I have been sharing so much personal information about my son that I would remiss not to share some intimate details about myself. I know if my mom was on the internet blabbing all about my struggles, I would want her to spill the tea on herself a bit. Right? Right! Now that I am a parent myself, I realized how great of a job my mom and dad did raising me. We had rules, which seemed very strict at the time, but were just actually good common sense. We could not run wild, we had curfews, there were expectations to do well in school and above all else, you respected adults, especially your elders. These are good rules right? Nothing outlandish, nothing obscure.
Why mention any of this? Well because as far back as I can remember I have always struggled with depression, low self-esteem, insecurities. All of us have from time to time, right? This was different. I remember being so sad and feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders all of the time. Why? I have no idea, maybe it is just the way my brain was wired. Maybe I had a learning disability that went unnoticed. I recall middle school being extremely hard emotionally. I do not recall anyone really picking up on it. If they did, it was more a matter of me being “too sensitive”, “too dramatic”, or being told I just “need to get over it”. There was no time for depression, there was no time for bad grades, there was no time to be a behavior problem in school. Where these things my parents said to me, not at all. These were the things that ran through my mind. These were the pressures I put upon myself, my like my little one does to himself.
As I have gotten to know my son over the last eight years, I have gotten to know myself. Our children really are a reflection of us and it is important to me that I reflect goodness, light, and positivity. I strive everyday to be better than the day before. Does that always work? Of course not, but I certainly try. (But, I beg of you, please do not ever listen in on my phone calls with my sister because I VENT….. A LOT. I am human and parenting is hard, she is a good listener.)
Maybe I am overly intune, over read, a helicopter parent, but I do not ever want to hear my son tell me he wished he had never been born again. I don’t want to see the stress and worry that comes across his face when a reading test is scheduled or a writing assignment is on the horizon. The reason I am so overly cautious and protective, is because when I look back on my childhood, especially those middle school years, I wish someone would have picked up on the depression I had as a kid. I am sure as my parents read this, they will be surprised that I ever had thoughts and feelings about suicide, but I did. And as good as I was at school, I absolutely hated it. These are signs of dyslexia.
I remember being a horrible speller, as in the worst. The classroom Spelling Bee was the death of me. I was always so embarrassed. I swear if I had the confidence to speak up I would have said I had diarrhea. Telling the class I had the runs or better yet, vomiting in the classroom trash can would have been better than misspelling the word vacation or believe in front of the entire class. (Side note, spell check had to fix the words misspelling and believe). I am still a terrible speller to this day. Spell check and I are the best friends forever. Remember the dictionary, I used that thing like a mother.I did not learn the “rules”. You know “i” before “e” except after “c”. I legit still have to say that in my head when I encounter this situation. I had a teacher once tell me that the difference between desert and dessert is that you always want two helpings of dessert, not the desert. Still remember that trick to this day. Not being able to spell, a sign of dyslexia.
Let’s talk about another one of my difficulties shall we. I have a huge secret to share. I cannot read outloud without mispronouncing at least one word. Want to know why? I do not know how to sound out words. At all. I have memorized all of the words I know because even at 40, I have no concept of the 44 sounds of the alphabet. This could be because when I went through school they were still teaching whole-language or this very well could be a sign of dyslexia.
My son does not believe I have dyslexia “like” him and he is right. He is diagnosed, I am not. This is normal, most people are not diagnosed and dyslexia has a vast amount of traits. No two people are alike. Our dyslexia is completely different, yet just the same. I have taught my son to be an advocate for himself. He should be proud of his dyslexic brain because it means he was chosen to be special, to be different. It can be a struggle because he does not look dyslexic (whatever that means) and he does not sound dyslexic (again, people do not have a clue), but you drop a 3rd grade book down in front of him, ask him to write a paragraph, or give him too many directions at one time…..and all of a sudden he “looks” dsylexic. Hell, my son has an IEP, that he had to qualify for based on a certain set of criteria and people still do not believe us. He works so hard, he always puts others first, he is kind in school, and he talks a lot. He hides it well, so do I. This is a sign of dyslexia.
In previous blog posts, I discussed the definition of dyslexia and shared how it is neurobiological in nature. Bajaj & Bhatia (2019) further explain that “ it is characterised by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities” (p.50).
The correlation between dyslexia, ADHD, and mental health is a real concern, at least for us. When we first went through the diagnosis and evaluation process, his dyslexia and ADHD were treated as separate entities. At first, I even made the decision to “treat” the issues separately myself. I even consulted our peditrication about medication for ADHD, which led to the worst night of my entire life. (I promise more on that to come.) All I can say is you don’t know what you don’t know. Caroll & Iles and Wilson et al. (as cited by Bajaj & Bhatia, 2019) state that “despite dyslexias ascertained neurobiological origin, there is broad literature on the links between specific learning disabilities and socio-emotional difficulties” (p.50). This is where my own research came into play. As I read, researched, and worked toward earning my second master’s degree in literacy, I focused a lot of time and energy on dyslexia. This blog, part of my capstone project, is focused on my passion for learning about dyslexia.
The article by Bajaj & Bhatia (2019) touches on so many sensitive topics such as low self esteem, a difficult time with self-identity, low sense of worth, and that often individuals with dyslexia feel ashamed and others view them as having low intelligence. I can tell you that is not true for all. My son’s FSIQ is 107 (average range) and his general ability level is 117 (slightly above average). His verbal comprehension is 124 (very high range). In our case, intelligence is not one of our concerns. (Don’t worry, we have a lot of other concerns, to be addressed as we get to know each other.) His processing speed is a different story, for another blog.
