By Jules Johnson As soon as a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, most parents (myself included) go into "fix it" mode. We hear things like "if you don't get him in the right intervention by such and such age, he may never catch up." And "if your teacher isn't certified, your child won't catch up as quickly as he should." And "if you don't do this specific program, your child may never read." I've heard it all. It's enough to send you into a panicked whirlwind of research! Find the right intervention. Find the right tutor. Read. Read. Read. READ. But, take a deep breath ... Now, let it out. In my line of work here at Learning Ally, I have the privilege of speaking with adults who have dyslexia every day. I always ask them the same question. They always tell me the same thing. "Knowing what you do today, what would you say to your 8-year-old self?"
The answer, never fail is "I have seen the future, and it will be okay."
Yes, I tear up every single time I hear it because you know what that answer also tells me? That a whole lot of 8-year-old dyslexics worry that it, in fact, WILL NOT be okay. It's our job, as adults in their lives, to change that. To make them know in their very soul it will be okay! How do we do that? I mean beyond telling them. How do we make them know it in their bones? If we look closely, many dyslexics have given us a map for helping our own children. Today I want to share that knowledge with you. Here are 7 insights from people who have dyslexia about the powerful way mentors helped them realize their full potential.
1. Speak Positively.
Singer and songwriter Emily West, who was a finalist on America's Got Talent, recently sat down for an interview with Dr. Michael Hart, an educational psychologist. She spoke of her road to musical success, but she also made a point to acknowledge her parents' view of dyslexia: "I didn't think I had a problem. They just let me fly. The reason I don't talk about my dyslexia is because it's not a problem. There's a brilliance to dyslexia that a lot of people don't talk about." That really struck me. Do our children worry that "it won't be okay" because we, as parents, are constantly trying to "fix" it? That doesn't mean to stop working with them on reading. However, it did change my own perspective a bit. It is going to be okay. Check out Emily's full interview here.
2) Repeat the Message.
My own 6 year old daughter loves to sing. She will often say she she doesn't think she sings well, but as her mother I always tell her I love to hear her sing. I tell her it is beautiful. She'll smile, but her body language also gives the appearance of brushing me off. It seems to say "you have to say that because you are my Mom, but I know I'm not really a good singer." Last night, she left her notebook out. I looked down and saw this drawing. In her 6 year old dyslexic writing it says "when I sing, it is beautiful." She does hear me. She is believing it. And she is right. When she sings, it is beautiful. It is going to be okay.
3) Let them Explore.
My 8 year old son, who has severe dyslexia, has a deep curiosity and fascination with nature. Anytime we see a new bug on a hike, we ask my son to identify it. He always knows. He knows all of the animals, what they eat, and where they spend their days (caves, trees, dirt, etc). His gift is obvious to us, but I wasn't sure if maybe I was just a "biased Mom" until I received the following note from his Wilson Reading teacher. Her words blew me away. "He gets that God's creation is a wonder beyond books. He reads what the Creator made and savors each part of it. His journeys with nature are rich." Those words ...wow. Our kids have talents beyond our wildest dreams. He READS nature. He reads. In a totally different way than I ever imagined. It is going to be okay.
4) Provide a Way.
Author and Co-Founder of Eye to Eye, David Flink, often tells a story about high school frustrations. He was good at science, but he couldn't read his textbook to do his assignment. Out of frustration, he ran upstairs and slammed his door. His parents could have gotten mad. Yelled at him. Grounded him. They didn't though. Instead, he says: "My Dad offered something extraordinary. He offered to read me the book." It seems like such a small gesture, but to David .....extraordinary. Watch him tell the full story here. It is going to be okay.
5) Make Them Your Hero.
Best selling author of the Percy Jackson Series, Rick Riordan is also the father of a child who has dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). His son, Haley, loves stories about Olympians. When they finished reading all of the published stories, Rick began making them up on his own. However, he gave his tales a twist - dyslexia and ADHD became signs of super powers. "Percy has changed my life," says Haley. "You read a lot of books and none of them have a hero who is dyslexic or has ADHD – it's always perfect people in a perfect world doing perfect things. Percy is, in fact, very flawed and he has to fight against that and at the same time fight monsters." Check out their complete story here. It is going to be okay.
6) Believe in Them.
Inventor Thomas Edison didn't always have it so easy. In fact, he flunked out of school early by being deemed "too stupid to learn." However, his mother knew better. Without her, we may not be enjoying the light that makes this very article readable right now! "My mother was the making of me," said Edison. "She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint." Read how another mother found inspiration in Edison's story for her own children. It is going to be okay.
7) Let Them Lead.
Actor and Screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton struggled through elementary and middle school. His world changed when his high school drama teacher, Ms Treadway, took notice. "Listen, I think you could actually become very successful at this in the future!" She told him "I am going to start letting you write your own scenes." In the DISLECKSIA: The Movie, Thornton recalls "it was the first time in my life, in an organized setting, where somebody ever said 'wow! you're good at this! I'm going to let you do what you want." Looks like Ms Treadway was right. Watch this clip from the movie here. It is going to be okay. It will be BETTER than okay! Our kids will do amazing things if we just let them fly! I can't wait to see what this next generation accomplishes! If you'd like to know more ways to help your child, check out our on-demand online conference, Spotlight on Dyslexia. Hosted live this past week, you can watch recordings of every expert-led session now through February 4, 2016. There is a wealth of information about how to help your child succeed with dyslexia. The conference is available on demand to watch as much as you want until February 4, 2016. Register here: LearningAlly.org/DyslexiaConference