Many youngsters around the world have already returned to school, but here in Spain my daughter, Phoenix, returns on Monday. She is really looking forward to the new school year which is a relief, since after beginning secondary school, her enthusiasm for school deteriorated. Since I love reading and writing, I have always encouraged and helped both of my children with every aspect of their education, and when they were young, always read them a bedtime story.
My son, James, learnt to read rapidly and was ahead of his friends when he started school. Phoenix was a different story and reading was a major problem. At first I tried hard not to compare her to James because all children develop at different speeds. I encouraged her daily and tried not to draw too much attention to her level of reading. It was when she began school that the depth of her problem was revealed and I thought that she might have dyslexia. Eventually she was diagnosed with dyslexia and did receive some extra help. When she progressed to high school, gradually her enthusiasm for school faded, due to being belittled for having dyslexia. Some teachers would force her to read aloud in class, which led to her being laughed at by her peers, which reduced her self esteem. Although she did receive some extra help, her teacher thought she should not be in a mainstream class. This would have been disastrous for Phoenix, not only at the present time, but also her whole future would be at stake. I took drastic measures and changed her school. I am so impressed how Phoenix excelled last year at her new school and although she still requires extra help, her confidence has returned, her grades have improved dramatically and she even talks about career opportunities for the future.
Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. Phoenix is exceedingly bright and very clever. In her previous school, she was told that she was not trying hard enough, which wasn’t always true. If you can’t read something, how can you possible answer the questions? Exams have always caused Phoenix problems. I would help her revise and ask her questions at home and she would get them correct but when it came to taking the exam, she would forget everything and even become physically ill. Gradually, taking exams is improving. Phoenix does excell with projects and learns from experiments and demonstations. Although her reading has improved she still has problems with comprehension.
Dyslexia can also create problems with telling the time and organisation, which has affected Phoenix. To help Phoenix, she has a white-board in her room where we list all her school assigments, when they are due to be finished, when she has exams etc. I find that the more organised she is, the better she copes with dyslexia. When Phoenix was younger, I used to write names of household objects on stickers and place them on the corresponding items. There are many ways to help youngsters with dyslexia and dyslexia is definitely not the end of the road. Many famous people have dyslexia and have gone on to achieve great things, for example, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Henry Winkler, Muhammad Ali, F.Scott Fitzgerald and the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg. The list of famous people with dyslexia is endless, but it shows that dyslexia has not stopped them achieving their goals.
There are many more signs that could mean a child has dyslexia and naturally, the earlier it is detected the better. I have read so much about dyslexia, to enable me to understand it and be in a stronger position to help my daughter. Phoenix has struggled, and still is struggling, but she is now developing her own personal goals and her confidence has returned. Dyslexia is frustrating and emotionally painful. Thankfully it is now recognised and there is not such a big stigma attached to it. All parents should encourage their children to read, write and study – if you have a child with dyslexia, you just have to try harder and be extra patient.
I know how worrying it is when you think that your child has dyslexia and when it is diagnosed, so if you have any questions about dyslexia, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Until next time – keep chasing your dreams!