COLLEYVILLE -- Jennifer and Thomas Bergen's son was identified as dyslexic in first grade, and even then, it wasn't really a surprise.
"We suspected something in preschool," Jennifer Bergen said.
Now he's a fifth-grader in the Grapevine-Colleyville school district, receiving special training and learning to live with a disorder that affects at least 10 percent of the population, according to experts.
On Wednesday night, the Bergens attended a dyslexia simulation co-sponsored by a new parent advocacy group called Reaching, Educating, and Advocating for Dyslexics, the Grapevine-Colleyville school district and the Shelton School, a private school that works with children who have dyslexia and other disorders.
The Bergens struggled through exercises that included writing with their nondominant hand while looking in a mirror, and trying to make out the text in a specially prepared book.
"It's unbelievable," Thomas Bergen said. " I didn't realize how hard it was. I wish I had done this earlier when he was diagnosed."
READ's aim is to partner with the district, said Amanda Wallace, a parent and officer of the group.
The district's dyslexia services to students include the highly regarded Texas Scottish Rite's Take Flight curriculum, as well as teachers who are trained as certified academic language therapists.
Ana Story's third-grade son was only recently identified as dyslexic, she said.
"I was relieved, because I knew that he was going to get the help he needs," she said. "I was beyond frustration."
Now, he receives extra training during school hours four times a week.
"So far, I can tell he's a lot more confident," Story said.
The simulation on Wednesday was hands-on and emotionally gloves-off.
"We take parents through reading a passage out loud and doing the writing exercise, so they can see how laborious writing is for their children," Wallace said. "We use background noises to distract them, and have teachers talk to them as they might do to a general group of students."
Wallace's 12-year-old son was identified as being dyslexic when he was a first-grader, she said.
His struggles moved his parents to take him out of public school for two years and enroll him in an intensive dyslexia education program at a private school.
"He's a success story, because he came back into public school," Wallace said. "He really wanted to go back to his school and see all his friends again."
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657