I am often moved by the pain and self-doubt of the parents of the Dyslexic children we assess. Unlike many psychologists or doctors who have not experienced Dyslexia personally or through a family member, I have experienced both. In fact, many members of my family on my ex-husband’s side and my side are Dyslexic along with many of our children.
The parents I talk to are often treated as complaining and over-protective with unreasonable expectations for their childrens’ school performance. As any parent that is experiencing a threat to their child’s happiness and future, they are reacting strongly and vocally to be heard and taken seriously. They want to do whatever it takes to save their children from an uncertain future if they cannot read, write, spell or comprehend written words or instructions. And these are only some of the issues affecting Dyslexic students.
Many of the learning problems Dyslexics experience can be very confusing to teachers and special education departments. On one hand they tend to very intelligent and complex thinkers but on the other they cannot decode the simplest of words.
My experience has been primarily with Dyslexics so last year I had a shock when I worked with my six year old grand-daughter on her homework for her grade one class. She doesn’t seem to have inherited her mother’s Dyslexia and school is going well for her. She was sounding out words and blending easily, reading small books with appropriate fluency for her age and memorizing her spelling words with little effort. She understood her arithmetic worksheets and could follow directions with little additional explanation.
Granted my grand-daughter is receiving lots of help and support from home but the fact is she gets what she is learning in school and understands what is required of her. Her mother’s experience in school was very different. Gen is still traumatized by her past. When her daughter started school Gen was very nervous and fearful that her daughter would be in the same position as she had been and was relieved and thankful for her child’s success.
If teachers are used to students who fall in some kind of range like my grand-daughter then I can begin to understand their frustration with an intelligent child not understanding the most basic of reading skills – comprehending what letters are and how to use them to create written words.
But Dyslexic children don’t understand this information, at least not how it is taught in many school systems around the world at the present time. They can learn to spell, write, read, comprehend, understand numbers and arithmetic but by coming to it from a different direction and teaching style.
My hope is that more teachers will start to understand where the parents of Dyslexics are emotionally coming from. They want their children to be like my grand-daughter. They want them to be able to accomplish these basic skills (reading, writing and arithmetic) which are so important for success in our present society so their childrens’ futures are bright and full of possibility just as any other child.
The other pain we feel as parents is the confusion and fear our children experience in school. They start in kindergarten excited to participate and within a short time they become defeated, sad or angry. Their humiliation in the classroom and the labels the school starts to use for their learning difficulties causes them to withdraw. Our happy outgoing child becomes someone we don’t recognize. Our hearts ache to try to solve their learning problems because that is what we do as parents; protect and shield them. But the teachers roll their eyes at us, sigh, give our children psychological and cognitive testing, tell us about deficits and short term memory loss, possible ADHD, behavioural problems, neural wiring issues, their constant need to have personal one on one help, tell us we are not providing enough help with their classwork at home… and on and on.
We look at our babies and try to understand how all this happened and what did we do wrong. Did we eat the wrong foods when we were pregnant? Were we bad mothers and not teach them correctly as toddlers? Are we totally inept at helping them with their schoolwork? The schools make us feel that way.
I ask our teachers and school administrators to stand in our shoes as parents and tell us they would want anything less for their child. Would they be any less vocal and demanding? Would they not fight fiercely too for their child’s personal happiness?
A Dyslexic mother of three grown Dyslexic children
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online