Dyslexia the Confidence Crusher…
I have had so many messages from pupils saying they feel their teachers don’t understand them and that they wish they did not have to go to school and wishing that they could read better, spell better and write better. My own children are included in this.
We have all been back at school for a month and reality has hit back in and I think maybe some teachers need to understand the daily battle people with dyslexia have of trying to keep themselves confident whilst every lesson drains every ounce of energy and enthusiasm from them. I include myself in this because I remember what it was like to be a pupil experiencing dyslexia. You can’t see the end, all we know is there are at least 10 months to go… every hour feels like a day, the clock moves so slowly and the school day feels endless and overwhelming.
I should feel angry, because there continues to be so much ignorance around what dyslexia actually is and what it impacts but instead I’m am trying to remain positive and educate people.
Dyslexia is Not only a label – I have been part of many meetings at several schools in the last few weeks where they have flippantly commented ‘Oh that child has their diagnosis of dyslexia now…’ It’s as if now they have the label that in itself will fix it.
None of these schools seemed able to tell me what they were actually doing about it, or how their teaching is going to change as a result of this label or what adaptations or support is going to be put in place to ensure they fulfil their potential. It seems the label itself holds the magic that will fix it. That they somehow are now not responsible for helping that pupil any further than the label because by simply acknowledging the label this alone will help.
Dyslexia affects more than Reading and spelling – where do I start. This is simply the tip of a massive iceberg. Reading and spelling difficulties are as a result of processing, working memory and phonological difficulties which impact more than low reading and spelling itself.
These difficulties impact how quickly you can pick up a dance or a routine. They impact how you remember multiplication tables in maths. They impact the speed you are able to complete work. The speed you can recall and put words together both verbally and on paper. It impacts the amount of instructions you can remember, retain and follow. School is about all of these things ALL the time, so dyslexia impacts every minute of every lesson. It doesn’t only just come out in the 15 minute spelling intervention… Dyslexia, unfortunately is there ALL the time.
WHOLE CLASS WEEKLY LOOK COVER WRITE CHECK will not teach a person with dyslexia to spell – people with dyslexia need to understand how sounds and letters work together. We need to know how to match sounds to letters, how to attack words when reading, breaking into syllables or sounds. We need explicit teaching of spelling rules so we can apply them. We need to learn words in rhyme groups so we can transfer them to long term memory.
Lists of random words that have different spelling rules will never stick… They may go in for test day, (Simply because we have rehearsed them endlessly for hours at home until our hands hurt) but we will have no hope of applying them a few days later when needed become they won’t be filed affectively. All we remember is we knew how to spell it on test day and now we cannot remember it, therefor it must be our fault!
Handwriting is likely to be untidy – it’s an inherent symptom of a pupil experiencing an SpLD and telling them it is unacceptable or messy will not fix it. You MUST TRY HARDER just hurts us further because we have most likely already tried out best… To write comments about handwriting in books is devastating for pupils. Those comments are a constant reminder every time they use their book of what they cannot do. This is not growth mind-set.
Generally a person with Dyslexia or an SpLD is aware that they have not done something right. Generally they have actually already given it 110%. Telling them to try harder simply fuels the existing feelings of failure we hold onto. Handwriting is often untidy because our working memories are working extra hard to think about what we want to write, remember spellings, punctuation and subject matter, finger spaces and to keep it on the line. We don’t actively produce untidy work to annoy teachers – It just happens and it upsets no one more than it upsets us.
Starting work is difficult – most of the pupils with dyslexia I work with generally have low self-esteem because they never finish work, or never feel they have done enough because of 2 reasons. It takes them a long time to get started or their ability to produce work quickly is impaired because they have not fully understood, because they feel totally overwhelmed, because the noise in the classroom is interfering with their ability to think. Secondly starting working is difficult because often we genuinely don’t know how to start, might not have the right equipment or have an understanding of what we are trying to produce.
Being dyslexic myself and having worked with 100s of pupils with dyslexia I can confidently speak on behalf of them that their constant failure to complete work is making us feel fairly rubbish about ourselves and is not a purposeful intention to annoy our teachers.
People with Dyslexia find school HARD and Exhausting because they are having to work twice as hard to keep up. Not only are they battling to complete the work, often but not always quietly, they are also having a constant battle with themselves to keep going, keep trying and keep smiling.
Please be aware we people with dyslexia hate school. For us school is genuinely like torture because you measure, test and constantly ask us to do things which are difficult, challenging and uncomfortable for us. From the minute we enter the building. Often you will not realise this because we are compliant wall flowers who are eager to please and wish to do well. Some of us are the opposite and are confrontational or play the class clown in an effort to completely avoid the issue of work. We are accomplished at hiding our true feelings around school and save these for home.
Yep I get the frustration of seeing the potential in a pupil and the pupil appearing no to care but we must not project this frustration or blame onto them because believe me when I say, you share that frustration with them and you are damaging their self-esteem and adding another brick to the wall we are building to keep ourselves hidden.
Next time you flippantly or sarcastically call a child lazy or tell them they need to try harder or that their handwriting is simply not acceptable please consider that we are human beings who have self-esteem which hangs on a thread. We are simply trying to do our best and basically battling to survive the day hoping that today we might find it easier or today we might not make as many mistakes. You may think we are not resilient but man if you knew how much we beat ourselves up you would understand that resilience is second nature to us and resilience is pretty much what allows us to get through the day.
So please take a deep breath and smile at us, praise our effort and coach us through by finding something positive within us to praise and know we are trying and know we live it hope that tomorrow Dyslexia will not beat us.
With Love from a dyslexic student
Author of ‘Don’t forget to smile… A memoir uncovering the hidden difficulties of dyslexia available from Amazon