Hannah Coles: A New Identity After Dyslexia Diagnosis
In this episode Hannah shares how she overcame her own internal struggles after her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Learning A New Identity After A Dyslexia Diagnosis
Hannah Coles is a mom to 4 amazing children and has been married for over 18 years. She has been homeschooling her kids for over 12 years and absolutely loves it. She’s a voracious reader with an ongoing goal of reading 100 books each year. Hannah loves learning and teaching, and considers herself a teacher at heart, whether that’s at home, at church, with music, and in her career as a life coach. She loves being able to uplift others and help with their suffering.
100 Book Goal
Hannah says this fun and exciting goal of reading 100 books a year wasn’t hers. She heard an author being interviewed, and the author mentioned that he read 100 books per year to help him get ideas as a writer. Hannah thought that sounded fun, so for the past 8 years she has made that goal. Sometimes in December she has to do a lot of reading to catch up and make her goal. Hannah says reading has been a great blessing in her life. She reads fiction and nonfiction alike, but she does stay away from dark and scary books. She says picking a favorite book is hard, but if she had to pick one it would be Wonder. Wonder a middle grade book that she says touched her heart and made her cry several times. She also loves the movie, but says that of course, the book is always better.
Hannah’s third child has dyslexia. Hannah says that when her oldest daughter was born, she got lots of one-on-one attention since she was the only child. She read very early, and everything was great. Her second child, a son, was reading early as well, finishing Harry Potter by the time he was six. Hannah says she was giving herself a pat on the back, thinking she was a great mother and teacher and homeschooler. Then when her third daughter was started getting close to being school age, Hannah had a little bit of a panic. She realized they were behind on reading. Every year Hannah would notice that she wasn’t improving in her reading. At eight years old she was still struggling to read at a first grade level. Hannah just kept thinking something couldn’t be right and felt like an unsuccessful mother and homeschooler.
Hannah would be helping her daughter read a paragraph, and the same word would come up multiple times in the paragraph. Every time, her daughter would have to stop and really struggle to get the word. Hannah says it was a painstaking process to read. So she went to the school to see if they could help. They told her they couldn’t, and that she’d need to go to a doctor. Well, her doctor told her that she needed to get help from the school. For years Hannah went back and forth between school and doctor. Eventually Hannah and her family moved. Through divine design within the first week of living in their new home they met a family who had a child with dyslexia. The mother told Hannah she needed to go see an ophthalmologist to get her daughter tested.
Hannah’s daughter was tested and diagnosed with several forms of dyslexia, and the knowledge and awareness that Hannah and her daughter both had helped them start to navigate through the journey.
Different Types of Dyslexia
Hannah says that there are a variety of forms of dyslexia and they stem off of a handful of major forms; surface, phonological, visual, primary, and mathematical. Hannah found out that there was dyslexia on both sides of her family that could have contributed to her daughter’s diagnosis.
Hannah’s daughter wasn’t even able to follow the lines on a page and she would constantly lose her place. The doctor walked through how Hannah’s daughter was reading and it made much more sense. Hannah found the entire process fascinating. Her ophthalmologist told her that there was also a vision problem that was creating difficulty for her daughter. They continued with testing, got special glasses, and continued doing therapy at the doctor’s and at home. This helped strengthen and align her eyes. She didn’t have vision problems except for when she was reading, because she needed the very narrow focus.
Hannah’s Daughter Today
Hannah’s daughter is doing a lot better now but she still struggles a little. She has an IEP, and Hannah’s mom does homeschooling through a charter school so they have plenty of resources. The diagnosis helped Hannah’s mom get her the teaching she needed. Her daughter also was able to get weight off her shoulders and understand that nothing was wrong with her, and communicate what she needed from her education. It increased her confidence, her understanding, and her ability to read. Hannah’s daughter was diagnosed when she was 8, and she’s now ten. And she’s doing absolutely amazing.
Hannah’s Feelings As A Mother
Hannah felt like a great mom with her older two kids, which she says was completely prideful of her. She made their success about her, and was attaching their results with who she was. So when her daughter with dyslexia came along and wasn’t having good results, it hit Hannah’s identity. She started questioning if she was a good enough teacher and mother, wondering what she should be doing differently. Hannah says she made it about her again, and that was difficult. She needed to separate her journey from her daughter’s journey.
Hannah says it’s easy to put your identity in your kids, but that creates problems. Kids have their own agency, we can be the best teacher in the world and they can still choose not to learn. They can still choose not to enjoy or to listen. Hannah says understanding how to separate her journey from her children was crucial for her. She says she had to redefine what made her a successful mother. Before, success was based on what her kids would produce and their results. She had to learn that being a successful mother meant loving her children wholeheartedly, providing for them and protecting them. Hannah says she now knows she’s a good mother because she lets her children have agency while constantly loving, and guiding them.
Lessons Hannah Learned From Dyslexia
1. Reframe thoughts and expectations
She learned that benchmarks aren’t what success looks like. She had to reframe and recognize that everyone learns at different times and paces.
2. Stop “catastrophizing”
Hannah was instantly worried her daughter would never get a job, and worried what people would think of her. She worried about judgment. She had to stop creating an imagined catastrophe and focus on what she could do to help her daughter.
