There is an old saying – “It’s no disgrace to be poor, but it’s mighty inconvenient.”
The same could be said of dyslexia. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it can complicate life. While there is no doubt that many people with dyslexia have special talents, and some of the common traits of dyslexia can be very useful, nevertheless in a world where literacy is important, dyslexia is a definite inconvenience. There is no denying that – but it is not the end of the world either. It is very important for your child that you find a balance when dealing with the subject.
If a diagnosis of dyslexia has been made and your child needs to have extra tuition, within or outside of school, this will need to be explained to the child very carefully. Again, the more information you have the easier this will be. When explaining dyslexia to your child, you have to translate the results of the assessment into plain language. You also want the child to know that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, that help is available, and that there is no reason why the child should not achieve to his or her potential.
If your child is diagnosed as having SLD/dyslexia, then tell your child this. There is no reason to hide it.
Explain that dyslexia is a very common condition and several other people in the school and maybe even others in the class, or in the family have it. There are also many famous people with dyslexia.
You can tell the child that dyslexia is just a big word to explain why some people find it hard to learn to read, write and spell. Everyone is different.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Identify something the child does well, whether it is sport, music, art or hand work. It could be that the child is good with animals, generous, popular, funny, loving – whatever. Find some real strength which the child has. This is most important. Then say that the child does not find reading and spelling as easy as these other things, but that is how life is.
Explain that this is not the fault of the child, the parent or the school. It is something that happens – like having fair hair, freckles or blue eyes.
Let the child know that this explains why s/he is having difficulty at school.
Tell him/her that this means s/he will have to work very hard, maybe harder than others in the class to succeed, but that it can be done, with proper help and support.
Be prepared to discuss the problem with your child more than once. Do not assume that s/he will take it all in the first time. You may need to return to the subject many times over the coming years.
There are some good books available to read to and with children to help them understand dyslexia such as “Tom’s Special Talent” by Kate Gaynor (for ages 5-9) and “It’s Called Dyslexia” by Jennifer Moore-Malinos (for ages 8-12). Both of these books are available to buy from DAI.
“Dyslexic Brains Learn Differently” is a lovely book about dyslexia. It was written by children for children, and has been created by the students of the Reading Class at Ennis National School, Co. Clare (aged 10-13 years, with severe dyslexia). In the book, each of the ten children tells their own unique story, from discovering that they have dyslexia to learning how to cope with it. It illustrates their many talents and abilities. There are information pages for parents and families, including recommended websites and apps. The book is available from www.ennisns.ie.
“Dyslexia: A Teenager’s Guide” by Sylvia Moody is a great book for teenagers to read themselves or perhaps with their parents. It helps young people to understand their dyslexia, their learning profiles, and suggest learning strategies which may help. It gives young people the tools to self-manage their dyslexia.
There are also lots of videos to watch including:
- https://youtu.be/gbWspi2_A1Q See Dyslexia Differently with intro by Don Wood
- https://youtu.be/IEpBujdee8M Nessy video on what it’s like being dyslexic.
- https://youtu.be/qAqtb-GrlNI Dyslexia and Me presentation made by 9-12 year olds
- https://youtu.be/5iKyunrK41s Dyslexia and Me presentation made by 12-16 year olds
- https://youtu.be/_CehY6TsoLc Hidden Potential, a short film produced in Ireland on dyslexia.
- https://youtu.be/MMMXtZXLrUA Jamie Oliver talks about being made by dyslexia