How can I support my child with Dyslexia?

Having worked with many many students who have dyslexia, and their parents, I have been witness to a whole gamut of reactions and emotions.  All parents are concerned and want the best outcomes for their child, it’s just there are differing opinions on how to achieve the best outcomes.  What are the best outcomes?  Well this is also up for debate, but for me, a positive outcome is where Dyslexia doesn’t stop the child achieving anything they want to do.   I think all the parents I have worked with would agree with this.  Again, they may disagree with how this done!

C-Pen Reader

C-Pen Reader

Here are some of the parental reactions I have experience:

  • “I don’t want them labelled as Dyslexia or SEN as this will hinder them in their life.”
  • “They’re not dyslexic, they are just lazy and need to work harder then there won’t be problem.”
  • “They must have TA one-to-one support immediately.”
  • “Are you sure it’s not down to poor teaching.”
  • “Well actually his/her Dad has it and so does his uncle.”
  • “They will obviously now get a statement/EHCP support plan.”

So, taking this into account I would like to pass on my wisdom (makes me sound old) and experience to parents of children with dyslexia:

1.     Dyslexia is not a bad thing.  There are many many fabulous qualities that people with Dyslexia have as a result of having Dyslexia.  Last week was Dyslexia week and I saw many blogs and articles about the positives of having Dyslexia.  Google them and read them!

2.     It’s not your fault.  They don’t have Dyslexia because of something you’ve done wrong.   Dyslexia is neuro-developmental condition and not as a result of bad parenting.

3.     Your child is not stupid and having the label ‘Dyslexia’ does not mean people will think your child is stupid. Dyslexia does not affect intelligence and anyone who thinks it does is wrong (maybe stupid?)

4.     Your child will benefit from knowing they have Dyslexia and knowing how to manage it. Imagine what it does to self-esteem to not be able read as easily as your friends can.  You think there’s something wrong with you. Once children know it’s Dyslexia, that it’s not their fault, it’s just their brain works differently, the relief is clear to see.   Psychoeducation always improves outcomes.

5.     They may not automatically get additional funding or a statement.  Dyslexia has levels of severity and affects each person in different ways.  Many children with dyslexia have already developed their own strategies to manage the difficulties and don’t need any additional support.  Or the difficulties they have may not be severe enough to warrant additional funding.

6.     Having a TA to support in class isn’t the best thing.  For some parents, having a TA support their child is the holy grail.  Something that is viewed vital and necessary. However, this isn’t always the case.  Recent studies show that having a TA can be detrimental to progress – academically and socially.  Instead you should be looking at ways your child can manage their dyslexia independently.  They won’t have a TA when they leave school so by not equipping them for independent learning we are adding extra barriers for them to overcome after leaving school. There is so much assistive technology available, this should be initial go to for support.

7.     Don’t judge your child based on the artificial world of education. School isn’t the real world so don’t presume that academic levels/achievement are the only indicator of becoming a successful adult.  40% of self-made millionaires are dyslexic and I bet the vast majority of those didn’t do well at school.  Make sure ALL the talents and abilities of your child are recognised.  Don’t get caught up in the parenting competitiveness of believing the best parent has the highest achieving child (or indeed the most popular). This isn’t true.

The Frostig Center, Pasadenia, California, has conducted over 20 years of research into the lives of children & adults with SEN/LD.  With this research, and incorporating other studies, they identified six success attributes in children/adults who were successful.  They judged success as:

  • having good friends
  • having positive family relations
  • being loved
  • having self-approval
  • job satisfaction
  • having physical and mental health
  • achieving financial comfort,
  • achieving spiritual contentment and an overall sense of meaning in life.

Successful adults with LD/SEN were much more likely to have the following characteristics (and these are more important that IQ):

  • self-awareness – open and specific about difficulties and how it affects their lives
  • proactivity – actively engaged in the world around them
  • perseverance – doesn’t like to quit but does know when to quit, able to try many strategies
  • goal setting – specific, flexible goals in all areas of life, understanding of steps required to achieve goals
  • using support systems – has received support but has had a successful reduction of dependence on support as getting older; able to cut the ‘chord’; support people understood and supported the moves toward independence
  • emotional coping strategies – awareness of situations that trigger stress and how to manage

Further details can be found here: http://frostig.org/our-research/ld-success-predictors/ and there is a guide for parents available.

So, if you are a parent of a child with Dyslexia don’t view it as a negative.  It’s fabulous. Your child is utterly fabulous and brilliant way.  And if they do become a millionaire remember to thank their Dyslexia that they were able to develop those skills.

Why October Dyslexia Awareness Month is Important

Dyslexia is invisible.  We cannot see how the unique wiring impacts each individual nor can we see the brilliance that lies beneath the surface of misspelled words, word retrieval misfires, and slow reading times.

The invisibility creates a false sense of reality. On the surface, a student’s learning abilities may appear to be sufficient, when in fact the student is struggling in every class.  The student becomes increasing disengaged as they do not understand the material given to them nor can they complete their class assignments.

Being behind your peers, unable to read, write or spell, I believe is one of the most stressful feelings you can have as a student.  We receive questions and inquires on why our work is not completed.  We don't know why; therefore, we are unable to provide an answer which only creates more frustration. 

Reader Pen by C-Pen

Reader Pen by C-Pen

I remember, as if it was yesterday, being in second grade overwhelmed and frustrated.  I was two grade levels behind my peers and could barely spell the simplest of words. My handwriting was all over the page which compounded the problem.  Even to this day, I can recall the emotions I felt and how I knew at a gut level, something was wrong. 

In third grade, my teacher was a graduate student obtaining her dyslexia/reading specialist certificate.  She recommended that I be tested for dyslexia. Finally, a name was given to my frustrations.  I was relieved to know it was not my fault.

Teachers and educators can profoundly change their students’ lives in many ways.  Every time, I write and speak on the topic of dyslexia, I mention to two teachers who forever changed my life - Mrs. King and Dr. Wakefield.  They understood the importance of testing students for dyslexia. 

They Understood that Awareness is Everything for a Dyslexic Student. 

For millions of students and adults who are still undiagnosed, awareness is the difference between receiving help or not.  The difference between gaining the essential intervention that can help them achieve their full potential or a lifetime of frustration without ever knowing why.

Only when we have awareness can we solve a problem or assist a student who needs intervention and accommodations.  Without awareness and testing, students will continue to encounter learning challenges.

Dyslexia is unique in that it is invisible, brilliant, and frustrating all at the same time.  Digital tools designed for individuals with dyslexia help reduce many of the language processing frustrations we encounter every day.  I think about how much spell check has changed my life and provided an independence from constantly asking peers how to spell words. 

Today, we have handheld devices that can read to us, check the dictionary meaning and scan notes.  We have access to multiple software programs that perform a range of tasks from checking for dyslexia mistakes to audio dictation of reports, emails, and digital messages.

We must have awareness first, testing second for progress to occur.  Only then, can these amazing technologies be used to their full potential and reduce the learning challenges encountered by dyslexics.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month in the United States. We are working to increaseawareness, ensure all students are tested, and have access to digital technology so that they can reach their full potential.