Today, my two kids and husband have learned to cope with their dyslexia, as have I. But it wasn't always that way. When my eldest daughter started exhibiting the signs of dyslexia, I was devastated. My husband's dyslexia left a bad taste in his mouth with respect to school-based learning.
We met when my husband was in college. I spent many a late night typing as he dictated papers so that his dyslexia didn't interfere with his thought process. He was incredibly bright - he just learned differently. Unfortunately, his learning difference made the way he spent the majority of his youth - doing schoolwork - a lot less fun and a lot more challenging than it was for his non-dyslexic peers.
My daughter started showing what I thought were signs of dyslexia in kindergarten. Upon further research, she had been giving me clues that she was dyslexic even during preschool. I pushed for two years to get a child study done. When we finally completed it in second grade, the results were no surprise to me. I knew her grades weren't a problem with her being lazy, nor was it that we didn't read with her enough. The way her brain processes information is different.
This difference has now been proven in study after study to be genetic. In fact, if there is a dyslexic in your family tree, your kids have a 50 percent, or flip-of-a-coin, chance of also being dyslexic. Recent studies estimate that up to 17% of the population grapple with this different kind of brain process. That's almost 3 million U.S. children! Our public school system is just not set up to help these kids learn better in a mainstream classroom.
The dyslexic path started out rocky with my daughter, but has since smoothed out substantially. Our trials and tribulations have now helped pave an easier course for her younger brother. I feel very fortunate to live in a time where the Internet and neuroscience are helping stamp out the stigma of dyslexia. This being said, it can still be tough to cope at times.
Below is a list of the top 10 things that have made a positive impact in how my kids, husband and I perceive and cope with dyslexia. I hope they help you as much as they've helped us.
Let your child know that he actually has a BIGGER brain than other kids
How much bigger? The left hemisphere of a dyslexic's brain is the same size as non-dyslexics, but the right hemisphere is about 10% larger.
Remind your child that being dyslexic does not mean he is not smart
Brain imaging studies that use both fMRI and PET scans have now proven that people with dyslexia process language in a completely different area of the brain than people who aren't dyslexic. It has nothing to do with IQ. In fact, in some situations, dyslexics actually learn moreeffectively.
Watch The Big Picture with your child when she gets frustrated
This movie highlights uplifting stories from dyslexics who've gone on to greatness like Sir Richard Branson and Charles Schwab. Or just occasionally drop other names of famous dyslexics like Hans Christian Anderson, Steven Spielberg or Anderson Cooper.
Remember that dyslexia is a challenge with directionality in general-not just left-to-right, but top-to-bottom and sequences. Be sure to stay on the lookout for other ways it may manifest - like place values. In our house, covering and uncovering pieces of words and equations with a ruler or rectangle eraser has worked wonders. Similarly, helping your child translate word problems into numeric expressions by hunting for "clue" words helps simplify comprehension.
Teach your child to use graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams as early as possible for note taking and studying. There are literally thousands that are available for free on Google and many more on sites like TeachersPayTeachers and Lesson Planet.
Connect with other parents of dyslexics
Each Wednesday on Twitter at 12 p.m. Eastern time, parents and educators participate in #ldchat and the topic is often related to dyslexia. We share techniques that are working with our kids and students for schoolwork as well as self-esteem strategies to help our kids cope with negative, misguided perceptions from peers and adults.
Don't "wait it out" if your child is exhibiting 3 or more of the warning signs of dyslexia in preschool or early elementary school. Keep pushing for a plan to get your child the accommodations, modifications and remediation they need to smooth out schoolwork. It will make the time he spends in school and on homework more enjoyable and effectivefor you both. Moreover, it will help ensure that his self-esteem is not negatively impacted by falling even further behind as a result of waiting it out.
Get hooked up with LearningAlly
Once you've got a learning plan, get yourself a LearningAlly subscription. Their library of more than 70,000 audio books and audio textbooks can keep your child's appetite for knowledge satiated without getting slowed down by reading difficulties. Plus, it can make studying for tests more effective because your child can learn by listening instead of by looking. (And because dyslexia is inherited, chances are that this subscription can reignite a passion for learning in you or your spouse, as well!) LearningAlly also has some great webinars available to help avoid nightly "backpack disasters."
Opt your child out of standardized testing
In most places in the U.S., you are able to opt your child out of spring testing as long as you let your administration know ahead of time. This will eliminate the challenge of test score comparisons that happen on the playground and will score you points as a super-cool parent.
Pick up a copy of Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention by Nancy Mather and Barbara J. Wendling, which is an absolute must have resource for the bookshelves of parents of dyslexics. It's an in-depth look at the gift of dyslexia with a wealth of effective, well-researched treatment options for your child.