October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. As a long time homeschooler with 20+ years of experience teaching kids with dyslexia, here are 10 truths I want you to be aware of:
1. Your kids will learn to read. Eventually. All kids learn to read in their own time. Our oldest kids who didn’t have the benefit of all of my current knowledge about dyslexia, didn’t read independently until 12 and took off from there. So if you’re worried because your 8-year old is struggling with Bob Books while his or her peers are reading chapter books, take a breath and know that it will come. (And get books on audio!)
2. But they may never spell well. After years of intensive educational therapy, some of my kids still have trouble with spelling. But you would never know it because they use assistive technology when typing and texting. I hear from parents all. the. time. that their kids are reading well but spelling – not so much. This is a reality of dyslexia. Get them up to speed on assistive technology and let it go!
3. The school years are HARD. I really did spend a lot of time agonizing over my kids learning difficulties in the early days. (I still worry some but not nearly as much!) From not remembering their math facts, to poor spelling and handwriting, to poor memory and a lack of attention… the school days are hard for kids with language based learning difficulties.
I don’t agree that all dyslexics have strengths outside of academia though. I have kids who write beautifully or love the sciences but still struggle to read and learn quickly. College is doable but with a lighter load and tutoring. It isn’t uncommon for a dyslexic student to understand the content better than their classmates and still do poorly on exams. The school years are hard, but fortunately, they don’t last forever.
4. The school years don’t look anything like your school years. The way kids with dyslexia learn is anything but linear and predictable. I have talked to more than one parent, concerned about a teen son’s reading ability. They can read but don’t like to. Then a few minutes later, I learn that this reluctant reader can rebuild a tractor motor and can basically run the family farm on his own. Hmmm. There really isn’t a place on the high school transcript for that kind of thing (at least not one that gives it the credit due). YOU need to know that this is highly valuable despite not being a high school graduation requirement. Our kids learn with different methods and on a different time table than traditional learners and that is okay. See #1 above!
5. Real life is easier. While all of my dyslexic kids learned to read later and struggled across the board with learning from one degree to another, once they hit the real world (i.e. graduated from high school) they are off and running. All of that time you spent helping them to understand themselves, how they learn, and nurturing their interests pays off big time once they are out of the school setting and able work and learn more on their own. All of our kids needed a few years to find their ‘thing’ but once they did – wowza!
6. Outside the box people are happier outside the box. What I mean by this is that, at least for my kids (and dyslexic husband) they struggle in cookie cutter types of environments. That is why the traditional school setting often doesn’t work for our kids. Their learning curve is way different than traditional learners and their strengths often lie outside of the typical word and logic intelligences. They master reading and writing later than their peers. They often don’t do well with testing even if they have a good understanding of the material. Standardized education is difficult for non-standard minds.
7. Accommodations and assistive technology are absolutely necessary. Once upon a time, a long time ago, this left-brained, linear mama who never struggled in school thought the use of assistive technology was unfair. I felt that my kids needed to write their own papers (not dictate them to me or a device) or that my kids couldn’t move ahead in math until they learned their multiplication tables. Please don’t fall into that trap. I have two kids who can write and express themselves with words better than I could imagine but I NEVER would have known unless I allowed them to dictate those words to me. How ironic to have a gift with words but not be able to physically write or spell them! Accommodation and assistive technology allow our kids to express themselves at their intellectual ability and cause confidence to soar.
8. Dyslexic people really can do anything. Of our 4 adult kids (all with dyslexia) all of them are pursuing their interests and excelling. One kid who struggled mightily with higher level math is currently taking Calculus in college. While the class isn’t easy, she is able to get the help she needs and is doing well. Taking and passing this class is leading her to her goal to become a physical therapist. Had you asked me a few years ago if I thought this was a possibility, I would have said definitely not. And here we are…
9. Dyslexia is not all bad. Although the school years can be tough, once our kids with dyslexia get out into the world, they often excel. I write this to encourage you that despite what it may seem, your dyslexic kids have amazing abilities that school curricula don’t often address. An ability to make unusual connections, to think outside the box, to imagine, to engineer, to create music, art, or businesses – these are areas where our kids EXCEL and that is good!
10. It’s not all good either. If you’re reading this post today, your kids, or grandkids, or students are very fortunate. There are some shocking statistics surrounding dyslexia. Without the support of some caring adult, whether a parent or teacher, many dyslexics slip through the cracks. The perform poorly in school and begin getting into trouble. There is an alarming amount of illiteracy in our prisons today and a large portion of those people are dyslexic but never received the kind of help you are giving the dyslexics in your life.