Swimming in words

I’m not sure the formatting will work everywhere, so at the bottom I’m trying (for the first time!) to embed the document as I wrote it. Read the version that works for you – but no need to read both because they are the same.IMG_4345.jpg

Swimming in words


Decorated warbonnet

Mosshead warbonnet

Penpoint gunnel

My son is dyslexic. Longfin sculpin Sailfin sculpin

Letters and words swim around my child

Crescent gunnel

Pacific spiny lumpsucker

Strawberry anemone

Northern ronquil Northern clingfish and he can’t always make the letters

Scalyhead sculpin

Match the sounds.

Like today at the aquarium when Cabezon Kelp Greenling Banggai Cardinalfish

Swim before me, and everywhere are the Estuarnine stonefish Frogfish Polkadot batfish and

I search for the Stocky anthias Square spot fairy basslet Sea goldie French grunt but

My head swims and I cannot make the names match the Saucereye Porgy

Sergeant Major

Blue tang


Ocean Surgeon

Blue striped grunt

Koran angelfish

When Smallmouth Grunt and “Look, a Red Lionfish!” and my boy reads those words.

The sounds are starting to match the letters.

I begin to be able to name the beauty swimming around us.

So we are patient for the Red Irish Lord Jewel damsel Fire goby

And together we see the 


Moon jelly

C-O sole.

It’s an early draft, for sure, but here I am, publishing it anyway.


Slice of Life, Day 17, March 2018

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful month of inspiration.

25 thoughts on “Swimming in words

  1. I have to say as I was reading the names of all these creatures I was feeling disoriented, too. Your post is helping us to walk in the shoes of kids like your son so eloquently. This may be a draft, but it’s pretty powerful already! Thanks for this great perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That disorientation is what caught my attention – and of course the fish were literally swimming around me. And then my little guy, so seriously sounding out the words, letter by letter. Writing this helped me see that I need to write more about his journey (and mine).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This really worked for me. I found myself doing these things: reading words that didn’t put pictures in my head, hunting for familiar language, skipping words so I could find the thread, enjoying the rhythm of the ocean even when it had no meaning to me. I’m guessing that feeling of only catching a few meaningful sounds in a noisy room may match some of your son’s feelings. On that other level, I really liked reading this out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow — this is amazing. On so many levels. I liked the second format – being able to see it in one view added a layer of meaning. Truly powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The way you present the words as random at times and meaningful at others is brilliant. Several of my favorite poems come to mind as I read: “Not Waving but Drowning,” “The Fish,” for example. You make your son’s reading struggles our struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amanda, well done with the swimming flow showing what happens in the dyslexic child’s brain. That was a very good move to make others understand how difficult it is for you son to make sense of what he reads. With persistence it will come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is persistent (and so are we) – and he is learning to read! We are lucky to have discovered this early, and to have found a great tutor who uses a research-based system, and it *is* coming along. Also, I have learned an awful lot – I’ve been humbled and amazed. Writing this poem helped me see that I have a lot more to say about the whole situation. It’s been a fascinating journey and we’re really only at the beginning.


  6. What an amazing, amazing piece! This one gave me the goosies. My son is also dyslexic, and this piece so powerfully captures that feeling of disorientation with print and the hard, hard work that goes into decoding for him. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve only known about the dyslexia for a few months & already it’s been an incredible journey. I am blown away by how hard my child is working to do something that so many others take for granted. I know I’m going to need to write more about this.


  7. Ah, the exhaustion of it all! So important that you understand what he is perceiving, and supporting him on his way to making sense of it all. Both my husband and younger son are dyslexic, and they are two of the most talented men I know! Thank you for reminding us all how tough it makes life though, but the struggle can strengthen!


    1. Thanks for the support. This is all new for us, but we’re working our way through it. And this child, he knows how to make his way in the world, that’s for sure! I love hearing from others that they know what we’re going through.


  8. This is a beautiful and powerful poem! Your trip to the aquarium set the perfect stage to describe your son’s struggles to read. All of those fish names, the way you laid the words out swimming across the paper, the way you jumped back and forth from the fish to explaining about your son’s condition–it comes together in a truly powerful way. Best wishes as you and your son work through and with dyslexia!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Visiting you from over at Margaret Simon’s blog, your Poetry Friday host for today. Come see what it’s all about, and that’s a heck of a poem there, which turns our ordinary readerbrains upside down and swimmingly conveys some experience of the cognitive disorientation a reader with dyslexia must feel. And what intriguing names, the colors, the shapes shifting. Nice to meet you, Amanda Potts!



  10. How did I miss this gem? The format and topic (fish swimming to and fro) mirror the experience of your son. So glad Elizabeth linked this to her post. I work with students with dyslexia and use multi-sensory structured literacy approaches. Would love to hear what is working for your son; all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – right now he has a tutor who uses the Barton method which is a spin-off off the Orton Gillingham method. They have colored letter tiles and use lots of hand movements to accompany phonics and etc. It’s fascinating – and it’s working! I’m impressed that you work with dyslexic children. I wish more of the teachers at our elementary school were aware of what works.


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