Like any handicapping condition, dyslexia has a tremendous impact on the child’s family. However, because dyslexia is an invisible handicap, these effects are often overlooked.
Dyslexia affects the family in a variety of ways. One of the most obvious is sibling rivalry. Non–dyslexic children often feel jealous of the dyslexic child, who gets the majority of the parents’ attention, time, and money. Ironically, the dyslexic child does not want this attention. This increases the chances that he or she will act negatively against the achieving children in the family.
Specific developmental dyslexia runs in families. This means that one or both of the child’s parents may have had similar school problems. When faced with a child who is having school problems, dyslexic parents may react in one of two ways. They may deny the existence of dyslexia and believe if the child would just buckle down, he or she could succeed. Or, the parents may relive their failures and frustrations through their child’s school experience. This brings back powerful and terrifying emotions, which can interfere with the adult’s parenting skills.
How can parents and teachers help?
During the past 25 years, I have interviewed many dyslexic adults. Some have learned to deal successfully with their learning problems, while others have not. My experiences suggest that in addition to factors such as intelligence and socio–economic status, other things affect the dyslexic’s chances for success.
First, early in the child’s life, someone has been extremely supportive and encouraging. Second, the young dyslexic found an area in which he or she could succeed. Finally, successful dyslexics appear to have developed a commitment to helping others.
Both teachers and parents need to offer consistent, ongoing encouragement and support. However, one rarely hears about this very important way to help youngsters.