Should I label my child dyslexic?
Chris Cole, Dyslexia Campaigner and Advisor for Learning Differences Aotearoa Trust explores this question.
In my work I am asked (less frequently now, I must admit) should a child be labelled dyslexic, isn’t that a bad thing?
I don’t think so and here is why.
1. The child realises it’s not “them”
When my boys were assessed as dyslexic their first comment was “I’m not dumb” and they felt relief. You cannot be diagnosed as a dyslexic unless you have normal to above normal intelligence. This is an important message for any dyslexic as they do not feel intelligent when they are struggling with their learning.
2. Self esteem
I recently came across some information where the person said
“When a person doesn’t understand their dyslexia, their success therefore feels out of control. It doesn’t matter what you do, this belief will sabotage everything”
This is referring to self -esteem. Low self-esteem is definitely connected with learning difficulties. It has a huge impact on that person and how they feel about themselves and how they go about tackling new tasks.
If the child understands what dyslexia is and how they think and process information they can start to feel some control over what is happening for them in a learning environment.
This feeling of control is important. It means they are less likely to become overwhelmed when learning.
3. It’s a starting point
This is for the parents, whanau and schools as well as the child. We now know what has to happen to help this young dyslexic learn.
We know they will have
- weak short term memory
- weak sequencing and ordering ability
- hard for them to hear the sounds that make up words
- hard to follow verbal information.
We know they have normal to above normal intelligence.
We also know they have strengths
- They can see the big picture
- They can connect information together to get a unique solution
- They understand how others feel
- They are visual learners.
4. They belong to a unique group of people.
Knowing there are others like them in the world and they are not alone with their dyslexia. Seeing older children who are dyslexic and how they have coped, seeing Mum or Dad as dyslexic and how they have coped, seeing others in the class and how they struggle with the same parts as them all helps them to know they are not alone with their dyslexia.
5. Increasing awareness
10% of the population has dyslexia.
In Southland (based on the last available census figures) that is nearly 10,000 people
For children aged 5 -18 years that is just under 1,800.
This equates to 63 classrooms.
We have to help others understand that dyslexia is a learning difference. It’s another way of thinking and processing information. It has strengths as well as areas that are harder. The more we talk about it the more people learn about it and understand this.
It also means people will know how hard the dyslexic child works at school, that they are not lazy and why when they get home from school they can have meltdowns. This understanding of those around them helps them feel supported.
I work with children, their families, and adults. Knowing they are dyslexic and understanding what that means gives that person the chance to start taking control of their learning.
Our workshop Growing Stars for children aged 6 -12 years does a lot of work helping a child understand their learning difference and what they can do to help themselves.
We have an Adult Dyslexia Support Group – we belong to a tribe. It’s a wonderful environment where you do not have to explain anything because we all know what it’s like.
We also have Dyslexia Support South, Dyslexia Support Eastern Southland and Dyslexia Support Central Otago. These groups all provide free, unbiased, professional and up to date advice to help you support your child as best you can. You are your child’s best advocate. Get in touch if there is something you want to know.