Dr. Stein's Psychology Blog
My thoughts on mental health counseling, therapy, neuropsychology, collaborative divorce and more.
Finding out your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia is not easy news for any parent to hear. One of the first things you should do is take a deep breath and watch this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzHaLYsTgJc. In it, you will see that your child’s potential is still endless.
In my many years of counseling and conducting neuropsychological examinations in Red Bank, New Jersey, I have helped many parents move through and beyond their child’s diagnosis of dyslexia. Once parents digest the news and get assistance with a learning plan for their child, parents they often still have a wide variety of fears and concerns. The feedback I give is influenced by both clinical research and my own personal experience as being diagnosed at age 7 with dyslexia. Below are some of the most frequently questions I am asked along with the advice I offer:
Will My Child Be OK? I always answer this with a resounding “YES.” By the time I gather enough data to diagnose dyslexia, I have already conducted a full neuropsychological examination that also includes a thorough evaluation of a child’s many cognitive, academic, and psychological strengths. While a lot of time and effort is focused on the dyslexia itself, what is equally, if not more important, are the child’s assets. Utilizing the child’s strengths helps to set them up for success, and while there is no “cure” for dyslexia, a strengths-based approach is a time-tested compensatory strategy in the school setting.
Do I Tell My Child They Have Dyslexia? Again, I always answer this question with a resounding “YES.” While I recognize this is a difficult conversation for parents to have with their children, it is an important one to have, multiple times, throughout their academic career. Children are often relieved to know that there is a name for the struggles that they are experiencing in school. After all, the child most likely already recognizes a problem exists because of feedback he or she has received from other teachers, parents, or by their own observation of others’ performance in the classroom. What is most important to help your child understand is that he or she will learn to read and that he or she is not “dumb”, “stupid,” “lazy, or any other pejorative adjective.
Do I Tell My Child They Will Be Getting Special Services? Yet again, I always answer this question with a resounding “YES.” Much of the time, this is the part of the conversation that children dislike the most. While they may feel better by being able to put a name to their reading struggles, most balk at the idea of change -- actually getting help, tutoring, or special services –even though it’s designed to assist them become stronger readers. While children can keep the diagnosis of dyslexia to themselves, others may notice that they are indeed different learners. Kids generally don’t like the idea of being perceived as different. It is important for them to be able to express their concerns. They need to hear that you understand their anxieties, dislikes, and frustrations with any modifications to the school routine. Talk to them about how these changes will not just help them become better readers, but will also increase their enjoyment of school. With gentle reassurance your child will not just adjust, but thrive. Also, you should highlight your child’s special talents, skills, and personality traits.
In summary, rest assured that a brain with dyslexia is healthy. It just works differently. Is school going to be as easy as it is for some other children? Probably not. It is going to take some hard work. But, it can generate a lot of creativity and resilience in your child. If you had asked my mother when I was in middle school if I would go on to earn a PhD, she likely would have answered no. But look at me now.
If you think your child may benefit from an evaluation to determine whether or not he or she has dyslexia, let’s chat for a free 15 minutes. Or if you need some help adjusting to a new diagnosis, I’m here in my office for that as well. 732-747-8818
I'm a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist with a private practice in Red Bank, NJ.