A New School Year Dawns...


Recently, I was asked to recount the journey we have taken with our daughter.  It is a story I have told countless times as both a way to guide parents in their own journeys and as the genesis story of Sliding Doors.  Often, my daughter is standing next to me and beams with pride over how far she has come and her role in helping others, something that I could never have imagined when, as a 1st grader, she cried every night over homework.  However, what struck me this particular time was that the question was asked as if the journey was over, that somehow we had figured out a way to make sure she could sail through school without another bump and that we had forged a clear path. 

I don’t think the story I told was what the person expected.  The story I told was not of a journey complete but rather a continuous one, one that will forge on until she walks down an aisle in a cap and gown and even beyond.  A journey that, despite all of our efforts and those of the teachers who support her, is still littered with potholes, speedbumps, and the occasional wreck.

I reflected, thinking about the start of every school year, and although we have found a wonderful school for her, I could not help but be riddled with anxiety, the same anxiety that seizes all of us as we pray that this year, depending on the past year, will either be dramatically different or miraculously the same.

It is an anxiety that all of us parents and guardians of children with dyslexia face.  Why?  Because the system is not designed for neurodiverse children, children who, if given what they need, would rise to be our future innovators and entrepreneurs.  I thought about the strength that it takes us to send our children back into that unforgiving system, year after year, not knowing what fresh challenges they will face.  While other parents are excitingly buying supplies and counting down the days, we uncomfortably join in their celebratory laughter and banter, knowing that we are sending our children back to a place where even a slight tremor, tremors that neurotypical children take in stride, can shatter their world.

But then I thought about my daughter and her strength.  Of course it is hard for us to see our children walk this rocky path but what about them?  Having been a student that was built for the system, I cannot even imagine the courage it takes her to walk through those doors every year, not knowing what to expect, knowing that with one faculty change or shift in friendship circles, her whole year can be dramatically different.  That moment we have every August when I take on the role as cheerleader and tell her how brilliant and amazing she is and her smile fades as memories of past hurts and failures flash through her mind.  That moment every year when she says, “I just wish I could explain to my teachers that when I doodle I am listening, that what works for my classmates doesn’t work for me, that I am smart,” and so on.  In those moments she becomes my hero, as do the millions of children who bravely carry so much past hurt through the front door on that first day.

So, as the new school year dawns, I say this…stay strong, have faith, trust your gut, and fight on.  Cherish the smiles, hug through the hurts, and know that you are not alone.  Let’s do this!   

Krista Gauthier