’s a general and trauma surgeon, he had an aha moment as she was describing what dyslexia looks like in real life and he said, “I think I have this. I was never diagnosed.”
It was really interesting to recognize that obviously you’re capable of using your other skills and overcoming, he’s a professional. But yeah it’s crazy right? And he had a good support system and all these other things. So, we tried that, we did that for a while, then we went to an Orton Gillingham, a specific person that was really helpful, then we went to some online things we actually tried a lot of supplements and a lot of food changes. I know all people are unique but his ADD and giftedness and dyslexia all seem to be interacting together and I don’t believe that all of these young boys have ADD, attention deficit disorder, in the way that a lot of our school system wants to say. The food that we are giving our kids–
Well, I want to just say it’s amazing that your husband recognizes that he had it and he was still a successful adult and the genetic component of dyslexia was in your home. I don’t know if you would have done things differently had you known your husband was dyslexic, but I think a lot of adults are shy to say that. But when they see that their kids have similar challenges and that their kids have dyslexia and there’s help for them, they start opening up, so that’s really great. And then go ahead and share about your nutrition.
And I think that’s so true, to realize that we’re not alone in that. I like to call it a difference, we have differences, there’s actually a lot of assets in the differences that you come with. I actually don’t know a single child that’s the typical student that the school system is meant for. I’m not sure who that kid is because they’re all a little different. So, one of the things we found with nutrition, which is funny because it’s what I do with adults but when you get free lunch at school, most of that is pastas or breads and it’s inexpensive. It’s delicious. If you look up glycemic index that’s the rating of the availability of quick sugar to your to your bloodstream. Pastas are in the nineties, table sugar like what you cook with is in the sixties, so it’d be better to give a child a bowl of sugar than a bowl of pasta, but nobody knows that. Also, you want to cut out both of those. Now the kids are at home during this time they can be eating healthy meals that their parents are fixing but when they’re back in that school line can your kids bring their lunches to school to eat healthy?
My kids usually pack lunch and they like a lot of snacky foods. A lot of kids like snacky foods. You know it’s hard because you still want to let them be children. I’m not one of those, “my kids never gonna have cake” types of people. I think you need to let them be kids. One of the things that they can do especially if they’re in the cafeteria line, make sure you add some fat or protein to it. So macaroni and cheese is probably a little bit better because it has cheese on it, or get a meat sauce because that will kind of counteract the blood sugar spike in your body. So it’s funny to think that it would actually be better to send your kid to school with a candy bar, but that’s the reality and I don’t recommend doing that either. The answer is don’t do either, don’t move one card, you know. And what about if a child’s athletic and in sports? There’s a lot of talk about eating the carbs before a practice or a game. You want to talk about that a little bit.
I think it depends on the kiddo’s athletics, right? Some things are very cardio intense, and carbohydrates are great, they give you quick energy and kids are also growing. So, kids need a lot more calories than say an adult would need. So even kids that are overweight still need a lot more calories even if they’re trying to lean out a little bit. But you know food is fuel for your body and I think a lot of us forget that because we enjoy it so much. But what you put in is what you’re going to get out. So yes, if you’re on track, you should have some pasta because you’re going to use it all up when you go do the run.
I think if you look for things that are more whole grain like a whole grain bread or a whole grain pasta that’s going to serve your body better and you’re still going to get the energy that you need for your workout. I know there’s a lot of food, well a lot of the white flour and sugar produce allergies. I mean so many kids that have asthma and I actually fight asthma too. I notice when I’m eating healthier and eating vegetables and fruits, I barely have asthma and I just think about all these kids that are eating a lot of starch and sugar and they have asthma, and they can’t participate in a lot of stuff. So healthy nutrition is important. A lot of people don’t realize asthma, eczema, and allergies are all actually the same thing. It’s just your body presenting it in a different way, and I find often people don’t like dairy and don’t like the white grains, they just don’t know it because they haven’t removed it. So if you have a kiddo reacting in any one of those ways, try removing it for two weeks. It’s not the end of the world if you see no change, go right back to it if you see a change. You might give them a better quality of life and then they’re also going to think better when they feel better. And its discipline, I mean it’s a lot of work to keep your kids from eating.
I remember when I was a young kid, I was one of seven children and when I would walk to my girlfriend’s house, she and I would go to the 7-Eleven and get candy bars because they were so cheap. My mom never knew we were sneaking and getting candy like that. We had terrible habits. So parents have to really keep an eye on their kids. Let me ask you, what would you say to parents who help advocate for their kids who have dyslexia? If the schools aren’t addressing it what should parents do?
