What happened to that well-adjusted, smart child who had a great summer away from school?
Are you seeing homework meltdowns, hearing from the teacher that there are behavioral concerns, or getting progress reports that are dismal? You wonder why your once well-adjusted child is now unhappy, distracted or acting out. If only your child would “try harder” to pay attention in class. Tears, anger, frustration and withdrawal now replace the happy well-adjusted behavior that was the norm all summer long. If this scenario sounds familiar, it may not be so mysterious: your child may have dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a genetic, language-based learning disability present in 10-15% of the population. It is a condition resulting in difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading and spelling. Over time there is often an emotional, behavioral cost that may influence personality over a lifespan.
While most dyslexics are happy and well-adjusted before they start school, dyslexia eventually takes its toll on social relationships because:
1) Dyslexic children may be physically and socially immature in comparison to their peers.
This can lead to a poor self-image and reduced confidence.
2) Dyslexic children may have difficulty reading social cues.
They may be oblivious to the amount of personal distance appropriate in social interactions and/or insensitive to other people’s body language.
3) Oral language function is often affected. Dyslexics may have trouble finding the right words and may stammer or pause before answering direct questions.
This puts them at a disadvantage, particularly as they enter adolescence, when language becomes more critical in establishing relationships with peers.
4) Children with dyslexia are at high risk for intense feelings of sorrow and pain.
5) Dyslexics sometimes demonstrate greatly exaggerated strengths and weaknesses and perform erratically from day to day.
Anxiety is the most frequent emotional symptom reported by dyslexics because of the large gaps in learning strengths and weaknesses that lead to inconsistent performance.
What can you do to help a child who may have dyslexia?
It is very important first of all to listen to the child’s feelings. Most emotionally healthy dyslexic children have someone that has been extremely supportive and encouraging early in life. Emotionally healthy dyslexics have found at least one area where they can succeed. Successful dyslexics also appear to have developed a commitment to help others.
Dyslexia can be overcome; the first step is recognizing the condition. The International Dyslexia Association (https://dyslexiaida.org/) has many resources for parents and teachers to explain dyslexia and provide referrals to qualified professionals who can help.
Aspire Speech & Learning Center also offers free dyslexia screenings and consultations to help you become more informed on your child's learning difficulties.
Kathryn Wage, MA, CCC-SLP
Founder and Director