Finding your Dyslexic Tribe is priceless

Yet again I find myself in social media defending the usefulness of identification of Dyslexia. Also this week I have had to counteract a teacher saying learning difficulties don’t exist but that is another story. This has come at a time in my daughter’s life when she has finally found her tribe. As my daughter has just become a teenager and suffers from anxiety fuelled by multiple learning difficulties it has become so important that she feels like she belongs in this world. That she feels she is valued for who she is and what she can do. That there are other kids like her. Teens need to feel they belong as they navigate a difficult time in their life. As a high school teacher I have seen many times the sheer pain of the kids who don’t find their tribe.

My daughter attended a high achieving primary school where many kids are heavily tutored from preschool age and academic success was the number one priority for most of the parents. She had some lovely friends who valued her for her storytelling at lunchtime, her quirkiness and her kind heart. They would defend her endlessly when casual teachers had a go at her and make sure she understood her work. But one thing her friends could not do is understand what it is like to walk into a classroom everyday and struggle surrounded by children who seem to learn effortlessly.

Having me as a parent has given her access to a strong Dyslexic community and she has met many kids with Dyslexia which helped putty some of the holes in her self esteem battered by years of failure. She has the great privilege of having a tutor who has Dyslexia and is friends with her Dyslexic daughter. Her tutor says that her greatest qualification as a tutor is her Dyslexia and her ability to understand her student’s struggles. Not being able to read in year 5 and going on to get a Masters from Cambridge shows her students anything can be achieved if you work hard enough! Having adult and older teen Dyslexics to look up too is so important.

High school this year has brought many challenges, especially leaving friends who she has relied on for so long. But thanks to a school, who has a brilliant transition program for kids with difficulties, my daughter made some friends who get her before the start of the school year.

My daughter spent the holidays bonding with her new Dyslexic friends. She said to me E has a brilliant mind and she is even more awesome when she is not taking her ADHD meds. I said that must be lovely for her to hear that someone appreciates her for who she is. Her reply was that I know you tell me all the time how creative I am and how good my mind is but you are my Mum and you have to say that. For kids the same age to appreciate me for who I am it makes me feel good about myself. If she fumbles over her words she knows her friends will not judge her.

On the way home from an awesome time with one of her Dyslexic friends I said to her “You have found your tribe haven’t you?” Her reply was the biggest smile I have seen in a long time.

Her new friends all forget things. They all actually forgot that they had memory issues and laughed hysterically at that. They struggle through their work together in class. They go to learning support together. They complain about the teachers who don’t get it and praise the awesome ones that make school bearable by actually implementing their adjustments. They giggle when they can’t add up while playing games rather than hiding their weaknesses. While other kids in class are calling them dumb their friends are telling them the opposite and appreciating them for exactly who they are.

Through our support group my daughter also writes to another year 7 kid with Dyslexia who was feeling alone. They use snail mail. Her pen pal has lovely writing and she told her. She also told her she types because she has dysgraphia and her handwriting is not so good. They share struggles but also write about normal stuff. They both know no one is going to judge them for their spelling or grammar. My daughter actually smiles when she sees a spelling mistake in her pen pals letters.

The word Dyslexia has also as a parent allowed me to find my parent tribe. I have met some of the most brilliant Dyslexia advocates through my volunteer work. Determined mums mostly who are fighting to get the system to change after watching the horrible toll illiteracy has on our children. My daughter’s tutor has become a firm friend. She is one of the few people who get it when the days are hard and simple things go really wrong. We listen to the daily struggles of our kids without judgement and we know the other gets it!

It is quite lovely (I’m not sure how to describe it) to be around school mums who get your child’s struggles. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to sometimes be able to give advice and help to my new parent friends. Funnily enough last year I chatted online through our support group to one of the mums. Giving her advice about tutors in the local area. Then our daughter’s went to the same school and became friends and neither of us realised we had talked online and by then we had met in person. I know I’m not going to have to get embarrassed about grades. I know I can complain about my child’s resistance to getting her assignment done. I know I can talk about having to help my child structure her essays, research and edit without judgement. We were all feeling a little sick at the idea of an end to school holidays.

