As strong and creative as dyslexia has helped me become, I couldn’t get to where I am without the support of my loved ones and teachers. Many of my readers are parents or people who care deeply for someone with dyslexia, so I thought I’d share three of the most helpful ways people in my life have
nourished my self esteem.
As always, I invite others to add their two cents in the comments.
Food For Thought
Some of my favorite memories from my developmental years are of going to the local science museum, field trips with plant or animal guides in tow or outings to historical landmarks. My interests have always been a little on the geeky side, but the fact adults in my life saw enough worth in my interests to take me places helped me get through the darker times.
Regardless of how old your struggling loved one is, take a little extra effort to help them learn more about what they’re passionate about. Are they interested in music? Find out if there are landmarks in your area related to their favorite genre. Are they sports fans? See if there’s a way to get tickets to a game, or get them involved with playing.
When it comes to dyslexia, the negativity experienced in school must be countered with positivity outside of class. One way to turn the negative self talk into positive is to demonstrate that their interests are valid, useful and worth pursuing.
When you take an interest in their interests, you’re actually showing your affection and belief in them.
Listen (and Read) Without Judgement
One of the biggest hurdles of this wiring is our difficulty with communication. Dyslexia is best known for the difficulty it gives us in writing and reading, but it also impacts speech and conversations. That’s because it effects our processing speed, which means words can be harder for us to find quickly. Often, we end up coming up with the wrong word or we need to describe what the thing is we’re trying to name.
If a young dyslexic loves writing stories, and honors you with showing their work, look past spelling or grammatical errors. Concentrate instead on things like content, concepts, plot and descriptions. However, if they ask you to point out mechanical errors, do so, but keep judgemental comments to yourself. They’ll learn with practice and encouragement.
As for conversations, have patience with them. I’ve gotten to the point where I turn my embarrassing word recall problems into jokes, but not everyone can do that. This particular frustration can be an area of great insecurity to the dyslexic. Having issues coming up with words quickly is not a reflection on their intelligence.
Offer Tools At the Right Time
It was a rush when I was finally mainstreamed out of my special education classes in high school. I still got extra time on most tests, but I also still had problems with spelling and reading speed. Just because I had ways to get around my issues didn’t mean they were gone.
One day, an English teacher handed out brand new dictionaries and thesauruses to the class. Although we were a bit old at the time for this advice, it stuck with me nonetheless. She said, “These two tools will be your best friends as writers. If you find a word you don’t understand when reading, look it up in your dictionary. If you get stuck on using one word over and over again, find a synonym in your Thesaurus.”
|My most frequently used reference/quote shelf over the desk.|
Those tips about becoming more independent were exactly what I needed at the time, because I was struggling in silence. I still use those two books from time to time.
Since then, there have been some wonderful advances in assistive technology. Spell check is one almost everyone uses, but now there’s speech-to-text and text-to-speech to help with reading and writing. There are tinted glasses, for those with Irlen syndrome, and anyone can change the background in most word programs. (Bright white backgrounds compound dyslexic issues.) Audiobooks and ebooks are great, too.
The dyslexic individual might not know these things even exist, so pointing them out can be a huge step. You can find many free versions of them, too, like the Kindle reader program and Learning Ally.
For the record, I love the Kindle program. Setting the background on “Sepia” or “Black” helps immensely, as do the options for larger font and various page set ups.
There are many other ways to help your dyslexic loved one, but these three have made a huge difference in my life. When I’m feeling particularly down about myself, they still help me today.