Nike Garcia’s 10. He’s a straight shot with a video game, the undisputed champion in a household where the competition is pretty stiff, mainly from his twin brother Preston.
By his own claim, Nike’s a pretty good artist and a pretty fast runner. He can build a Lego fort just like the picture without reading the instructions. He’s also a little bit of a comedian.
“I like to make people laugh,” he said, caramel brown eyes snapping with animation and a smile so disarming, it only makes sense to think he’s telling the truth.
Why would he lie? And why would Nike lie in school, when he was supposed to be reading, but he didn’t know the word — or the letter, for that matter?
Show him the word “dog” and it might look like “bog” on the page.
Or the “g” may have bounced off the line and be floating around on the page like it doesn’t belong with anything.
“Sound it out,” Nike’s teachers always instructed.
“I couldn’t sound it out,” Nike explained, the smile diminishing, the caramel brown eyes turning somber. “I didn’t even understand what they meant, and that’s all they kept saying over and over, ‘Sound it out. Sound it out. Sound it out.’
“Like the other day, when I was trying to write, I saw the ‘e’ in my head; but what did I write down, an ‘a.’ I don’t even know where that ‘a’ came from.”
Nike Garcia is dyslexic. According to the assessment and tests Nike completed at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas in July, Nike’s dyslexia is at the most severe level possible.
Being diagnosed with dyslexia, puts Nike in some pretty famous company: Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Lewis Carroll, Winston Churchill — all were dyslexic. A more modern roll call includes Tom Cruise, Nolan Ryan, Robin Williams, Keanu Reeves and Jay Leno. Statistically, more males have dyslexia then women, but Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Agatha Christie and Fannie Flagg have also made the “famous dyslexics list.”
“This started when I was in first grade, or maybe even in kindergarten. We were doing our work in school. I would try just as hard as they do, but mine was always wrong,” Nike said, his tone sadder still. “I would ask my mom, ‘Am I dumb?’
“I would tell my teachers, ‘I know I’m dumb.’ But it didn’t feel like I was dumb. I would understand it if someone read it to me, but I couldn’t read it. In math, maybe the number would be 15, but to me it looked like 51.”
Just what is dyslexia? By one textbook definition, the term dyslexia refers to the condition of those with average and often superior intelligence who are either unable to read or find reading extraordinarily difficult. Defining the condition gets to be difficult. Dyslexics don’t know how to compare what they have or see to what the non-dyslexic sees or reads.
According to one study many dyslexics are successful in their chosen fields — especially the highly creative performing and visual arts — not in spite of their dyslexia, but because of their extraordinary abilities.
A dyslexic usually becomes so “in-touch” with his right-brain “visual-spatial, nonverbal” mode of thought, he has extreme difficulty doing ordinary, sequential, verbal-mathematical “left brain” tasks, Dr. Karla Brewer, assistant superintendent at Early Independent School District, told the board of trustees in September.
“We’ve all gone to school with those students, who were smart, quick-witted, good artists or athletes, who could not perform on tests, who couldn’t read,” Brewer said. “Those students probably have some form of dyslexia.”
One of the most puzzling factors concerning dyslexia is that students diagnosed with it have the most difficulty getting through the easy, elementary or basic skills, but excel in higher level abstract thinking processes. Because of the unique characteristics of dyslexia, educators are often frustrated and confused by the learning patterns and behaviors of the students in the classroom.
As a result, a number of myths have been fostered to supposedly explain dyslexia. Among the myths, Brewer explained to the board, are that dyslexics see things backwards (not necessarily), or that dyslexia is a visual problem (it isn’t). It is also known, she said dyslexia is not a developmental delay, nor will it be outgrown.
Dyslexics are born with the condition, and it can’t be “cured.” As Nike said, “You don’t catch it like the chicken pox. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. But like all the famous people who’ve got dyslexia will tell you, there are ways kids like me can be helped.
“That’s what I want, is for all kids that are dyslexic to get the help they need.”
Nike and Preston’s parents, Sandra and Michael Garcia, and their grandmother, Lois Lester, felt the diagnosis would be a giant step in getting Nike the help he needed.
“We thought, ‘OK, now that we know what it is, we can move forward,’” Lester said. “But it’s a struggle.”
Though state law requires a dyslexic child have one-on-one tutoring and specific modifications to his curriculum, when Nike was diagnosed in the summer, the EISD did not have the programs in place. By August, Brewer, the Early Elementary School Principal Aletha Patterson, and two other members of the EISD faculty, Johnny Lancaster and Sharon Watson were taking the special required training to become certified in dyslexia as a learning disability.
“One of the hardest things, being a dyslexic parent, I think, is the fear,” said Sandy Garcia. “We had Nike repeat kindergarten. If you’re talking to him, you know he’s smart, but we’d be doing homework for five and six hours straight and he can’t read a word you just went over a minute ago …
“I’d be saying, ‘Come on Nike, you can do that,’ or ‘Come on, Nike, you’re not even trying.’ But in my heart I was afraid. I knew something was wrong.”
The diagnosis of dyslexia, Sandy Garcia said, came as a relief for the whole family.
“But it seemed like everything has taken so long. I guess I was ready for a quick fix, and there’s not. I know Nike can’t get better overnight.”
There are still long nights struggling with homework. Nike still struggles with the teasing and inference that he’s “dumb.” Garcia said she’d hoped she’d be able to work more closely with the school in modifying Nike’s “Individual Education Plan,” but it’s all taking time.
“We just know though, there’s hope,” Garcia said. “Nike being diagnosed with dyslexia let us know what it was. Now we’ve got to help him. I’m his mother, if I don’t stand up for him, no one else will. We’re not giving up.”