With these school Mum’s I don’t have to listen to what they think are their parent struggles when having just those struggles would make my week awesome. Like my sister’s endless turmoil choosing between selective high school and performing arts high school that my niece got accepted into. Oh the pure joy of a decision like that. Whilst at the same time I was meeting with learning support at the local High School grilling them with questions. Trying to find a high school that my daughter would be able to survive was my main goal. A high school where she didn’t come out with worse mental health and some of her self esteem still intact.

Other parents don’t really understand what it is like and nor do most of the relatives. Don’t get me wrong other parents have been supportive in the past but you can never understand the constant battles or the daily management needed with a child with Learning Difficulties particularly mixed in with the inevitable mental health issues. I know because I have another child who passes through life with a smile on her face and is absolutely adored by every teacher who has ever had her. She does not approach task with trepidation and the scars that constant failure bring. She approaches everything with determination and persistence.

Talking to my daughter’s new friends parents the other day I mentioned that one of her best friends dumped her and joined the “popular group”. They asked why and I said its because she is a little odd and quirky. She also couldn’t cope with the anxiety which turns her sometimes into silent and no fun. Their reply was to them she was normal and she should fit right in. They also get the anxiety thing. One friend was reluctant to sleep over as she doesn’t know me well. My daughter and I made sure she didn’t remain anxious. Because we can see it, manage it and understand it. Whereas at times I’ve felt embarrassed when my daughters anxious behaviours make her look like a brat child or an unfriendly one.

My daughter’s friends are the only reason that today on Day 1 of Term 3 going back to school is bearable. Last night and this morning the hand wringing and crankiness started with the rise of school anxiety. Better than it used to be. Doesn’t happen for a week and no longer any vomiting. So when she goes to school today she knows her Dyslexic friends are probably feeling the same. So don’t tell me we shouldn’t identify kids with Dyslexia or use the label. In my other blog “The Dirty D word” I have addressed all the issues. But this blog is from the heart. So don’t lecture me until you have walked in my shoes. You will never be able to understand the positives the Dyslexic community brings to these kids or families

Advertisements

Riding the Dyslexic Unicorn to the land of myths!

Sorting the Dyslexic Myths from the facts

I am a very research orientated and like to stick to the facts! So let’s address some common Dyslexia Myths. 

This was a hard blog to write. It is quite the epic blog. I needed up leaving out a few Myth so there may be a part 2. When I asked our members to give me some myths I didn’t expect to be inundated with such a huge amount of heartbreaking comments. The quotes are comments that parents have been told by friends, relatives, professionals and teachers! I do hate to say it but the majority of these comments are from teachers. 

Some are laughable. 

Some are heartbreaking. 

Some are downright unprofessional. 

  1. Myth: Children with Dyslexia can not learn phonics. It confuses them. Dyslexia needs a different kind of instruction

“Went to the library and told the librarian that I was looking for Dandelion or Fitzroy readers as my son is dyslexic and she said “whatever you do DO NOT teach him phonics. It is just too confusing for them”.”

“This was a comment from a teacher to one of my colleagues (a speechie) a few years ago who was teaching a child phonics in therapy: “Can you stop telling her to sound things out, it’s confusing her in our reading recovery sessions”… She also suggested to the child’s mother to stop doing speech and just focus on reading recovery, luckily she didn’t listen.”

Facts: 

This is a common misconception. Often children with Dyslexia have not received adequate phonics instruction and that is why phonics has failed.  Another reason why people thinks it fails is because people dont develop phonemic awareness along with it. Kilpatrick talks extensively about this and the PA must be trained to advanced level alongside phonics. Advanced PA meaning getting to the stage of phoneme substitution and deletion.This is a failure of instruction and not the child. Children with Dyslexia need intensive explicit and systematic phonics instruction. Phonics instruction is effective for children with Dyslexia, however, children with Dyslexia will generally need a more intensive approach. This is a  well established scientific fact supported by Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA), AUSPELD, Australian Dyslexia Association and reputable  International Dyslexia Associations.

