A Friend Like Hannah

By Melissa Rey

AT A GLANCE

Having learning disabilities as a young child can lead to feelings of loneliness • Parents should use creative means to help a child feel less isolated • In this case, a stuffed toy served as a special friend to a child struggling with loneliness


teddyI was diagnosed with dyslexia at the beginning of second grade. Right away, I began private reading lessons every day with Lisa, my amazing teacher who is still my treasured friend. When I left my classroom to work with Lisa, some of my classmates teased me about needing special help. I rushed out of the room so they couldn’t see my tears. I felt alone and embarrassed.

One day, when I got home, I saw a giant stuffed doll sitting on my bed. She was as big as I, and she had my blonde hair and blue eyes, too. In her hand was a card that said, “Hi, my name is Hannah. I have dyslexia. Will you be my friend?”

Every day when I came home from school, I was excited to check Hannah’s hands to see if she was holding a new message for me. Hannah wrote about how she liked her name because it was spelled the same way forwards and backwards. She told me about how the kids in her class teased her, and that it made her sad, but she wasn’t going to give up on learning how to read.

Just like me, Hannah liked science experiments and soccer and being really good at them gave her confidence. When I scored a goal in a soccer game, Hannah would have a card that said, “Way to go, Melissa!” Some days, I turned Hannah’s card over and wrote back to her, saying that I was grateful to have a friend who understood. Other days, I just hugged her tightly.

Ten years later, when I was packing for college, I made a pile of things to give away and things to save. My mom was surprised to see Hannah in the save pile. As much as Hannah’s notes meant to me, I had never told their author about the difference they had made. I hugged mom tightly and said thank you.

If a child with dyslexia doesn’t have a friend like them in school, a stuffed substitute might make a world of difference. It’s worth a try.

The author is in her senior year at Pomona College, majoring in Cognitive Science.

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