You have to keep pounding the pavement and if you don’t know what to do or how to navigate in your school system, find another parent that has gone before you and done it. Because the automatic answer, unfortunately, will be “no, we don’t have the resources, your child is fine.” Guess what? Especially the socioeconomically less are the ones that are the most underserved because they’re not questioning the principals or the staff. So you need to get someone to come with you, get your community, because your child is entitled to that and they deserve it. If we can address it in these elementary years, they’re going to be thriving. Dyslexics are some of the most brilliant people on the planet and we are not capturing that in our school system. Just because your kid learns a little different, doesn’t mean that they don’t have significant value. And that’s the thing, if parents know that their children are intelligent, they’re creative, they start acting out in bad behavior, their needs are not being met. And like you said, public school system or just the classroom setting is hard for a lot of children.
We mentioned that you worked with kids twice except exceptional. Can you explain that a little bit to families?
Sure, so twice exceptional just means that you have two things that are unique from the norm or typical. I have children that are highly gifted and then also dyslexic, or you may have Asperger’s or dysgraphia or different things. And it makes it that much more of a challenge to learn in the typical setting. That’s one of my passions is: I wish if we could get the elementary school system to have the younger grades maybe k through third where you have different types like a tactile class. One in five of the kids is dyslexic and they have the right training that they need by the time they integrate up they’re perfectly fine. Let’s set them all up to be successful with the gifts that they already have.
So your recommendation to schools because there will be administrators listening in and teachers. Teachers should talk to their administrators, but what would you recommend that they say to get their support?
You know budget’s tight and yeah everybody’s plate is so full; can they add something new? Yes, I mean if you look at what you spend individually for those specialists to help the kids that are dyslexic, if you actually grouped them together and had that one resource helping them with a third of their day or half of their day, I think you would see significant improvement and actually have it be more cost effective. Also, the kids bonding and realizing “I’m not special” need a lot. Those services are dumbing down the capability and most of the kids that get put in there are really bright, it’s just in a different area than our typical school system knows how to support.
Well, that’s really good and you know as I try to talk to schools about bringing my reading program into them, I’m in an Orton Gillingham practicum right now, but I’m realizing that the schools do have more flexibility to bring in outside programs just for this purpose. You know with one in five having dyslexia there are not enough teachers that are trained out there to work with the kids and if the schools can find someone that is using a multi-sensory reading program. There are many out there and I realize many people have created their own because they want to bring in their own special thing which takes them out of the Orton Gillingham model. But there are many strategies that Orton Gillingham offers. For example, I bring music in when I help the kids read and we have had such great successes. People can see the data on our website for that, but I use the multi-sensory reading program. I’m trying to talk to schools. Let’s train the instructional aides, substitute teachers can be trained, and I think that would make them a lot more marketable to know that they know how to provide intervention. Also for second language learners, I’m finding their vocabulary is so low and using a multi-sensory reading program will help them increase their vocabulary to. So how much fun would they have, right?
There’s one more thing I want to say that you made me think. So left-handed and not be allowed if you were left-handed, they would restrict it. About 11 of the population is left-handed I have one child that’s left-handed. Now they work around that and they allow the child to learn left-handed. Dyslexia is very similar if we could just think about, “Oh, they’re not going to head down and be reading when they’re five or six.” They see it in a fluid way. If we met them where they were at, I think we would have very, very different results. I love how you integrate music. Learning can be fun, it can look a lot of different ways. Let’s get them to be able to be successful. Someone once showed me a number line, one through ten and it actually could start with zero but asking different people how you would add those numbers up and some people literally started from the zero and added went up to ten. Some people added the ten and the zero, the nine and the one, you know, and counted that way some people added elevens. I mean, there’s different ways to solve that little problem and that was something that she brought forth to say. There are so many different ways to approach something with the same solution so, with different multi-sensory approaches, I find that the students enjoy being engaged and things change up every five to ten minutes.
So how can people reach you, Stefanie? If they want to hear more about Dyslexia and helping their kids?
Yeah, I would love if you want to connect with me my website is wellnesswithstef.com. I’m also on social media under “Wellness with Stef”. I put up a lot of free content so I’d love to be a resource to you that would be great, and I’ll start linking you with some of my blogs that I post on my website so we could refer more people to you as well. Well, I want to thank everybody for tuning in today and if what we have. Thank you, Stefanie, so much and if what we have shared has inspired you please subscribe to this YouTube channel, like us and share us with friends. If you’d like to visit our website and consider making a donation that would be so appreciated so we could continue to get these messages forward. I want to thank you again. I’m Dr. Marianne Cintron and I want to wish you a very blessed day. Bye now.
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