“LDA supports approaches to reading instruction that adopt an explicit structured approach to the teaching of reading and are consistent with the scientific evidence as to how children learn to read and how best to teach them. This approach is important for all children, but is particularly important for children who have difficulty in learning to read. Programs that follow an explicit structured approach to the teaching of reading include as an integral part of the teaching program specific instruction in phonology (phonological and phonemic awareness), sound-symbol associations (letter-sound correspondences), as well as syllable structures, morphology, syntax and semantics (the structure, use and meaning of words) as a basis for developing accurate and fluent reading and reading comprehension.” https://www.ldaustralia.org/client/documents/LDA%20Position%20Statement%20with%20references.pdf

  1. Myth: Dyslexics are just not that smart. 

“In Prep, I was told I was a helicopter mum, that my son was one step above dumb and not to have such high expectations of him, he will get what ever he gets. I have 25 kids in this class and yours is just slower so stop trying to make him out to be something he is not, are you qualified to understand his education??? He can not possibly be smart when he can not read or write!!!!                                                                                  Turns out he is gifted 2E with dyslexia and dysgraphia.”

“Well, I guess he’s not very smart..?”

“what do you mean he has an above average IQ if he can’t read and write then he can’t have.”

“She is really smart, no way she can be dyslexic. She is really verbal, how can she struggle with reading. spelling, writing.”

Facts: 

I.Q. Is not related to reading ability. Dyslexia occurs across the spectrum of I.Q. Levels. “These results converge with behavioral evidence indicating that, regardless of IQ, poor readers have similar kinds of reading difficulties in relation to phonological processing.” Psychol Sci. 2011 Nov;Epub 2011 Oct 17. The brain basis of the phonological deficit in dyslexia is independent of IQ. Tanaka H

 

  1. Myth: Dyslexia is a visual issue or visual processing issue

“Do you want me to print her work on blue paper?” “maybe you should get some of those coloured glasses.”

“Oh you can get them rose coloured glasses to fix that….”

Facts:

Visual comments are the biggest headache for us in our support group. Seeing a behavioural optometrist or Irlen screener seems to be often the first place people go. Including myself I must admit. But I did my research and was smart enough to walk away when the behavioural optometrist couldn’t answer some simple questions about how she accounted for processing speed in her tracking testing! Recommending Irlen or behavioural optometry steers parents away from evidenced based remediation.

“Research has shown that vision problems do not cause dyslexia and vision 

problems are not more common in dyslexics.24 Eye and vision problems including high refractive errors, poor vision, nystagmus, abnormal pursuits or saccadic eye movements, difficulties with “crossing the midline” of the visual field, CI, AI, strabismus, amblyopia, reduced stereopsis, binocular instability, or a magnocellular deficit do not cause or increase the severity of dyslexia. No consistent relationship has been demonstrated between visual perception and academic performance or reading ability. Dyslexia is no more frequent in children with significant eye movement disorders than in the general population.25” https://www.aao.org/pediatric-center-detail/learning-disabilities

See my blog on Irlen Syndrome https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/

See my fact sheet on Vision and reading difficulties https://www.dropbox.com/s/vwobf5ljr1ais5f/Vision%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0

  1. Myth: Dyslexia is a boy thing. He’s just a boy. 

“he’s just a boy they take longer to learn”

“His teacher said he isn’t dyslexic (principal in primary school). He is a boy! He is young! He will get it in his own time! He daydreams too much! I have no issues with him he is very well behaved (yes but he can’t read??)”

“he is a boy. They don’t start reading until they are about 8-9”

“He is so well behaved, so he doesn’t have a learning issue.”

Facts:

Research shows Dyslexia is distributed quite evenly between male and females. There may be slightly more males affected than females. More males tend to be diagnosed as they exhibit secondary behaviours which lead to referral. Girls in general tend to shrink and hide whereas boys will act out their frustration.  “A range of data now indicate that although there are somewhat more boys, significant numbers of girls struggle to read. (Flynn & Rahbar 1994, Shaywitz et al. 1990).” Shaywitz 2007

As for accepting the idea that boys learn to read slower or it is ok that they are not learning to read….We need to take a look at ourselves as a society. There is a general scientific consensus that aptitude for literacy and numeracy is not gendered but a gap exists early due to parental and societal attitudes. Children tend to meet the standard that we set for them. We need to expect all children can read because evidence shows only the most disabled can not learn to read. 

