Written by Katie Jackson, founder of Kindling Education.
Some of the world’s greatest inventors, athletes and artists are dyslexic. In fact if you look closely, you’ll see our modern world is made by dyslexia. The telephone (Alexander Graham Bell), first car line production (Henry Ford) and Apple software (Steve Jobs) all thanks to dyslexia. There’s no question that there is also a strong link between being dyslexic and an entrepreneur. According to BDA (British Dyslexia Association) 40% of self-made millionaires have dyslexia. When you realise which self-made millionaires (and billionaires) they are, it might get you searching for your inner dyslexia, that ‘dyslexic edge’. Some of these well-known characters include Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Stephen Spielberg and Jennifer Aniston. They are all dyslexic and proud. Some were diagnosed early, some not. You might even wonder if you could be a little more like them, a little bit dyslexic, that you could make a little bit of their fortune?
When people hear the word dyslexia, it can often have negative connotations. It is likely to be associated with reading difficulty, poor memory and slow learning. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma surrounding this learning need. There is so much out there that refers to all the difficulties that one might encounter as a dyslexic learner, and less about the strengths. There are often dyslexia statistics related to children who dropped out of school or ended up in prison, rather than focusing on facts like 50% of Nasa employees are dyslexic. We know that dyslexia have nothing to do with intelligence. And rumours continue to grow that creativity and dyslexia are closely linked. While there is no proof that people with dyslexia are naturally more creative, there is research that shows your brain is wired differently which affects how you process information. Other positives may include a natural curiosity, being highly intuitive and insightful, as well as the ability to utilise the brain to alter and create perceptions. Dyslexia allows you to think laterally and see patterns that others can’t. It can enable you to have a unique view of the world. To be what so many people crave as they grow into adulthood; more individual. In fact, when you hear that certain companies are now actively employing dyslexic learners, we know the world is starting to open its eyes. So now you can understand why dyslexia may actually be really quite desirable.
However, as we know, it’s not all plain sailing. There are plenty of people who have struggled through life with dyslexia who have not been lucky enough to get the right support in time or make their billions. Unfortunately, lots of people have to go through an education system that doesn’t allow them to play to their strengths. It’s an education system that’s heavily based on assessments and exams and often your ability to memorise information. As a result, it can reward certain types of learners, certain types of intelligences, whilst often failing others or encouraging children to find different paths in life - often paths with less barriers to learning. Even though schools are committed to supporting each individual child, they can only do their best within the system that exists. Even with allowances such as greater use of technology, extra time in exams, and a range of multisensory resources, it is not enough. Lots of children still cannot access their learning. And this can have lifelong consequences. It can cause emotional issues such as frustration, anger issues, anxieties. It can affect children’s social skills and behaviour. It often can impact their self-esteem as they begin to question their academic ability and lose confidence in themselves, especially if their needs aren't identified early on. Ultimately, we know if children are not emotionally secure, they won’t have space for learning and understanding.
Thank goodness we live in a time when we celebrate differences, and we have a much better awareness of learning needs. And where we no longer refer to dyslexia as ‘word blindness.’ Schools and teachers focus a lot more on how children learn, their emotional well-being in general and are better equipped to support each learner. And there’s much more we can do. We can focus on positive language surrounding dyslexia. We can draw their attention to inspirational role models. We can celebrate each child’s differences as a strength, because that’s what they are, but most importantly we need to nurture these strengths. To do this we need to be on the lookout. We need to look for early symptoms, although it isn’t always easy to spot - especially for girls. As schools don’t tend to test children for dyslexia until they are around 6-7 years old, it is vital that parents and teachers look out for possible indicators. The earlier it is identified; the earlier interventions can begin. Another way we can help is to listen and support. Ongoing support is key and at Kindling Education https://www.kindlingeducation.com/services we offer exactly this - a support service for parents with young children which puts emotional wellbeing first, whilst equipping parents with practical advice, expert knowledge and skills, enabling a positive school experience for all.
Being dyslexic can be a wonderful thing. It can encourage creativity and uniqueness. It can motivate you to overcompensate in other areas and master the skills that you know are really important for life. Things like oral communication, people management, problem-solving skills, perseverance, and work ethic. It can drive you forward. So often children and young adults just need a little help getting there. Let’s continue to share the struggle, the strategies and the success stories. Let’s explain that children may need to work a little harder and focus in on the things they are good at. Let’s help children believe that their dyslexia is not a disadvantage. Let’s show children with dyslexia that they have the same mental function as Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, John Lennon, and Agatha Christie. Let’s teach children with dyslexia to know that we are lucky to live in a world full of dyslexic learners. Let’s highlight that it is how these people chose to use their dyslexia. How they have used their dyslexia to give them strength, to give them motivation to succeed. All because of, and not in spite of their differences. How they used their dyslexia as an advantage. And ultimately how they now view their dyslexia as their, not so secret, superpower.
Please note that it’s common that lots of children display ‘typical’ dyslexia behaviours and make mistakes such as reversing b/ds - we all have good and bad days! It’s the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists which give vital clues to identifying a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.
If your little one is having a hard time with accessing their learning, and you are unsure how best to help them, or you simply want some guidance and advice then don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free discovery call to find out more:
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10 useful tips to support children with dyslexia (and all children)
- Communicate with your child’s teacher/school
- Make special bonding time for you and your child (that could time eating breakfast, getting dressed, reading together, playing silly games etc)
- Use simple, clear language and repetition is key
- Set routine and ensure your child understands the routine
- Use pictures and actions where possible and visual aids e.g. timetables and checklists
- Use practical multisensory resources where possible
- Early intervention is key (They don’t tend to assess child for Dyslexia through a diagnostic assessment until they are 7 years old (Y2)
- Be aware of peer milestones, targets and give lots, and ongoing praise (for effort and any progress!)
- Focus on the process and effort not the outcome.
- Use specific, purposeful praise - avoid quizzing and constant corrections