Perspective and Positive Encouragement
from Charlie Henry, former dyslexic student and staff member
We know that success in life depends on our self-confidence, social skills, our abilities to work in teams, come up with good ideas and communicate well, just as much as on on our academic successes.
Your child doesn’t have this insight yet. There may be moments in class when they feel stress or anxiety because they have forgotten the instructions or because they are falling behind or because things are going too fast and they can’t keep up. Over time these repeated experiences can be disheartening and slowly erode any sense of self-worth your child has. If your child has one area where they feel good about themselves, this helps them to be stronger and more resilient in the difficult parts of their lives.
“Passion is the great slayer of adversity. Focus on strengths and what you enjoy.” Charles Schwab
You can understand something without it being completely ‘correct’. What’s really important is the ideas inside the work, the content and the energy that goes into it. Most of us grown ups work on computers with software that checks our spelling. In schools children are still handwriting stories, so it is very important your children can read and write, but it’s also important they have exciting ideas and feel confident enough to share those ideas. When you are reading their work try to see the creativity and the imagination inside it.
Tips on how to correct your child’s work
My own experiences are peppered with painful moments of well-meant parental intervention.
I remember when I was 14, I spent 3 hours making a poster for my secondary school’s ‘cake sail’ – should have been cake sale. When I proudly showed my parents, they helpfully picked out my multiple spelling mistakes and any feeling of creative satisfaction I had, evaporated and I felt dumb and frustrated.
Our advice to parents:
- Think about what your child wants when they show you their work – do they want you to see the weird and wonderful story, to enjoy the characters, to appreciate the time they’ve spent on it, or do they want you to show them all the mistakes they have made?
- Ask your child if they want their work to be corrected and then go gently
- Perhaps only correct certain target words at any one time
- Put criticisms in between good things, because if you’re regularly criticized you tend to hear only the negative things and not the positive ones. Here is an example of a positive sandwich: “I really like the colours you’ve used on the poster, they’re really eye-catching, I think there might be a few spellings that are wrong, I could help you look at those if you’d like, but I think it looks fantastic. I can see how much hard work you’ve put in, well done!”
- Notice which things your child hears – are they more prone to take praise or criticism to heart?
- How do they behave once you have shown them their mistakes or highlighted their strengths?
‘Help your child find something they love to do and make sure that you encourage them to work hard at whatever it is they do.’ Will Smith
Trust how your child works
Often children with dyslexia can seem quite disorganized and chaotic. I know that often I have a number of creative activities on the go at the same time and I work on all of them. At the moment I have 3 other programmes open as I type this and I am alternating what I am working on.
When at all possible let your child work in the way that they want to, even if it seems ‘wrong’ to you. Your child will be guided by their instincts and work in the way that feels natural to them. Stopping their free-flow and correcting them might make them feel deflated, upset and frustrated. It is often their creativity and inventiveness that gets them through and they will have invented systems and ways of doing things which might seem strange to you, but will be perfectly efficient for them.
“Creativity is the key for any child with dyslexia. Teach them anything is attainable and that you can think outside of the box.’ Orlando Bloom
Please feel encouraged to contact Mark Sherin for further advice and resources.