“Research shows that many teachers hold views of boys as “troublesome” and under-achieving, whereas they see girls as “compliant” and high-achieving (Jones & Myhill, 2004). These different perceptions of boys’ and girls’ behavior and abilities from a young age can affect their achievement (Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999).” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tell-me-story/201308/the-gender-gap-in-reading

  1. Myth: Children with dyslexia read backwards and reverse letters

“Are you sure he’s dyslexic? He hasn’t writing his letters back to front for a while now” 

“Yeah, people with dyslexia see the words printed backwards/letters all jumbled up.”

Facts: 

Letter reversals are quite developmentally normal until around age 8. They persist sometimes in children with Dyslexia as they are the mistakes of beginning readers which can also exist in children who struggle to learn to read. These errors tend to disappear with appropriate remediation. My Dyslexic child had far less problems with this than her sister. 

“This outcome speaks against the widespread view that reversals in the production of individual letters are a good predictor of future reading problems.” “Educators and clinicians, therefore, should not assume that reversal errors in writing are indicative of dyslexia.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4309997/#!po=10.2941

  1. Myth: Dyslexic children are just lazy. They just need to work harder and pay more attention.

“Sight words/magic words well everyone else can learn them this way, you just need to work harder with him.” 

“He just needs to find motivation and try harder, then he’ll do enough work to pass”

“She doesn’t have a problem – she can do it when she tries hard enough.”         

“What is dyslexia anyway? An excuse to be lazy?”

Facts: 

Children with Dyslexia are often working much harder than other students to produce less work. Dyslexia causes problems with sequencing and organising information so it is difficult for children with dyslexia to work out the purpose of the task and organise their thoughts. Dyslexia makes reading slow, tiring and inaccurate making the question or information difficult to understand and comprehend.

“The dyslexics were using 4.6 times as much area of the brain to do the same language task as the controls,” said Richards, a professor of radiology. “This means their brains were working a lot harder and using more energy than the normal children.” ‘Dyslexic children use nearly five times the brain area.’ Schwarz (1999) Dyslexic children use nearly five times the brain area. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2017, from http://www.washington.edu/news/1999/10/04/dyslexic-children-use-nearly-five-times-the-brain-area/

Inattention, lack of focus, poor motivation can all be the result of secondary learned helplessness and anxiety that have developed due to constant failure at tasks. “3Children and adolescents with learning disabilities have high rates of mental health problems and behavioural difficulties.” Allington-Smith 2006

  1. Myth: We don’t use the word Dyslexia anymore

Facts:

Teachers and health care practitioners are under the misinformed impression that the term dyslexia is no longer used and has been removed from the DSM-5. This is categorically incorrect. The extensive 2013 revision of the DSM has most certainly not dropped the term dyslexia but has made the term more formalised as it is specifically stated in the section on specific learning disabilities (disorders). 

“DSM-5 includes dyslexia as a Specific Reading Disorder – “Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities”.(p.67, DSM-5) (APA), 2013 

Please see my blog “The Dirty D word” for more detail https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/the-dirty-d-word-2/

  1. Myth: Dyslexia can’t be properly diagnosed

Facts:

Whilst the term dyslexia is used inappropriately by promoters of reading products it has a clearly defined diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 and can be adequately identified by well trained and experienced professionals.

The following criteria is used for a diagnosis by an educational psychologist;

“A.      A persistent difficulty learning academic skills for at least 6 months despite intervention. In regard to dyslexia the areas of persistent weakness may include;

-Inaccurate and slow reading.

-Difficulty with word decoding.

-Difficulty with the comprehension of text.

-Spelling Difficulties.

-Difficulties with grammar, punctuation and other writing skills. 

B.       The areas of weakness or skill impairment are significantly below the expectation and impede academic progress. 

C.       Learning difficulties may not be apparent until the demands of school are in excess of the student’s progress.

D.       The academic and learning difficulties do not occur because of other issues such intellectual, hearing, vision, mental health or due to inadequate instruction. ”

Summarised from The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, American Psychiatriac Association (APA), 2013. 

