Social & Emotional Side of Dyslexia – The Heartbreaking Part of My Job

By: Morgan Kimball

I come to school. I see all the other friends.

Who can rite and read. But me, I’m all on my own

Not good at riteing. Not good at reading.

I site on my bed, I cry I cry and I cry.

But I boh’t see why. It’s so hared for me.

Can’t you see?

(Jodie Cosgrave, age 11. Chievers and Andrew, 1996)

This poor child’s painful lament is unfortunately not uncommon. We tend to focus so much on a student’s scores in the classroom that we don’t pay attention to what’s going on beneath the surface.

We know that dyslexia can have a profound effect on a student’s academic success. Reading is at the root of everything that goes on in the classroom, and if a student has trouble reading at grade level, difficulties in learning all subjects will occur. These academic struggles can affect a child’s emotional makeup as well and create deep-rooted problems that can go on into adulthood. That is why it is so important to have early identification and remediation of dyslexia.

The root of many of these emotional issues stem from a failure of the student to meet academic expectations — either real or imagined. Research shows that preschoolers with dyslexia are happy and well adjusted. But problems can begin when reading instruction is begun and the student falls behind their classmates. Our student will see the rest of the class reading at grade level and expects to be reading with similar proficiency. When these expectations are not met, they will feel increasing frustration, anger, anxiety, and even depression.

Students who cannot meet expectations are going to have the perception that they are inferior to their classmates. Working harder does not make a difference, as it’s their dyslexia that is holding them back, not their effort. This makes them feel powerless and incompetent.

What can we as parents and teachers do to help?

Adults with dyslexia who have had success in life have identified three elements that have helped them over the hurdles.

  1. There has been someone in the student’s life who has been very supportive and encouraging.
  2. The student has found some area where they have flourished (art, athletics, mechanics, etc.)
  3. The student has developed a commitment to helping other people who also face challenges in life.

As I mentioned earlier, early identification of dyslexia is crucial in helping students with dyslexia. Remediation is much more effective when a structured literacy program is begun at a very early age. And perhaps more importantly, these students will not have a chance to develop the emotional scars that can be formed due to their dyslexia.

Let’s identify students with dyslexia early, get them the reading and writing instruction they need, and give them plenty of love and support. Then we’ll see them blossom like we know they can.