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20 Things Only Parents Of Children With Dyslexia Would Understand

20 Things Only Parents Of Children With Dyslexia Would Understand

Dyslexia. It’s a word many parents dread when they hear it in reference to their own children. What their “lay” minds take in is that they have a child who will face struggles throughout his/her schooling and in life. Dyslexia never goes away. There is no medication to mitigate the symptoms; worse, it is an invisible disability which (if undiagnosed) subjects the sufferer to lots of misunderstanding and criticism for things over which s/he has not control.

As parents research their child’s dyslexia and receive information from the experts, they come to understand many things that they want others to understand as well. Here’s 20 of them.

1. They read differently.

The brain anatomy of a dyslexic child is different. The area that understands language operates differently than the average individual’s. The brain has to translate symbols on the page of a book (for example) into sounds. The sounds then have to be combined to make meaningful words. The parts of the brain that do this are not as well developed with dyslexia, so affected children will have to engage different parts of their brains to compensate. Part of this compensation is enhanced by specialized reading programs which are research based and multi-sensory, as well as by audio books that allow kids to keep up with their classmates in school.

2. They cannot overcome dyslexia by reading more.

Those who do not understand dyslexia (including some teachers) think if parents just read to their children more, and if elementary aged children are just forced to read more, somehow the dyslexia will be “cured.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While reading to a dyslexic child has great benefits (I.E. information, exposure, stimulation of imagination), it will not help him/her become a better reader. Likewise, forcing a dyslexic child to just read more, in a traditional manner, only leads to frustration, anger, and behavioral issues. It is the equivalent of forcing an adult to go to a job every day at which s/he cannot perform the tasks and is not ever given the training to acquire the skills to perform them. How long would that adult remain on that job?

3. They are not lazy or unmotivated.

The undiagnosed dyslexic kid is often labeled as these things both in the classroom and at home. However, remember to consider the following issues:

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– They may not hear multi-step instructions. While the 2nd and 3rd instructions are being given, their brains are still processing the first

– In school, during reading class, they are still de-coding the first sentence while classmates have moved on to the 5th or 6th.

– It takes them far longer to complete worksheets and tests. When they do not get things finished, the teacher may be inclined to keep them in from recess to make them finish. What they don’t understand is that this child is exhausted from the effort just to complete what he has, and needs a break just as much as his peers.

4. They often need tutoring outside of school.

If the tutoring is designed for kids with dyslexia, some studies have shown, the brain actually changes (this is called neuroplasticity) and “rewires” itself, resulting in enhanced reading skills. For the older student, facing essays and papers for which research must be completed, as well as the normal rounds of standardized testing that come at specific milestone points in schooling, tutoring for reading, writing, and test taking must continue. Private tutoring services that have specialists for kids with learning disabilities are numerous in both the United States and in the UK. With their help and their special approach, children with dyslexia can pass any type of exam, including 11 plus mock exams easily.

 5. They don’t “see” the world backwards.

Yes, they occasionally reverse letters and words, but that is because those words and letters appear differently to them on the printed page. What they view in the world, they often see holistically (rather than in detail). They have a grand ability to see what is “out of place.” Carol Grieder, a molecular biologist with dyslexia, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009 because as she looked at DNA molecules through a microscope, she saw something that should not be there. She discovered a new and extremely important enzyme that is today the subject of cancer and aging research. In this case, her dyslexia was a wonderful “gift” to the world.

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6. They need “ear reading”.

This is the term advocates and parents use for audio books. While the obvious benefit is that are able to stay up to date with their classmates in all content areas (textbook publishers all offer their publications in audio format), they are also able to conduct research and to complete book reports/reviews. Another benefit is an increased vocabulary and the ability to “hear” good grammar.

7. They need accommodations in school, at all levels.

While they may not always qualify for an IEP, there are other individual plans that can be put into place that allow for longer assignment and test-taking time, modified assignments (e.g. half of the spelling word list), and orally provided exams.

8. They can be disorganized.

Their failure to have attention to detail causes disorganization, impacting both school and home life. Their rooms may be messier than most, and cleaning them up is truly challenging. At a young age, parents would do well to “walk” dyslexic children through each step of the process for cleaning their rooms and putting things in proper places. In school, older children specifically may have difficulty organizing and managing their time, and may need lots of tools, such as cell phone alarms, a picture schedule, and so forth.