“Science has moved forward at a rapid pace so that we now possess the data to reliably define dyslexia … For the student, the knowledge that he is dyslexic is empowering … [It provides him] with self-understanding and self-awareness of what he has and what he needs to do in order to succeed.” Sally Shaywitz (2017)

  1. Dyslexia doesn’t exist it is all “ disteachia”

Facts:

Whilst there is a percentage of children who have failed to read due to inadequate instruction dyslexia is a recognised and diagnosable condition as per the myth examined above. Dyslexia is reading difficulties that persist despite adequate evidenced based intervention. “There has been over 30 years of documented, scientific evidence and research proving the existence of dyslexia. It is one of the most common learning disabilities to affect children.” http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/dyslexics/learn-about-dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/debunking-common-myths-about-dyslexia

“Experts in the field have reached a substantial degree of consensus about what is meant by the term and how it should be defined in a clinical context. Dyslexia is widely viewed as a severe reading difficulty that persists despite high-quality evidence-based instruction. This is enshrined in documents such as the Rose Report in the UK, and the Australian Dyslexia Working Party report.” Wheldall, Castles and Nayton, (2014) 

Please see my blog “The Dirty D word” for more detail https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/the-dirty-d-word-2/

  1. Myth: Your child will never learn to read. But that is OK!!! They can do a trade or sport or colour in daisy wheels.

The colouring in of daisy wheels was actually the experience of our daughter’s tutor who didn’t learn to read a word until year 5. Diagnosed at 18 after failing her A levels she went on to get a Masters from Cambridge in Psychology and Education.  

“The physiatrist who tested my son and found him to be highly gifted at 5 went on to tell me at 6 that now she had diagnosed dyslexia, Dyscalculia and dysgraphia he would never reach the full potential of his IQ and I would have to modify my expectations of him…”

“Forget about being academic just concentrate on sport.”

“Yours boys are so cute , don’t worry about the Dyslexia they will get great wives “

“Hello, he’s dyslexic! He better get used to being a failure! At least he’s not like (insert name of a child with severe cognitive issues here).”

“He is such a delight don’t worry”

“He’s never going to be a rocket scientist…ironic considering how many dyslexic people become scientists.”

“Take her home and love her… she will never succeed at school”… told by a behavioural optometrist”

“You (parent) expect too much. Your child isn’t a genius, so don’t expect him to be.”

Facts:

We must change systematic acceptance that a certain percentage of kids can not learn to read or succeed. We must have the highest expectations of all children. Placing children in the too hard basket and writing them off as unteachable is unforgivable. Telling a parent that that need to lower their expectations is absolutely unprofessional and hurtful.

The great majority of children can learn to read. The exceptions are only the most profoundly disabled. “Thanks to new scientific research—plus a long- awaited scientific and political consensus around this research—the knowledge exists to teach all but a handful of severely disabled children to read well.”  “Scientists now estimate that fully 95 percent of all children can be taught to read. Yet, in spite of all our knowledge, statistics reveal an alarming prevalence of struggling and poor readers that is not limited to any one segment of society.” 1999 https://www.ldaustralia.org/client/documents/Teaching%20Reading%20is%20Rocket%20Science%20-%20Moats.pdf

We must accept that Australia’s high rate of illiteracy is down to decades of poor literacy instruction based on ideologies rather than science. “Mr Boulton said that According to Reid Lyon and James Wendorf, 95% of the children that are struggling with reading are instructional casualties.” http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=55&n_issueNumber=53

Whether being dyslexic comes with strengths remains a controversial issue that is under researched. There is some limited research that supports improved visual spatial processing strengths in individuals with dyslexia.  People with dyslexia are certainly overrepresented in the arts and the business world but it remains to be seen whether dyslexia confers any extra benefits. It may be that faced with difficulties at school forces the individual to develop a level of resilience to failure and other coping mechanisms that allow them to thrive as entrepreneurs. Children may also seek refuge in the arts and creativity when confronted with the stress of the classroom. 

All children have strengths. The most important thing is that your child finds their strengths and utilises those strengths to help overcome their weaknesses.

Please see my blog post for further detail Dyslexia and the journey to the magical world of reading https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/dyslexia-and-the-journey-to-the-magical-world-of-reading/

  1. Myth: Dyslexia doesn’t qualify for learning support

“dyslexia isn’t funded so we can’t help.”

