This email is for Dr. Michael Ryan. I am writing on behalf of my sister who has a strongly dyslexic 8-year-old son. All that I have read on your website seems to make so much sense both in reasoning why he behaves has he does, what my sister has been trying so hard to do for him and what you recommend. It's literally been a revelation what you've said!

I must say he is an only child so he does have a lot of focus from my sister, but ever since he has been at school he has found doing 'fun' things such as performing in school plays, class parties, etc. very upsetting, getting anxious and then his parents having a terrible time getting him into school. He has developed a 'tic' but have to say does not get naughty, he is a very nice young man, it's just his parents that see the upset at home.

The very sad fact of the matter he is very behind his academic peers, so this and the fact that the school is not helping very much with all the development that surrounds a dyslexic child has led my sister to seek out a 'special' dyslexic school. However, we are very worried that the change of school which is also going to mean the family moving house is in itself going to upset him, although it seems in the long run the best for him. They are wondering if a behavioral or clinical psychologist would be worth pursuing to help him deal with this transition?

I expect you have gathered we are from England (supposedly with an excellent education system). I cannot believe how bad it is for dyslexic children here, since knowing of my nephews' dyslexia it has really opened my eyes to how difficult it is and how the education system lets them down. I am a nurse and I am constantly trying to learn and put into practice better ways for my patients it doesn't seem that many teachers want to do the same for a fair percentage of children that are dyslexic.

I would be very grateful for your thoughts on this situation.

 

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I have forwarded your question to Dr. Ryan. The DyslexiaHelp email comes in to me—and this is definitely Michael's area of expertise.

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Dr. Michael Ryan's response:

I'm very sorry to hear about your nephew. When a school is unable to meet the needs of the child, it is very frustrating and frightening. Many times, the child is more likely to act out these behaviors at home where he or she feels safe. However, your nephew needs to learn to be able to push past these feelings in order for him to be successful. In order for parents to teach their child this self-discipline, they have to know that the child can be successful at the task they are asking him to do. Asking a child to do something he's incapable of does not produce self-discipline, but instead it produces dependence and learned helplessness.

This makes finding the right school essential. Undoubtedly, there will be stress in switching schools. However, the short-term stress is less damaging than the consequences of long-term failure and not learning basic skills. Luckily, there are a number of things that your sister can do to help ease the transition.

First, she can help her child understand that he learns differently and the problems he's been having arise not from him, but from the school's inability to teach him correctly. The good news is that his parents have been able to find the school in which he can be successful. A couple of trips to his new school before the first day may be very helpful. Meeting his new teacher can be a reassuring. Furthermore, more learning s to how to get to his classroom and the location of the bathrooms can ease many children's worries.

Helping the child talk about his feelings is also critical. If he seems to be having difficulty labeling his feelings, your sister might say something like “if I were you I'd be feeling scared and lonely.” This should be followed by encouragement. Let the child know that you believe he can be successful. Using specific examples of other challenges he's conquered can also be very helpful. Finally, it's critical to be firm with the child. Let him know that this is something he needs to do and you expect him to do his very best. Again, always with the attitude you believe in him.

Keep in mind that children, particularly dyslexics, are very resilient. In fact, this becomes an opportunity for the child to learn that he can overcome difficulties and face new situations. Remember to continue to highlight and encourage his achievements, even if they're very small.

Good luck.

Be well and make a little noise.