As Bajaj & Bhatia (2019) go on to further discuss other factors that impact or influence students with dyslexia, they note relationships with teachers, peers, and family as being significant in how the individual with dyslexia views themself. It only makes sense right? Treat students and your kids with kindness and a willingness to understand them. They are not being lazy, they are not stupid, they do not lack intellegience. Do not shame them, ever, at all. I promise you they are trying their best. When they get home, they take it out on you. Let them. They have held it inside all day at school. Why do they take it out on you and no one else? Because you are their home, their safety net, their circle of trust.
All of this information can be frustrating, overwhelming and even upsetting. If you are a parent and you do not understand, ask questions, seek multiple professional opinions, use the internet to search for information. Ask me questions, I am happy to share our experiences and all that we went through. If you are a teacher, read about dyslexia (or any disability you are not familiar with). I have a master’s degree in special education and I NEVER received any training on dyslexia. None, not one word or sentence ever. Attend professional development, read books, use the internet. If you are an adult that has struggled your entire life and you have found yourself here, it may be more difficult to receive an official diagnosis, but that is okay. You can literally do anything you want in life. I cannot spell if my life depended on it, but I can write master’s level papers. I just use my resources.
I am sure there are mistakes throughout this post, but I don’t care. Do you want to know why? My son is a reflection of me. I want my son to see me be brave because if I am brave, he will be brave. I cannot read out loud with confidence, but I try because if I try something that is hard for me, he will try something that is hard for him. If I show him it is okay to struggle with anxiety and depression and that is okay, he will stand tall and know it will be okay for him too.
Am I embarrassed about it, hell yes! This is raw and real. Mental health has such a stigma and I am tired of hiding it. I am tired of beating around the bush and pretending it doesn’t exist for me, for my son, for the world around us. If I stand tall and proud, my son will too. The right supports can make all of the difference in the world. It could literally be the difference between failure and success, life and death. I don’t know why I hid my deep dark feelings as a teen to myself. I wish those are things you could just talk about openly. My son and I have a very honest and real relationship. I try not to make him feel ashamed or embarrassed.
I leave you with one final thought, you must understand that not all individuals with dyslexia suffer from depression, anxiety, and a lack of self worth. Those are conversations that must be had with medical professionals. We have sought the support of these individuals and I am so glad that I have been honest with myself. This is our story of discovering dyslexia. What is yours?
Bajaj, D., & Bhatia, S. (2019). Psychosocial Functioning in Children with Dyslexia: Perspectives from Parents, Counsellors and Teachers. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 30(4), 49–76. https://doi.org/10.5463/DCID.v30i4.847
4 thoughts on “Dealing with Dyslexia”
It is interesting and helpful to read an adult’s account of being dyslexic. My brother married into a family with dyslexia, then his eldest son also married into a family with dyslexia. There is no dyslexia in our family that I am aware of. The eldest son’s daughter is dyslexic, and her mother and I finally realised that when she was 7 1/2. We went to her middle school “open maths morning”, and i was puzzled by some of what she said and did. Back at home a few days later I tested her on basic addition and subtraction under 15, a short test, and she totally freaked out, had a meltdown. It was not a long test. I wrote a few comments on my list and took it to her mother in the kitchen. Mother looked terrible, and said “my brother was like that.” Her brother had had terrible trouble at school, and even now in his mid forties can barely read at a 7 year level. I am a retired primary school teacher and work with her one afternoon a week after school, helping her with maths, then doing craft work which she loves and does well. She is now almost ten, doing well at maths reading and writing. We boost her as much as we can, but she does not explain it to us. I think this is partly because she finds it hard to explain, and partly because the consequences of her dyslexia embarass her deeply. I am sure her excellent results at school take an enormous effort as she gets so exhausted by the end of the day. I will follow your blog with interest. we want to help her as much as we can.
Thank you for your kind words. I am excited you found my blog interesting. I have struggled to find a place to connect and find information since my son’s diagnosis three years ago. I always tell my son he was blessed with dyslexia because he thinks of things no one else ever does. What is your niece an “expert” at doing? Help her find and identify those strengths and she will really start to build confidence. My son loves crafts as well do I. It is a creative outlet for us both. Thank you again for commenting and connecting with me! I truly appreciate it. Keep it touch!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for your reply. Here in New Zealand children are not diagnosed with dyslexia officially, although primary school teachers are recognising the signs. Specialist teachers are finding that dyslexic children are helped by practice with letter blocks in words, eg rhyme words, consonant and vowel blends in words. My great niece was put in a group to do this in her second year of school, and on a supervised group programme each day using a computer programme. in hr third year. I sat with her at home a few times as she did it. She loved doing it. And I am sure those two programmes were key to her getting ahead and reading and writing so well. What I missed was the fact that she was also having difficulty reading and writing maths, even though she was good doing it with concrete materials. But that morning in year three at the open maths morning as I worked beside her something was obviously very wrong. However her results in the nationwide standard maths and language tests at school at the end of each year have been excellent. I was puzzled at how well she was doing at the end of year three, both with me and with the co-ordination and balance exercises with her parents. I think she must have been helped by our recognition that she had significant difficulties others do not have, that we know it is not her fault, and we can see how hard she is trying all the time. She loves all kinds of paper crafts. After our weekly maths sessions I have been doing origami or crochet with her, at her request. Crochet is hard going, but she really slogs at it. She also loves anything to do with food – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and now does much of it independently. Yes, please keep in touch ! Thank you !
Sounds like your doing a good job as a mother. And yeah Dyslexics do seem to be a bit more prone to depression than most. We tend to feel emotion quite strongly. Just make sure your son gets to do the stuff he is good at as well as the stuff he isn’t and he’ll pull through it fine.