Facts:

Dyslexia is not specifically funded in any State or Territory under specialist disability funding support. All schools get some funding for children with special needs. Children with dyslexia can access this general learning and support funding. This unfortunately is not specific so will depend on the extent of difficulties, the school and the priorities of the principal. Learning support funding criteria will differ in each Sate and territory. Policies will also differ in Catholic education and private sectors.

“The Australian Government provides substantial funding to education authorities to help meet the educational needs of all students, including those with disability. This funding, provided through the Australian Education Act 2013, also helps schools meet their obligations under the Disability Standards for Education 2005.” Australian Government Department of Education and Training, Students with Disability, 2005

“Students who experience difficulties in basic areas of learning and behaviour are supported through Learning and Support in their local school. Students in primary, secondary and central schools may receive additional assistance in literacy, numeracy, language and behaviour. Students do not need a formal diagnosis of disability to access support through these resources.” Disability Support, NSW Department of Education and Communities.

  1. Myth: I have not taught any dyslexics before!

This is a common response from teachers when told by a parent of a Dyslexia diagnosis. 

“When first got diagnosed we had a meeting with the school Team support teacher for special needs. We asked “we’ll this is all new to us, what have u done for other dyslexic kids in the school?” Her response was ” yeh I think we had ‘a kid’ here ONCE with dyslexia, don’t worry he eventually got it & could read, it just took him till grade 5, really u just need to stop worrying”……………really 1 kid, you’ve been here for 20years & there’s nearly 300 kids at this school, really??????. Yes” 

Facts:

Because dyslexia occurs across a continuum and varies in definition the percentage of people affected is often debatable. Some consensus is that it affects around 10 % of the population with around 3-5% experiencing a significant impact.  Based on statistics you would expect to find 2 to 3 children in every classroom with dyslexia. Many of those are not being identified.  

Please see more blog teaching Dyslexia sorting through the facts for more detail https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/teaching-dyslexia-sorting-through-the-facts/

  1. Myth: Dyslexia is not recognised as a disability

Parents get told this all the time by teachers and principals. Far too often this is discussed in the support group.

Facts:

Dyslexia is a disability recognised under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 Act. These acts are federal legislation so cover every educational institution in Australia in the public and private sector. The DDA also covers discrimination of the basis of disability in all areas of Australian life including the workplace. 

Unfortunately many schools are unaware that dyslexia is a disability and therefore fail to adequately meet their legal obligations under the DDA and Disability Standards. 

“The definition of ‘disability’ in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is sufficiently broad as to include dyslexia within the meaning of that term as outlined in recommendation 1.  Dyslexia would therefore be covered by the provisions of both the DDA and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 made under that Act.” Australian Government response to recommendations of the Dyslexia Working Party Report (2012)

Please see also the Dyslexia and the law Fact Sheet https://www.dropbox.com/s/1sci4cews929j57/Dyslexia%20and%20the%20law%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0

  1. Myth: They can’t read because you didn’t read to them enough. 

“It’s such a shame when that happens. Some people just don’t realise the importance of reading & talking to their children from a young age.”

“it’s really important that your kids are exposed to language even if you have to read to them” or “kids should be exposed to language and the written word from a young age”… oh right, thanks, haven’t thought if that. Parents of dyslexics have probably had to read more out loud, do more work around language than any other parent. “

“Vice principal – “honestly you work a lot do you think maybe if you quit and just read to him more that would help ?”

“It’s because you didn’t read to them when they were little.”

“Have you tried reading to him each night?”

There were countless comments like these. Everyone shows a distinct lack of understanding how children learn to read and absolute unprofessionalism blaming a child lack of progress on the parent. The primary goal of primary school is to teach kids to read. This is the school’s responsibility. It is it’s reason for existence!

Facts: 

I can guarantee every parent in our support group has read a lot to their children. They are concerned enough to be in the group looking for answers. I read to both my children from birth. One easily learnt to read and the other didn’t. For the dyslexic child we were reading things to her like Harry Potter from kindergarten. She always loved language and complex stories. Whereas our non dyslexic child liked picture books for a long time. We still read to both our kids every night and the youngest is 11.

