Struggles and successes

"When a child has dyslexia, there are no 'unaffected' relatives in the family. We are all affected, every day, as anyone who has a child, grandchild, or sibling with dyslexia knows." (Maryanne Wolf, researcher and parent, in her book Proust and the Squid, p. 209)

As a parent of a child with dyslexia or a language disability, you are well aware that dyslexia not only affects the individual's ability to communicate and learn; but the effect can be far reaching. We just have to think about how often we read, write, and communicate with others every day to know how far reaching that effect can be. When someone you care about struggles with activities of listening, speaking, reading and/or writing that the rest of us take for granted, the angst is felt by all.

If dyslexia is traumatizing for your child, it is so for you as her parents. If he is frustrated, we are frustrated. We cannot help but feel what he or she feels. We all wish that our children will make it through the world with the least amount of bumps and bruises possible.

Living with dyslexia permeates so many important actions of our daily lives. When we think of dyslexia, we naturally think of a difficulty succeeding in school, but it affects more than that. It can affect every aspect of one's life that requires written communication, from trying out for the school or local community theater production, to vying for a job or promotion, to interpreting one’s financial statements. The list can go on and on.

The rapid growth in the use of technology for communication and learning has added another area of challenge for the dyslexic. But, the good news is these literacy-based tools have also opened doors through such innovations as text-to-speech programs that read text out loud, graphic organizers to help with writing, and spellcheck (we all like that one!) .

More good news is that technology has also informed our understanding of dyslexia. For example, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have learned how the dyslexic brain works. This knowledge informs intervention practice and helps the dyslexic understand that her brain is firing differently when she reads as compared to the typical reader. It is not wrong; it is just different. At the University of Michigan a team of researchers, including  Dr. Holly K. Craig research professor, is using fMRI and behavioral tests to explore the relationship of neural markers and reading behavior, which will also ultimately inform practice.

And so, while the challenges can be great for the dyslexic and family members, friends, teachers, and colleagues, we live in an exciting time when we know much more about the strengths and gifts of individuals with dyslexia, ways to diagnose, and ways to teach much needed skills. With the right combination of tools, support, knowledge, understanding, and beliefs, you can start your child's program to success!

Watch this animation from NCLD, Down & Up: A Journey through Dyslexia & Other LDs, which highlights the power of kind words when it comes to overcoming obstacles presented by dyslexia.