Dyslexia… How to fulfil potential when the odds are never in our favour!
So my boy passed his grade 3 trumpet exam… He did amazingly given he was terrified and physically shaking 5 minutes before and nearly didn’t go in! In his words… ‘ next time mum I’ll be nervous but not terrified because I’ll know what to expect!’
The boy is learning that you need to experience things and every time you do it, it becomes easier! However we still have the battles because he finds things hard… But doesn’t everyone? Everyone has something they find tricky…
This for me is an interesting point as no one really truly knows how tricky someone else finds something and no one truly knows how hard someone might be working to try and understand new things. However with the knowledge we can gain about how a person learns best through assessment and observation we can find the best route in and we can find a way to teach that best suits a learner. We can level the playing field and give everyone the best chance.
I have a great example of how dyslexia can stop you fulfilling your potential if you don’t understand it. It’s an example showing how dyslexia creeps in at unexpected times and how it can be the most frustrating and infuriating influence on how you cope and respond in life changing situations!
We are currently trying to foster our sons love of music, considering a change of school placement. Several of the schools we are considering require him to undertake a musical aptitude test. Just after Christmas he attended the first one… He was nervous, but not terrified after all it was music… In his words… ‘It’s my thing, I love it, it’s like in my bones.’ I wasn’t worried, I knew he’d do his best and that is all I can ever ask him to do!
He came out buzzing saying it was great, amazing… Brilliant even all apart from the bit when he had to write… In his words ‘this bit was a disaster, I did it all wrong, I wrote in the wrong boxes, I couldn’t think of words to write, when I could think of words to write I couldn’t spell them so I hardly wrote anything down.’
All he had to do was listen to some music, film scores, popular classical music and jazz music, all music he is familiar with and then simply write down 3 things the music made him feel!
You might be thinking, what a lovely task and perhaps well suited for a 10 year old, totally achievable! Sadly, in this task I know he didn’t show his potential and here is why…
When you put a pen in my sons hand he freezes. He genuinely looses all power of positivity and becomes unable to function. The reason for this is his weak working memory. It’s very very low and the minute he has to write as well as think his brain becomes like a motorway in rush hour… Bottleneck, traffic jam, standstill. As a result he panics which makes the traffic jam tighter!
He made an error on the first piece of music not realising the 3 boxes on the page were for the first piece of music alone. He crammed all his words into one box! Then on the next piece of music the ‘Superman’ sound track he knows he wrote the words happy and jolly. He couldn’t remember what he wrote for the rest but said the music was great!
After this he had to complete a drumming task, which I know he would have been fab at because his rhythm is pretty amazing. He makes music from anything and everything and is always, tapping, kicking and knocking out beats, a bit like a 24/7 version of ‘Stomp!’ As I said he came out of the whole thing happy and what will be will be but here is the frustrating element and the great example of what dyslexia can do!
4 hours later when we were cooking tea together he started talking again about the music he had heard, he talked animatedly, with no promoting, just shear passion and understanding for the music. ‘Hey mum’ he said ‘don’t you think the superman music makes you feel like you want to go and achieve something great, you know do something good.’ I reply, ‘please tell me you wrote that down.’ He replies no ‘sorry mum, just thought of it now!’
Holding the pen had forced his working memory into shutdown. A shut gateway stopping any thinking from coming in or going out! He’d lost his ability to think freely! His motorway was jammed, what was worse was he could see everyone else’s free flowing as they wrote their ideas down causing his thinking to slow down even further.
If only there had been an opportunity for me to tell them he is a young man with dyslexia. If only they hadn’t given him the pen, they would have heard this and this brilliant explanation about achievement, this is his potential! This is what he can do at his best!
What would have helped him during this test achieve his potential? Having the music a few minutes in advance, someone scribing for him, being able to read and circle words, being able to discuss and verbalise his thinking. This is not about providing an advantage but about levelling the playing field and making it fair.
The impact of working memory and slow processing is not always obvious and can often be hidden. This is why so many dyslexic people don’t fulfil their potential. My son is going to fulfil his potential because I understand what he needs. I hope to educate others because simple changes can make a big difference! It’s about always considering what more we can do to play to someone’s strengths and what more we can do to ensure we see a persons gifts. It’s about taking the time to get to know someone because only then can we find the right way in and only then can we see what a person is truly capable of because we understand how to adapt things for them so that we can see their best side.
He’s right by the way… Superman music does feel inspirational! It inspired me to write this to share my experience to help others! My super boy did it again! Being dyslexic is definitely not all bad, you just need to understand it and know where it hides! Whether you are a teacher or a parent I hope that this post helps you understand your superheroes a little better… they can only change the world if we give the the skills to let them! Jodyslexicrees
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