Dyslexia in children is common, but how we react to this condition makes a huge difference in how that child will feel about themselves.
Words impact the heart by shattering it or strengthening it. It goes without saying that telling a child she is dumb would shatter her heart. Yet, would it surprise you to learn that words we consider innocuous or even helpful could do the same?
How To React To Dyslexia In Children
My dining room table has felt discouraged tears fall from a child struggling to understand how to read the simplest of sentences. Words mastered last week are now foreign when placed in a string that is supposed to have a meaning. Finally, the words are decoded only for the meaning to stay hidden. After what seems like hours, the sentence is finally read and understood. Yet, not before my child has full understanding that every other child her age could read and understand it with ease.
This is dyslexia in children.
It’s easy. But not to her. Each struggle feels like someone whispering, “You must be really stupid if this is easy and you still don’t get it.” When I say, “Try harder, you know this…it’s easy.” That whisper becomes a giant roar. It’s not easy to her. A fragile heart needs little cause to fracture.
Children with dyslexia know the endgame is reading fluently. Each step they stumble through can feel like only a half step toward a successful end. The dyslexic child’s huge victories are disguised as small successes if they get noticed at all. It may appear small but when my daughter stopped writing her letters backward, and could remember what all the letters and numbers looked like, read sentences without tears, and showed a desire to read; those were huge victories. Huge victories covered by the fact she is in 4th grade and reading at a 1st-grade level. Slow progress isn’t seen as progress at all when we look at the big picture. Without the confetti and balloons, these small steps still walk toward feeling dumb and discouraged.
I cry when I have to read instructions. This is dyslexia in children.
For years, I covered a disability that I didn’t know existed. I developed workarounds that made others think of my difficulties as quirks. I’m not the quirky lady who can’t put together a desk with instructions or find her way around the block without getting lost. I am the lady who didn’t understand she had a learning issue.
Honour roll, high IQ, avid reader, writer, and quick wit, all covered a mild learning issue that caused me grief for years. It was not until my daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia that I realized my “quirks” were not the result of a ditzy redhead who didn’t follow instructions. The reading specialist asked me if I knew my little quirks were signs of dyslexia. I had no idea. I read up on it and it was like a veil lifted.
Until that moment and even times since, I hear those whispers telling me I am dumb. Opening a set of instructions or following a map was like walking right into an emotionally abusive situation. All my talents hid under my difficulties until all I could feel was dumb. For years, I played this off as funny. If you sit next to me as I make a wrong turn you will likely think of it as one of my endearing ditzy ways. If you placed a hidden camera in my car when I make a wrong turn you will see tears of frustration. I became a master at working around it or laughing instead of crying. My interest in vocabulary drew from my inability to spell. My flippant attitude of allowing someone else to read instructions or just to pay someone to put it together is the result of hours of me beating myself up because I cannot follow what is written. My issues are mild but when it comes out, the impact hurts.
I know all too well what it is like to stare at words and not understand what they are trying to tell me. I understand the impact of someone saying, “It’s easy,” when putting together a desk or installing a printer takes me twice the time as anyone else. Instruction manuals stained with tears, maps thrown aside, and cruel emails when my article contains a mistake, discourage a fragile heart. I don’t need someone making me feel stupid. I do that on my own. Some things are not easy for me. I assume some things are not easy for you. Imagine if those things were common and you were judged harshly for it. Now, think of your child struggling to read “CAT” after hearing you tell her it is easy. You see, she thinks it is easy to everyone but her. Begging the question, “What is wrong with me?”
How to Encourage Children With Dyslexia
My heart breaks when I see my child struggling to perform tasks she believes to be easy for everyone but her. I can see it on her face, I can almost hear the dialogue in her head telling her she is dumb. I can tell when she can’t try harder. When I can’t try harder, I often give up. She is one brave girl for not giving up when she can’t try any harder. Sometimes she needs me to allow her to give up for just a moment to focus on her talents. As children with dyslexia grow older, the race to the finish line increases and pressure mounts.
The dyslexic child needs to know you are willing to walk that race beside her. If she couldn’t read “CAT” yesterday but she can today then that is worth a high-five not a heavily sighed “finally!”
Dyslexia in children is difficult to face alone. Your child is facing a difficult road filled with discouragement. You have the privilege and opportunity to encourage her fragile heart through every slow and steady step to the finish line. It is in these moments when you hold your child’s heart, that parenting is perfected.