The Gift that Keeps on Giving All Year Round

As we bring another year to a close, the minds of many of us turn to gift-giving. Thinking about this topic led me to realize that the perfect gift to give anyone (including ourselves) is the gift of time.

More and more, life seems to zoom by at a pace we find hard to control. Well, we can’t control time, but we can try to control what we do with ours. Sometimes you can’t choose what you want to do because something else is more pressing or life throws you a curve ball. But, when you do have a bit of control, I offer some suggestions that might help you give yourself a small gift, which I know you deserve.

In addition to all of the typical, day-to-day responsibilities of parenting, being the parent of a child with dyslexia, more than likely, adds additional responsibilities onto your plate—getting your child to intervention on a regular basis, monitoring school activities to ensure your child’s educational needs are being met, keeping abreast of the latest information about how to best help a student with dyslexia, reading aloud nightly to your child so he or she is exposed to the same information that peers are, taking dictation from your child so that he or she can finish a written paper—the list goes on and on.

I recommend finding ways that 1) you as a parent can spend quality time with your child that will help you both to re-boot, and 2) finding ways that you can squeeze in a bit of time for yourself on a regular basis. I think the first goal is easier than the second, quite honestly.

There are so many opportunities that you and your children can engage in that will help enhance their “world” and “word” (i.e., vocabulary) knowledge, which will, in turn, assist them as they go about learning the school curriculum. The more background knowledge a student can bring to a topic, the better he or she will be able to learn new information about that topic. If I know nothing about the planets, I will have much more difficulty learning about them in comparison to my classmate who has been to the planetarium, seen a movie about the planets, or visited the hands-on museum and made a mobile of the planets rotating around the sun. I recently visited The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and was astounded at the interactive displays they had to entice children and teens. Search out events and activities in your local community that will broaden your child’s horizons. Local libraries, community festivals, parks, high school theater, music, and sports events can be some great starting points that will not break the budget. Talk about these experiences—before, during, and after. Perhaps your child can think of a creative way to archive your adventures through photography, drawing or painting a picture, or dictating a blog.

There are many things that you can do at home and while driving to create those little slices of time with your child, including those that help with reading. We know that our students with dyslexia, by nature of the reading disorder, do not have the same exposure to text that their peers do. Therefore, it is very important that we figure out ways that they can access text. Audiobooks are a wonder! Download books that will be of interest to your children and/or cover topics that they need to learn about, and keep those playing while you run errands or take that trip over the winter break. My colleague and mother of three between the upper elementary and teen years, Dr. Lauren Katz, had the idea to download a book for the car that she wants to read and one that her children can learn from while eavesdropping, so to speak. If possible, we want students to track the print, but for many that is just not an option while in a car (and weak readers may have difficulty keeping up with the audio when tracking). No worries—listening to the content and talking about it is a great way to absorb the information. Try engaging your child into doing some authentic reading at home—recipes, directions about how to play a game or put together the latest Lego creation, searching for information about your next family outing—the sky’s the limit here.

So how do you give yourself the gift of time? That is indeed a tough question to answer. Most of the parents whom I know spend a lot of time taking their child(ren) to activities of all sorts—therapy, tutoring, athletic practices/games, lessons—the list goes on and on. At my private clinical practice, we designed our space so that parents can observe their child in therapy. And, while we think it is of great value for parents to see their child in action during our sessions, I also tell parents feel free to go do something for yourself. Sit in the waiting room and read or pay bills, go get a cup of coffee, go for a walk, watch a video on your phone, catch up on your social media, take a nap, whatever will help at that moment—and many take me up on this offer. I suggest making a commitment to yourself to carve out some “me” time during at least one of your child’s activities each week. We all need time to re-boot. If you make this commitment now, it will indeed be the gift that keeps on giving.

Once again, I am grateful to Dr. Lauren Katz for her review and thoughtful comments. It is a gift to work with her.

Joanne Marttila Pierson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
December 2019