A Leading Light at the End of the Tunnel
An Interview with the Creators of The Parent Networking Group
Lauren Hudson, Katherine Lucke, and Ana Carrasco created the Parent Networking Group (PNG), a branch of HBIDA. The PNG provides an opportunity for parents of children with dyslexia to come together to exchange ideas and information. Finding the best way forward for a struggling reader can feel isolating and frustrating for parents. The PNG provides a forum for discusssion for parents at all points in their child’s jouney, from diagnosis forward.
What brought you to Neuhaus?
Lauren: I was directed to Neuhaus when my daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in kindergarten. I had the good fortune to be introduced to Margaret Young, who was the Director of Development at Neuhaus at the time, and she was very informative and supportive. The day following our introduction, she dropped a book off at my house with a very nice note – Parenting the Struggling Reader. It was a very moving gesture that I have passed on to other moms who have found themselves in the same position.
Ana: I have known about Neuhaus for about 20 years, ever since Neuhaus training was brought to the teachers of the school district where I lived in Brownsville, Texas. My sister, Norma Garza, was very involved in bringing Neuhaus training to private and public school teachers in Brownsville as a result of her own son’s having dyslexia and having few resources at the time.
Katherine: I have known about Neuhaus since my children were born. A number of my friends pointed to the center as a resource for reading and reading readiness. I was not entirely sure I would ever need such resources until my younger daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia in the middle of first grade. In addition, my good friend Lauren Hudson asked me to chair the auction at last year's luncheon, an involvement which led to my learning a lot more about the tremendous impact of Neuhaus.
What services did you use?
Lauren: I attended the parent class which I found very helpful, not just because it was informative but because I met other parents who were navigating the same struggle. I felt so isolated at that time.
Ana: I have gone to several Fridays at Neuhaus, participated in workshops on writing and reading readiness, attended the annual Neuhaus luncheon presentations and lunches, made several desperate phone calls to Lisa and Mary in the Parent Support department, and of course found Neuhaus-trained therapists.
Katherine: I have participated in several parent seminars at Neuhaus, including a couple of scientific spelling workshops. I have really enjoyed the speakers at the Lenox Reed seminar as well—Sally Shaywitz was fabulous last year, and I am looking forward to hearing this year's speaker Eric Tridas. My daughter has also benefitted tremendously from therapy with an experienced Neuhaus trained therapist.
How did Neuhaus help you?
Lauren: Neuhaus helped me master the facts and navigate a legitimate course of action. There is so much hooey out there! Neuhaus is a credible resource which promotes only science-based interventions and strategies. We are so lucky to have Neuhaus right in our backyard.
Ana: The biggest help from Neuhaus for my child has been the Reading Readiness and Basic Language Skills program my daughter has participated in since she was diagnosed in 1st grade. The program is definitely working! The biggest help from Neuhaus for me as a parent has been a crash course on dyslexia and learning how to advocate for my child. Knowledge is power, and I gain more power every time I attend a session at Neuhaus.
Katherine: The biggest help for my daughter has been a scientifically proven method of remediation that has been applied in a consistent fashion by a Neuhaus therapist. It is absolutely amazing the change that I saw occur from the middle of first grade until the middle of fourth grade when she finished the Basic Language Skills program. She is now a thriving fifth grader who is well on her way to academic success and, more importantly, strong self confidence.
What inspired you to create the Parent Networking Group (PNG)?
Lauren: At the time my daughter was diagnosed, I was so disheartened by how isolating it was for both my daughter and for me. It was surprising to me that it seemed to be something many people chose to navigate privately. I managed to cobble together a list of “to do’s” by exhausting the topic of dyslexia with nearly everyone I knew and by stumbling upon Sally Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia. It was frustrating to feel like I needed to reinvent the wheel. At the time I thought to myself, “I’m really in the weeds right now, but when the path clears a bit I’m coming back around to this. This is not how things should be.” So the path cleared (and every parent needs to understand that the path does clear), and here we are.
Ana: When my daughter was first diagnosed, I had a really hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I felt very alone. After talking to other parents that had walked the full academic journey with their dyslexic children and hearing how their kids were successful and happy, I began to feel hopeful. The problem was that I and a hard time finding other parents who were willing to talk about their journeys or share their insights. There wasn’t a local parent group established, and I realized how helpful a parent networking group would have been for me when I first learned about my daughter’s dyslexia. I was so glad to meet Katherine and Lauren through Neuhaus—two smart and dynamic women who were in my same shoes and had the same vision of a parent group.
Katherine: My own experiences along with those of so many parents I have spoken with brought forth the PNG. We realized pretty quickly that while our experiences were different as parents we had many of the same question and concerns. We realized that there had to be a way we could share our experiences and information in a manner that was most helpful to parents and, thus, the PNG was born after careful consultation with the HBIDA and its board. We wanted to fit under the HBIDA's mission while still offering a parent-directed opportunity.
What do you hope to achieve with the PNG?
Lauren: I hope to build a sense of community and a shortcut to reputable resources and references.
Ana: I hope for PNG to be an opportunity for parents to share their advice on what worked or didn’t work for their kids; exchange information about resources specific to the Houston area; and to show parents, particularly those with newly diagnosed kids, the light at the end of the tunnel.
Katherine: We hope that the PNG will allow parents across the community to come together as better, more informed advocates for their children and for their families. It is important to know you are not alone on this journey and that it is possible to learn from others who have travelled before you.
What advice do you have for parents who have children struggling with dyslexia?
Lauren: Above all, I would like to encourage parents to “own it.” Dyslexia is a very familial condition. The odds are strong that your child is not the only dyslexic in the family, and the statistics show that your child is among approximately 20% of the overall population that is dyslexic. It should not be a lonely journey. In our case, it was my daughter’s diagnosis that led to my own dyslexia diagnosis. There have been so many advances in recent years that were simply not available thirty or forty years ago—owning it with your child could lead to connected dots closer to home than you may realize, and I can tell you that it is very healing. I would also encourage parents to trust their gut. For us, we made the very difficult decision to leave the school my daughter attended at the time she was diagnosed in order to attend a school with a more integrated remediation approach. The earlier the intervention, the easier it is for all in the long run. Don’t “wait it out,” don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear or shame, take deliberate action so your child can benefit fully from all there is out there that can help turn the tide. Arm yourself with science-based knowledge and the resolve to do what is best for your child right now even if the path veers from the one you envisioned.
Ana: My advice: go to every seminar, workshop, webinar, or presentation that you can about dyslexia and learning disabilities. You cannot be a powerful advocate for your child’s needs without knowledge; and no teacher, principal, counselor or therapist will advocate more for your child than you will. Keep calm and carry on!
Katherine: I agree with Ana that knowledge is power. Learn all you can from other parents, trusted authorities like the Neuhaus Center and the HBIDA, and from your child's therapists and teachers. Most importantly, do not be afraid to speak up! No one knows your child like you do.