Certainly reading to children does impact oral language including phonemic awareness and vocabulary and it is certainly an essential foundation but it won’t teach a child to read.

“The scientific evidence that refutes the idea that learning to read is a natural process is of such magnitude that Stanovich (1994) wrote:

That direct instruction in alphabetic coding facilitates early reading acquisition is one of the most well established conclusions in all of behavioral science. . . . The idea that learning to read is just like learning to speak is accepted by no responsible linguist, psychologist, or cognitive scientist in the research community (pp. 285-286).” http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar98/vol55/num06/Why-Reading-Is-Not-a-Natural-Process.aspx

Please see my blog on learning read is not a natural process for more detail https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/phonics-check-myth-buster-2-learning-to-read-is-a-natural-process-and-advocating-just-a-phonics-approach-destroys-a-childrens-love-of-books/

  1. Myth: Dyslexia is rare

“I’ve never taught a dyslexic child before.”

“I’ve taught one Dyslexic child before.”

“what’s Dyslexia? I’ll go home an google tonight “

“I’ve been teaching 20 years and I’ve never had a dyslexic child before….”

Facts:

Because dyslexia occurs across a continuum and varies in definition the percentage of people affected is often debatable. Some consensus is that it affects around 10 % of the population with around 3-5% experiencing a significant impact. Based on statistics you would expect to find 2 to 3 children in every classroom with dyslexia. Many of those are not being identified. 

We get a lot of teachers joining our support group looking for ways to help a student they have in their class. Sometimes we get 20 a day. Learning support teachers, librarians, principals and some of these are teachers who are stumped because their own child just got diagnosed. 

Are we are happy they are seeking help? Most certainly!

Are we shocked that they don’t know what to do? No!

Are we sad that a volunteer support group is the place to go to find answers? A little. 

We would love to see all teachers adequately trained in

  • Identifying kids at risk of reading failure
  • Basics of Dyslexia
  • Accommodations and learning adjustments for children with Dyslexia
  • Evidenced based reading instruction 
  • Legal obligations under Disability legislation 
  1. Your child will grow out of it

“He will grow out of it. It’s a phase he’s going through 

“I had that but I grew out of it”

Facts:

Dyslexia is a neurological disability that affects the language system and the development of literacy skills. It is defined as a specific learning disorder, more specifically a reading disorder. It is characterised by problems with spelling, accurate or fluent word recognition, working memory, processing speed, rapid automatic naming, reading comprehension, phonological decoding and weak phonemic awareness.  

Dyslexia is not curable and is a lifelong disability. It can be remediated with appropriate interventions but some difficulties may still persist and need to be managed adequately.

  1. Myth: Just wait and see as some kids just take longer to learn to read.

“Comments from the gp when trying to get a referral for speech therapy – well no 6 year old can spell or read well, parents need to help them more and not waste our time.”

“There’s no need for private tutoring. He’s not in yr 11 /12 yet. Wait till then – friend.”

“The teacher aide tells me he seems to know his sight words and honestly his such and adorable little boy just give him time.“

“He will “get it” eventually, it will just “click”.”

Facts:

Early intervention is absolutely essential to ensure the reading and learning gap does not continue to widen and prevent the development of secondary mental health issues. 

Initial failure predicts future failure!

  • 90% of poor readers in first grade are poor readers in fourth grade (Juel, 1988)
  • 74% of children who are poor readers in the third grade remain poor readers in the ninth grade (Francis etal., 1996)
  • Many children with difficulty in learning to read develop a negative self concept within their first two years of schooling (Chapman, Tunmer, & Prochnow, 2000)

Importance of sticking to the facts 

Comments of a parent “How I feel when I hear these comments? Shocked, frustrated, annoyed, angry, upset to say the least.” Think about the impact on these parents and kids before you spread a myth or shatter the parent. Parents are fragile. This is their beautiful smart child that you are saying things about. The parents are fighting with all their energy to do the best for their child so you should give them the respect to do your research or say nothing! Myths also delay effective remediation and early intervention is essential.

This one may seem like a comedy sketch but unfortunately it is not….but I will leave it with you….gave a few of us a good laugh. Laughing because otherwise we would cry!