9. They feel dumb and stupid.

They are aware that others in their classrooms are reading better, are completing assignments on time, and do not take as long to learn things. This can really impact self-esteem over time, causing them to withdraw. Teachers must capitalize on strengths and interests, and publicly recognize them in the classroom. Parents need to promote their kids’ strengths and talents with outside activities. Art, music, sports, designing, building, and science are typical areas of strength. Having successes and recognition for those successes is extremely important for adult productivity and happiness.

10. They need to socialize.

When their bad feelings about themselves cause them to withdraw, they may cease to involve themselves in social activities or in making new friends. It is important that parents of young children take a proactive approach to socialization. This may include joining a support group, in which there will be plenty of opportunity for their children to be involved in activities, or enrolling them in clubs, Scouts, or sporting activities. Older children must be encouraged to get involved in activities that will support and reinforce their strengths or talents. For teens, getting a part-time job can be huge!

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11. They have average to above-average intelligence.

There is nothing wrong with educators and parents sharing good news with these kids about their IQs. They should continue to re-enforce the facts that a huge number of highly successful people had/have dyslexia. Here’s a few: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise, Muhammed Ali, Steve Jobs, Tommy Hilfiger, Picasso, and Richard Branson. There is virtually no field in which dyslexic people have not excelled.

12. They need technology.

There are a number of apps which have been recommended by medical and psycho/educational professionals that serve dyslexic students well, from those that convert any text to audio, to voice-command word processing programs, to phonetic skill building in gaming formats. Schools should be cognizant of needs and ensure that these tools are available.

13. They are exhausted by detail.

This pertains particularly to reading and to worksheets in math that are “cluttered.” Spreading content out in larger print and recommended fonts will help a great deal. They will also need frequent breaks. While other students can focus on an activity that involves reading and writing, and accomplish a great deal in a 20-30 minute period, the dyslexic child will complete far less and need breaks after 10 minutes of focus. Beyond that, they will complain of headaches and dizziness.

14. They see what others do not.

Dyslexic children will state the words on a page are moving, that they are alternating between light and dark, or that they are flip-flopping. It is easy to think that they are making this up; however, they are not. It is important to validate what they are seeing as “real” for them.

15. They are visual thinkers.

They learn by pictures and hands-on experiences. This is one reason that many do well in lab sciences. They also remember in pictures. If they can be given visual representations of concepts, they will cement that in their memories. What they read will not be cemented unless there are other senses involved as they read.

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16. They should not be “lumped” together as one.

Dyslexic kids are individuals. Their disabilities come in all ranges. Some may exhibit symptoms of ADD, while others will not. Some have real difficulty putting thoughts into words, while others are much more verbal. Some are of average intellectual ability, while others are truly gifted. Some have “acting out behavior;” while others are too quiet. It is unfair to treat all dyslexic children as if they are one homogeneous group.

17. They are frustrated with their disability.

While others who live and work with these kids can certainly become frustrated, it is important to be empathetic. Try putting yourself in the kid’s place and see dyslexia through the eyes of the person actually living it. These kid needs support and encouragement, not disapproving remarks, like “try harder.” S/he is trying!

18. They will be dyslexic for a lifetime.

But with strong interventions and flexibility on the part of teachers, they can develop methods to compensate, earn college degrees, and take their places in many career niches.

19. They can add great value to an organization.

Because they tend to be creative and are visual thinkers, they are often able to “see” solutions that others cannot. In these cases, being dyslexic is a strength in itself.

20. Their sense of hearing is exceptional.

Perhaps because their ability to use their eyes well to learn, the sense of hearing has strengthened, just as it is for those who are blind. However, they are often unable to filter out all of the sounds around them, greatly impacting their ability to focus. The use of headphones when they are engaged in audio learning will help them greatly.

Each of us have strengths and areas of challenge. Our children with dyslexia are no different. Unfortunately, learning has been so intimately tied to reading that they have been at a clear disadvantage. Things are rapidly changing; however, in this wonderful age of technology. We are reaching a point at which we will be able to honor all learning styles, not just those that have traditionally met with success.

Featured photo credit: Rick&Brenda Beerhorst / girls with butterfly book via flickr.com

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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