My child was diagnosed when he was eight year old.
“In my thirty years of teaching, I have never seen a child work so hard and not make any progress. I am at a loss,” shared my son’s teacher in the days when he attended traditional public school (he now homeschools).
If a teacher who has seen dyslexia many times before, over decades, was at a loss — what were we to do?
My child entering grade four was completely illiterate. Even memorization such as “The” could not be translated from a page to his lips. “Ta” he’d say and we’d celebrate the “t” sound. It was the start of something and we’d acknowledge this progress.
In a classroom in grade five, surrounded by ten and eleven-year-olds, he began to drown.
He sat in class completely mute.
This is how our journey with dyslexia began. In this article, I share more about our story and what our family has learned about dyslexia in hopes of helping other parents travelling a similar path.
What is Dyslexia anyway?
Dyslexia is a neurological condition characterized by difficulties in learning to read, write and spell. It is a language-based learning disability.
The term refers to a cluster of symptoms, which may include difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and problems with reading comprehension. These difficulties typically result in people with dyslexia having difficulties reading quickly and often reversing or omitting letters or words when they read.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that affects how people learn, think and do things. It is not an intellectual disability or an indication of low intelligence. In fact, dyslexia can often lead to a high level of creativity and intuition.
How can parents help their child with dyslexia?
A supportive environment at home when children are comfortable to practice skills without pressure and scrutiny of others can be instrumental.
My mute child in the classroom — it’s because he didn’t feel safe.
Everyone needs safety and security.
When a child has learning delays, the safe space in a public education setting can be more difficult to find. As a parent, you need to realize learning the “basics” of reading and writing might not take place at school and may need to be an investment of your time outside of the typical school day.
When you are already juggling so much, there are days when this reality might not seem fair.
But, life is not fair and for your child to have an equitable opportunity to thrive in life literacy is critical.
This is an investment of your time that you need to prioritize.
Enjoy this gift of time with your child to bond because it will transform your parenting experience for the better — I promise.
Early intervention is also key. But, what is early?
My son was “outside” the typical range of diagnosis (5–7 years) and yet, he has learned to read and write.
There is hope. It will take time and patience.
Drawing, instead of a fixation on words, allowed my son express himself and share his stories without the pressure of words. This helped him to build confidence and develop storytelling skills. Now that he can transcribe pictures to words, the learning curve to apply the storytelling skills is smaller than his peers and he is making steady progress to performing at an age-appropriate level.
In short, he’s catching up and not continuing to fall behind.
He enrolled in piano where the notes provided a neutral ground to read symbols. Additionally, he was introduced to the concept of interpreting those symbols across a page from left to right, similar to reading a page.
Playing piano helps build is confidence, too.
At age twelve he has developed a basic competency of reading and writing. He still needs help — a lot of it. If we are being honest with ourselves though, don’t we all?
Parents should not be discouraged by the diagnosis of their child’s learning disability. Instead, they should use the best way to help their child with learning disabilities and remain positive.
Sure, this is easier said than done — it is possible.
You might be hesitant to help their child with learning disabilities or question your skills to “teach”. However, this is not an accurate reflection of reality.
Children with learning disabilities have a difficult time processing and organizing information, and your role as a parent is to support, guide and nurture your child’s development. That is reality.
Keep a positive attitude, be present and be patient.
You got this.
“The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way.” -Whoopi Goldberg, Actress and Singer
“Dyslexia is not a pigeonhole to say you can’t do anything. It is an opportunity and a possibility to learn differently. You have magical brains, they just process differently. Don’t feel like you should be held back by it.” -Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice
“If anyone ever puts you down for having dyslexia, don’t believe them. Being dyslexic can actually be a big advantage, and it has certainly helped me.”-Richard Branson, Virgin CEO
“Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about the script and they’ll forget. I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once. I directed a movie, and I never brought the script to the set.” -Salma Hayek, Actress
“I didn’t succeed despite my dyslexia, but because of it. It wasn’t my deficit, but my advantage. Although there are neurological trade-offs that require that I work creatively [and] smarter in reading, writing and speaking, I would never wish to be any other way than my awesome self. I love being me, regardless of the early challenges I had faced.”-Scott Sonnen, Professional Athlete
This post was previously published on medium.com.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Photo credit: Rob Hobson on Unsplash