Understanding Dyslexia: A Parent’s Guide
“Thomas! Why aren’t you up yet? You’re going to be late for school again! Is your bag packed? Did you finish your homework? Hurry up! You’re going to be late! What’s taking you so long?!”
Mondays. Thomas really hated Mondays. For Thomas, Mondays were always the worst time of his week. Why couldn’t the weekend be longer? Why did he have to go to school anyway? He hated school and all the homework and reading that he was forced to do. No matter how hard he tried or how hard he worked at getting everything right, things just never came out right for him. It was just too much pressure and stress and all the adults in his life were always getting upset with him for doing things wrong or too slowly or for not listening… He didn’t want to do everything wrong, he always worked really hard and tried to listen to everything his teachers told him but he just couldn’t seem to help doing everything wrong anyway. He really loved his weekends where he could forget for awhile how dumb he always felt and just enjoy his days of exploring and inventing without having the pressure of always having to be on time and follow a schedule. If only the whole week could be switched around so that school was only two days and the rest of the week was the weekend. If Thomas had it is his way, that’s how it would be.
For Thomas and a countless number of children, the above could be an all too familiar description of what he or she may experience on a daily basis. What parents, teachers and others may not realize is that these children may be struggling with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a term commonly used for people having difficulty learning to read, write or spell at grade level despite being highly intelligent, bright and articulate. It is a common experience for people who struggle with dyslexia to be labelled as lazy, careless, immature, irresponsible and simply not trying hard enough. Though all of these descriptions may seem accurate on the surface, what those who do not struggle with these learning problems do not appreciate is that people with dyslexia have to struggle and work very hard to accomplish what others without these challenges take for granted every day.
Research has shown that for those struggling with dyslexia, the brain differentiates information uniquely and uses different parts of the brain to process how a person visualizes the symbols involved with reading, writing and understanding math etc. This explains why reading for a dyslexic appears to be such slow, hard work.
In general, there are two main categories that characterize the difficulties experienced by dyslexics and often these difficulties can manifest as a combination of the following two descriptions in varying degrees:
1. Visual Dyslexia – characterized by reversals of letters and numerals; faulty sequencing of letters in words, numbers in series, and events in narrative. Disorientation in time and space as well as problems processing, interpreting and recalling visual images can also be present.
2. Auditory Dyslexia – characterized by difficulties integrating and processing what is heard and recalling those sounds and applying them to the printed symbols representing them.
People with dyslexia are not lazy, careless, immature, irresponsible or simply not trying hard enough. They actually struggle with a learning challenge that hinders their ability to process words and/or numbers. As a result, reading, writing and math for dyslexic people can be confusing and some children get lost and frustrated along the way.
As parents, if you suspect that your child is struggling with a learning challenge such as dyslexia, there are solutions and strategies to accompany you and your child through the journey of learning how to navigate their way through these challenges.
The first thing is to work with a professional specially trained in the area of learning challenges to confirm the source of the difficulties that your child is experiencing. In my own work with children struggling with learning challenges, I have seen how incorporating specific strategies and techniques has helped to lift the barriers to learning that have stood in the way of their academic and often even social progress. A resolution to the sometimes crippling confusion, frustration and stress that these children experience is a very possible outcome.
The next thing is to realize and understand as parents that your child is working harder than the average student and is trying as hard they can to do their best. It is in fact, more than likely very difficult for your child to understand why he or she is working so hard and is still unable to keep up with his/her friends and classmates. Struggling with learning challenges for a child can be emotionally frustrating, confusing and stressful. It is important to help your child to recognize and appreciate each of their strengths and gifts which may include sports, drama, art and/or other areas.
Finally, it is important to realize that a learning challenge is not something that should be considered as a roadblock to progress. Each one of us has strengths and weakness that we are blessed with in our lives. The key is not to perceive our challenges as limitations. What is important is not what our challenges are but rather what and how we choose to work with them. More often than not, it is our challenges, difficulties and struggles that add colour and meaning to our overall experience in life and it is often these challenges that set our lives apart from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.(in progress)
Remedial Education Specialist
Yasmeen Mamdani has been working in the field of Education for the past 20 years and has most recently focused her work in the area of working with children struggling with learning challenges. She works as an Educational Support Teacher both within the school environment as well as in private practice. Contact her at 905-597-7201.