Our son and his dyslexia.
In this blog post I talk about dyslexia: what it means to me, how dyslexia has affected Bass, his dyslexic diagnosis, things we do at home and at school to help Bass.
What does dyslexia mean to me?
What does dyslexia mean to me?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects approximately 1 in 10 people. It is a processing information disorder. You are born with dyslexic, you cannot cure it and it is hereditary - someone you know in your family will have dyslexia. The classic definition of a dyslexic child is that the child will mix up their bs and ds and 6s and 9s but gosh I wish it was just this!!
So how has dyslexia affected Bass?
Bass's main dyslexic symptom is his inability or difficulty to process information. If you ask Bass what 7 x 8 is, he'll stare at you for about 7 seconds and you'll think he either doesn't know the answer or if he's even heard the question but then after approximately 7 seconds he'll say the correct answer. It affects his short term memory, working memory, visual memory and sequential memory. Let me give you another example - he will have had 5 swimming lessons with the same teacher but won't remember the teacher's name. It just does not register.
The educational psychologist who diagnosed Bass put it really well. She said most of us store our information in a tidy filing cabinet but for dyslexic children they have a filing cabinet and all their pieces of paper are crammed in, in no order and every time they have to go and retrieve that piece of information that they’ve been asked to do from their brain there is no system and it takes them ages.
Bass's go-to statement is: “What did you say?”
He finds writing painful, spelling painful, doing anything in a rush painful. He also finds sequencing information difficult so putting the months of the year in order is hard or days of the week. Bass also struggles to find the right words and pronounce them. He can't hear syllables in words and has poor phonological awareness. Bass finds speaking frustrating because he can't get his words out and he finds it hard to express himself.
Everything and all of this makes him very very tired and he hates to be rushed!
Bass finds too much information at anyone time overwhelming whether it is spoken or written and finds it difficult to retrieve information from his long term memory.
What does everyone do to help Bass in a nutshell?
Time, time, TIME! We give him more time. More time to think, more time to speak, more time to put on his shoes, brush his teeth, do his homework - everything and everything - we give him more time.
We also give him more leeway. When he was diagnosed initially I wanted him to keep up with his peers - now I just want to make his life easier.
We adapt his environment and make life easier for Bass in a number of ways and I've listed them below:
Social and emotional help: We try and improve his confidence and self-esteem using positive affirmations, encouraging and rewarding him, encouraging him to try new things and getting him to write in a feelings book.
Environmentally: we sit him at the front of the class, not near windows and doors and next to a sympathetic buddy.
Reading and writing help: we drill his phonological awareness using phonics flashcards, do paired reading and writing daily, provide reading material way in advance, he doesn't have to read aloud in class unless he wants to and we encourage audio books.
Teaching help: we do pre-teaching where possible, don't give anymore than three pieces of information to him at anyone time, reduce copying from the board, check Bass has understood instructions, give Spellings before everyone else, in the future we'll use assistive technology and we use things like Katie's Classroom to encourage pre-learning and revision.
Memory help: we play lots of games with him to encourage his memory such as Simon Says, Repeat after Me, I went to the supermarket and bought… and the memory tray game for example.
So what about the positives and the future?
Dyslexics are renowned for their creativity and problem solving and Bass is good at both of these things and so much so that firms are actively recruiting dyslexics because of the way their brain works. I don't worry about his future future but I do worry about his educational journey but with the right understanding, knowledge and support, I think he'll be ok.
I hope this has been really helpful.