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Talking to Friends and Family About Dyslexia



How to talk about dyslexia with friends and family to whom it is new can be

challenging, but I have noticed it is well worth the effort. This month’s main article

gives you some sample scripts for both a short explanation and for a much longer one.

I included some PDF’s you can download or print to guide your longer explanation as

the freebie this month. Let me know how you used these ideas with your family and

friends this holiday season. I am interested in how it goes for you.


It is holiday season. You are likely to be spending time with family members whom you

may see only at this time of year. If you parent a child with dyslexia, observations

about that child’s progress from aunties and grandmas may feel unsettling because

you are not quite sure how to explain dyslexia to family members. Sharing information

about dyslexia, or any area of struggle with family members can result in some new

cheerleaders for your child. It is well worth thinking thorough your short version,

“elevator talk,” as well as a bit more in-depth explanation for the Uncle Jims in the

crowd who want all the details.


Teacher, this is for you too! If you teach dyslexic children, your family may be

wondering exactly what that means. Here is a way to explain it to them. Teachers, you

are welcome to use these tools when explaining your suspicions of dyslexia to parents

in a parent/teacher conference.


The very short version can go something like this:


Dyslexia is learning difference which results in children struggling with language tasks

such as reading, spelling and writing. Dyslexia is not an intelligence issue, since the

very definition of dyslexia states that the person is of average or above average IQ.

Dyslexia runs in families, and the problem originates in the way a dyslexic person’s

brain is arranged. In a non-dyslexic person, the brain cells that process language are

in a small area about the size of your thumb, over the left ear. In a dyslexic person,

there is a glitch in the circuitry resulting in a less efficient brain pathway to process

language tasks. People with dyslexia can still learn to read and spell, but it is harder

and requires a different approach, called the Orton-Gillingham approach. We have a

tutor who gives private lessons using that approach, and have seem good results

already.


That answer hits most of the questions, and will satisfy most folks who have a casual

interest. If you have someone who genuinely wants a deeper dive into dyslexia, the

freebie this month is a short, 9 slide presentation about dyslexia that you can walk

through. Download the PDF’s and look at them as you read a suggested explanation

for each one. Here are some short talking points for each slide, so you will sound like a

pro!


Misconceptions slide


I list the five myths about dyslexia that I hear the most often.

Dyslexia is not an intelligence deficit. The definition of dyslexia states that the individual

is of “average or above average intelligence.”


Not reading backwards. Dyslexic people cannot read backwards any more than you

can. They struggle with directionality, so sometimes struggle to correctly orient letters,

resulting in confusing b and d, or perhaps “was” and “saw.”


Not one symptom that points to dyslexia for every dyslexic person. Dyslexia happens

on a continuum, and there are many different signs of dyslexia. No one person would

have all the signs.


Can’t be cured, because dyslexia is not an illness. Like being color blind or tone deaf,

it is a characteristic of that person, and is with them for life. Strategies to learn despite

dyslexia abound, and a dyslexic person can certainly learn to read and spell.


Don’t abandon all hope of a bright future. Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has

an exhaustive list of accomplished people with dyslexia. Given the help they need, as

early as possible, the outcome is bright for dyslexic children.


Facts slide

Dyslexia runs in families, but it is not always directly from mom or dad. There may be

an uncle or grandma on one side or another who “hated school” or “couldn’t wait to be

allowed to quit school.” Since dyslexia testing’s availability is a fairly new, it is unlikely

that grandparents or older generations were identified as dyslexic, and more likely they

were known as school haters.


Language tasks are the main area of struggle for individuals with dyslexia. Oral

speaking is frequently a strong suit, as is math, spatial thinking, sports, music, art or

showing empathy. Reading, spelling and expressing one’s self in writing can be really

tough.


Brain architecture is the culprit. In the fourth month of gestation, when the brain is forming, rather that a close area of brain cells to perform language tasks as non-

dyslexic individuals have, the language processing area is broken up and somewhat

scattered in islands. This inefficient brain wiring system is the cause of dyslexia.

Multi-sensory instruction helps, because it uses more of the brain, and makes the

information “stickier” and easier to remember. Simultaneous multi-sensory techniques

are the most helpful of all.


School challenges for a dyslexic child slide.

Let’s just list the school struggles and get it out of the way. This slide certainly explains

why dyslexic Uncle Harry quit school in third grade to work in the transcontinental

railroad, doesn’t it? No wonder dyslexic kids are not thrilled to go to school.


Writing simulation slide

Let’s build some empathy with a simulation of how it feels to try and write even a short

paragraph under rules that lay out a different set of writing conventions from the ones

we are accustomed to. The reason this simulates writing for a dyslexic person is that

they struggle mightily with remembering the standard writing conventions of

capitalization, punctuation, spelling and letter formation. This is the one slide that will

make a believer out of doubters because it allows them to feel how the dyslexic child

feels when he or she tries to write.


What helps dyslexia slide

Get the child tested. Knowing for sure what the problem is will give a set of steps

toward a solution. Rather than expending energy wondering what is wrong and putting

bandaid accommodation fixes on issues, put a name to the trouble, and follow the

steps to remediation. Children as young as four can be identified as having tendencies

toward dyslexia and start tutoring. It does take a tester with specialized training to test

for dyslexia.


Act now

Time is not on your child’s side when we are talking about dyslexia. The sooner

remediations begin, the better the outcome and the sooner that child can be learning

easily with the rest of his or her classmates. Waiting to see if a child will “outgrow

dyslexia” is not a good idea.


Multi-sensory instruction will help. That means techniques such as practicing spelling

words by categorizing them by spelling pattern, and finger tracing the letters in a sand

tray or shaving cream as the letters are said aloud and the word pronounced after it is

spelled.


Orton-Gillingham tutoring is the gold standard approach for tutoring students with

dyslexia. It is multi-sensory, systematic, cumulative and individualized. It works best in

very small groups or one-on-one.


Realize improvement takes time. It is common for one to three years to be the

timeframe for completing Orton-Gillingham (O-G) tutoring. All 44 phonemes and 250

spelling variations are taught, along with lots of practice in how to divide longer words

into syllables, and what the vowel sound will be in each of those syllables. It is a lot,

but is worth the investment.


Orton and Gillingham info slide

Just so you know these pioneers were real.


FAQ’s slide

The surface is scratched with a few places to start looking for more information. You

can always email me (Grandma Betty can email me too.) and ask specific questions.

You can book an hour of my consulting time if you want a dedicated sit-down

consultation, either in person or via Zoom.


Cindy’s marketing slide

I gave you a presentation and walked you through talking points. This is the tax for my

efforts. :) Tell your family to subscribe to the newsletter or check out my website.


Did you forget to download a copy of the slides that were discussed in this blog? If so, you can still download your FREE copy!

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