MARIA GARCIA / Coachella Unincorporated
When I started looking around my house for a bag of flour, my mother asked me what I planed on baking. She then stared at me when I told her I needed the flour for a class assignment.
A few days earlier, my child development teacher, Mrs. Equils, asked every student in our class to find a sack of flour. She didn’t tell us at first what the sack was for, but we knew we had to bring the flour to class.
Once I brought the sack of flour to my child development class, Mrs. Equils explained this sack of flour was going to be my child for a week. I was told to care for the flour-child, and I was told my grade would depend on if the sack was in good condition and if it was clothed. But there was an extra step to caring for the child.
I was told my child had dyslexia.
When the assignment was explained to us, Mrs. Equils described how each sack of flour would have a learning disorder. She read the options to the class before drawing papers from a cup. My friend sitting next to me was given autism, while my other friend’s child was given attention deficit disorder (ADD). Mrs. Equils explained I needed to research dyslexia and be ready to answer questions from teachers, family members and friends on how the disorder affects my child.
The first thing I did was wrap tape around the bottom of the flour sack. I didn’t want my flour-child to break. I then cut clothes for the flour sack from blue construction paper, and I attached two paper tags on the sack. One tag said, “Rei.” which was the name I gave my sack of flour. The other tag said, “Dyslexia,” to identify which learning disorder I was assigned.
I tried to explain to my family why I was carrying a sack of flour around with me, but they didn’t understand why the flour was supposed to be a child. My brother thought I was crazy. And every morning when my mom drove me to school, she would stare at the bag and say, “Es que esa cara,” or, “That face that’s on there.”
But the more I carried the sack of flour around, the more I had to answer people’s questions about what dyslexia is. Children who have dyslexia have a difficulty reading and spelling. A child can be very smart, but still they struggle to understand what he or she is reading. I learned how discouraging this could be for the kids who have this learning disorder and how it can lead to problems with their education.
Dyslexia can’t be cured, but addressing the problem early on is the best way families and schools can help students with dyslexia succeed. But I noticed many people I talked to didn’t know what dyslexia was.
In 2013, the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity started the Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative (MDAI) to help raise awareness of dyslexia in Latino and African American communities. The initiative found that many people in Latino communities, like the eastern Coachella Valley, don’t even know if they have dyslexia. Because of this lack of information and even the stigma of learning differently, many children don’t get the help they need.
This is why it is important to educate our community on the signs of dyslexia and other learning disorders. If students and families aren’t aware of these signs, how will students get the help they need to succeed?
From my research, I learned there are programs and opportunities for dyslexic students available through local schools and through private tutoring programs. Parents who call their student’s school can ask for information on testing their child for learning disorders and on services to help their with their student’s education.
Even though it was extra work to carry my flour-child around with me every day, it wasn’t a bother because I was able to better educate my family and myself about a learning disorder that affects many children in my community.
Reporting contributed by: Amber Amaya