Question: Is there any way I can make the school understand things about dyslexia?
Answer: Over the years I have come into contact with loads of parents of dyslexia children. The vast majority of these parents are happy with the levels of dyslexia awareness and support within their children’s schools.
There are thousands of great schools out there that are jam packed with brilliant teacher who know exactly how to support and encourage dyslexic children to learn to read, write and do well at school. These teachers support dyslexic children to learn without them feeling too much (if any) negative difference between themselves and the other children in the class… These teachers have a knack for assisting dyslexic children to build up their confidence, self-esteem, self-belief, etc… These teachers are able to stimulate the minds of dyslexic children and show them that ‘learning’ is fun and worthwhile… Wow for teachers like this!
However, there are still a few schools that haven’t quite got things right yet when it comes down to dyslexia but who are trying hard and with luck will get there soon. A dyslexic child may struggle so much within a school like this but what we have to remember is that teachers within these schools are doing their best to support dyslexic children with their learning.
And now the BAD NEWS! Unfortunately there are some ‘Schools of Dyslexia DOOM’ within the system. These schools seem to have a bit of an ‘anti-dyslexia culture’ going on. Some times this may show itself in very subtle ways that you can’t quite put your finger on – but you can feel it nevertheless. Some times it may show itself in the attitudes of the teachers who just don’t believe that dyslexia exists – in which case you will be fighting a loosing battle to get your child the support they deserve.
Some GOOD NEWS! If you’re child is unlucky enough to be in a school that has a strong ‘anti-dyslexia culture’ then we would suggest that you don’t waist to much time trying to educate the teachers. You might get sucked into a long winded argument that last for years and that might leaves your child feeling that they have caused this to happen – which as we all know will be no good for your child’s self-esteem – BOO to arguing! Instead spend your time assisting and encouraging your child to learn to read and write whilst having lots of fun. (The fun bit is very important so the more fun the better).
Now for something FUNNY! Some parents of dyslexic children that I have spoke to have told me that they haven’t got time to spend on supporting their children to read and write. Yet these very same parents spend countless hours each week having verbal punch ups with school teachers in the playground. And where’s the dyslexic child left in all of this…. feeling pretty low and helpless I suspect? Some parent of dyslexic children have mentioned to me that they don’t really understand what dyslexia is and that they don’t have the necessary skills to support their children with their learning. These are very valid concerns and it is understandable that some parents feel this way. However, from my experience as a ‘dyslexic’ dyslexia support tutor, the best placed people to support dyslexic children are parents who have the right attitude about dyslexia.
Ok what is the ‘right attitude’ I can hear some of you asking… Well in my view the right attitude is a philosophical one – let me explain… We need to remember that written words are a human invention and that they are quite slippery things to get to grips with especially if you don’t have much of a preference for using them… Some people (i.e. some dyslexic people) would rather use different tools to express themselves with… for example, talking, painting, drawing, dancing, playing sport, etc… These people are not broken in anyway – they simply have a natural preference to use non-word type tools…
Now the education system imposes on children the need to use written language as the main means of expression – so when children who have a natural preference for non-word type tools are forced to use written language it simply clashing with this preference. In a way it’s like forcing a person who has a natural preference to use their left-handed to write using their right hand – this would naturally clash against their preference. If this person started struggling to write we wouldn’t think they were broken in anyway would we?
So why do so many people think that dyslexic people are broken and in need of fixing when all that is going on is that they are being forced to use tools that don’t suit their natural preference?
Reading and writing are just skills that anyone who puts their mind to it can learn to do – dyslexic people are no exception here!
I’m a prime example of this as I was functionally illiterate when I was 18 years old as a result of my dyslexia and yet now I am able to read and write to a good enough standard… I had loads of other dyslexia related issues too that I have overcome as well. What is my secret – well there isn’t one really. I just realised that I had a natural preference to express myself by talking and that the act of trying to write was simply clashing against my natural preference. Then I realised that reading and writing are just skills that anyone can learn… I knew a left-handed boy when I was at school that had broken his left arm and so had to learn to write with his non-preferred right hand… it took him a bit of time but he eventually mastered it… I just took the same approach with learning to read and write…
I must admit it was a long road as it took me 13 years to get myself to where most 13 year olds are with reading and writing (I was 31 at the time) and then another 14 years to get to a standard good enough to do write my PhD thesis on the subject of dyslexia… Wow thats a long time… (I’ll be sharing some tips with you in future post that will explain how not to take this long if you’re trying to overcome your dyslexia)
So, to cut this very long post a bit shorter – try seeing your child’s dyslexia in the way I have described and let this come out in your attitude towards them – you’ll be surprised the difference that it might make… Ok there’s a lot to read and take in here so I’ll say goodbye for now – but I’ll be back soon as Goga and I will do a video showing a few ways to assist your child to learn to read and write whilst having lots of fun
Written by Antonio Farruggia-Bochnak, Dyslexia Coach and Co-founder of Dyslexic Brian Share