“My daughter was lying in her hospital bed the other night & overheard a phone conversation. She sent me a text & relayed one side of the conversation:

” No, he has dyslexia. It’s an eye condition. Yes, they have special eyes. They can’t see words or letters at all. …… I know…. strange isn’t it? They open a book & its pages look blank. Their eyes can see everything except words. Yes….. special eyes….. I don’t know what causes it. I actually heard that there are dyslexic authors. I don’t see how they could write….. well maybe they write but they can see the words they write on the page……. unless they just get someone else to write it for them.”

 

 

 

Dyslexia and Demons

Facing the fear of school

The vast majority of children with learning disabilities have some emotional problem associated with the learning difficulty” Abrams 1986

I sit here while my children play happily with their friends…..feeling sad, anxious and a little sick. It’s the last day of school holidays and tomorrow is the day we dread every year. The day filled with fear and doubt. The day that marks the beginning of another year I have to face as a mum of a child with multiple learning difficulties and anxiety.

Tomorrow is also extra special as it marks the start of High school. I taught high school so you would think I have nothing to fear…..but I know the reality of what she may face. I know, despite great groundwork laid down by the very professional and caring Learning Support Teacher, that there will be teachers who do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, ignore all professional advice and make our lives difficult!

Our visit to the psychologist on Wednesday went well. We have great management in place. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at age 8 gave me back my happy child that I had not seen for such a long time! Last year was the first year since year 2 my daughter didn’t have an anxiety vomit on day 1! She has come so far that her anxiety for the start of the year is somewhere close to within the normal range for any child off to highschool without her main friends. This year she has been quite brilliant and I’m so proud of her!

I still worry. She still worries. Despite great anxiety management, work on her self esteem, strategies to battle the learned helplessness the scars still remain. The mental health side of things holds my child back far more then her learning difficulties.

“Research has shown that individuals with learning disabilities;
_may experience increased levels of anxiety.
_may be at greater risk for depression.
_experience higher levels of loneliness.
_may have a lower self-concept.
_are at greater risk for substance abuse.
_may be at greater risk for juvenile delinquency”

Adapted from Great Schools 2016

It comes as no surprise that children with dyslexia suffer from a much greater rate of mental health issues. The moment they walk into a classroom, where literacy is the focus, they are confronted daily with their greatest area of weakness. The expectation is that learning to read is the initial purpose of school. My daughter first cried going back to school in term 2 of Kindergarten. She had a lovely caring teacher but unfortunately she wasn’t receiving the explicit literacy instruction that she needed.

When a child fails in the primary task of schooling they are forced to judge themselves, are judged by other and live daily in a world of stress. That stress follows them home in the form of homework and adult expectations. Only the most resilient children can survive such a traumatic and constant onslaught. This often results in feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, frustration and guilt. Eventually a situation of learned helplessness results as the student will no longer even attempt to do something new or something they have failed in the past. They see no point in trying as they are convinced they will fail. Anxiety will increase the impact of dyslexia leading to a vicious cycle of increased anxiety, decreased motivation, frustration and failure.

My husband in recent years changed companies. For 2 years he battled a job that he hated. He gained weight. Drank more. Was constantly stressed and cranky. So he changed. Yet we ask a child to walk into a place everyday where they are faced with failure. They are tasked with learning the most difficult skill they may ever learn. Reading. Yet if not supported and instructed well they will face 12 years of heartache and failure.

No child should ever be afraid to go to school. Without the feeling of safety and support we are not creating an environment in which learning will occur.

We need to…..

*Ensure all children receive evidenced based, rigorous literacy instruction.
*Identify those at risk of reading failure early, early and early.
*Ensure all children who are struggling receive evidenced based intervention.
*Identify children at risk of mental health issues early.
*Ensure children receive professional advice for mental health.

Please see Mental Health and Dyslexia Fact Sheet also available in Fact Sheet menu. https://www.dropbox.com/s/zvg9ks1y6vzujn7/Mental%20Health%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0

References
Abrams, J. C. (1986). On learning disabilities: Affective considerations. Journal of Reading. Writing, and learning Disabilities. 2, 189–196.

https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/learning-disabilities-and-psychological-problems/