3. Everything is going to be OK
Hannah learned she didn’t have to answer every fear, but she could just tell herself that everything was going to be OK in the end. Journeys are different, and that’s all OK.
4. So what!?
Hannah had to ask herself if all the scary things she was imagining actually happened, so what? Then she would carefully answer the question and found the outcome didn’t really matter because she loved her daughter no matter what.
5. Take things one at a time
Hannah had to learn to “pick a number” instead of worrying about everything all at once. She would pick one thing to worry about or address, and just focus on that.
6. Take care of yourself
Hannah was worried about her children so she wasn’t taking care of herself the way she needed to. She was projecting her fears and anxiety onto her daughter, and it showed up in her needing to have her daughter meet a certain pace or expectation. When Hannah took care of her fears and anxiety, she kept those feelings away from her daughter, and felt much better. Hannah uses the analogy of pouring from an empty bucket. She had to giver to herself first so she had enough to give to her children. Filling her bucket too thought work and lots of effort and time.
7. Everyone has hard days
Hannah says it was important to recognize that her husband and other people in her life also had hard days. She had to get to a place to notice and appreciate what other people were going through as well.
8. Validate and appreciate
Validating and appreciating ourselves and others is key, Hannah says. We want other people to thank us and high five us, and we can do that for ourselves. Most of the time other people can’t give you all the things you need. You have to be able to give that to yourself.
Hannah journaled to help get over the thoughts and fears she was going through. She also prayed, a lot. She says a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley helped her. An interviewer once asked him how many times a day he prayed. He said he just prayed once, because the entire day was a long conversation with God. Hannah loved this idea, and recognized that’s what she was doing all day too. It was a constant conversation asking for guidance and help.
Hannah got a lot of personal revelation that helped her feel love, and get answers. She always felt comforted that everything was going to be OK. She felt that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that she wasn’t trapped in a cave.
God’s Time Frame
She also learned that God’s time frame is different than her timeframe. She says God has an abundance of time and she had to put herself in that mindset instead of her finite perspective.
Love Is The Answer
Hannah is a firm believer that love is always the answer. We show up as our best selves when we’re stemming from love. Because fear and lack and scarcity, they’re not encompassed in love. Love is all certainty, hope, assurance and encouragement. Hannah says when she showed up with love instead of lack, it made all the difference. It helped her to stay present and not be distracted. When she was motivated by love, it was all about her daughter and what she needed from her mother. She could let go of the worldly expectations of what things should look like and to really just embody the abundance that, that God offers. Love is always the answer.
Advice For Others
The biggest piece of advice Hannah has is to get children tested if you’re concerned. Hannah says testing and learning everything you can can help you unlock what your children are seeing and be able to help them find success. She also says that when you learn more about something, you remove a lot of the fear out of it.
Hannah teaches The Three C’s which are curiosity, compassion, and charity. These are helpful when dealing with struggles and working to understand someone else. The more you sit with curiosity and allow yourself the space to be curious, it leads to compassion. Hannah had that curiosity to get tested and learn about her daughter’s reading. When she understood what her daughter was going through, it instantly lead her to compassion. She could put herself in her daughter’s shoes a little bit and feel how she felt. Compassion always leads to charity, which is love. For Hannah, charity is the pure love of Christ. That love is showing up for other people as your best. So curiosity leads to compassion, which always leads to charity.
Career As A Life Coach
Hannah didn’t really know what a life coach was, and wasn’t looking for it when she stumbled on it. She was struggling with inadequacy and feeling like she wasn’t good enough with her identity shift. She felt like her life looked great from the outside, but the inside was a mess. One of her good friends told her about the podcasts she was listening to (Hannah didn’t even know what a podcast was at the time!) and encouraged Hannah to download the app and listen to it. So she did it to appease her friend, and she found a podcast that resonated with her.
One of the top podcasts that came up was the Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo. So she started listening to her and one of the first things Brooke said is that she’s a life coach. Hannah was confused, and admits it sounded hokey. By the end of Brooke’s episode, Hannah was sold. She learned that the things in her life that she was struggling with were optional, that she could transform the hand she was dealt. Hannah says that transformed her life. When people know that they don’t have to suffer and they can choose how they feel about their circumstances, it can transform their lives too. She is very passionate about helping people find that peace and understanding in their lives.
There Is Always Hope
We can’t choose our circumstances in life, Hannah didn’t get to choose that her daughter had dyslexia. But Hannah can choose how she interprets that. She can make it a problem, or understand that it’s part of life and it doesn’t have to be a problem.
Hannah has several Bible verses that have helped her on her journey. One is 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This verse has been an anchor for Hannah because anytime she is feeling afraid, she realizes that feeling isn’t from God. God gives us power to overcome our struggles, He gives us love so we can be filled with that warmth and peace. We don’t have to struggle or create more of a struggle than there needs to be. We can feel love and peace.
Hannah’s Resource Recommendations
Hannah says that everything we do is practicing, including the thoughts we choose to think. Hannah uses the Ponderize App to have her scriptural reminder pop up on her phone several times a day. If her thoughts are wandering down a different path, her reminder comes to help her refocus.
Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck is a great book to read. It focuses on a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset. The book goes into depth about these concepts and how a growth mindset helps you overcome challenges. It helped Hannah figure out her journey with her daughter.
Hannah also loves what Audrey Hepburn says: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.”