dyslexia

Nurturing Your Child's Inner Superpower!

Everyone has an inner superpower! It’s that thing you do so easily and so well that you don’t even think of it as a talent or a skill that someone else can’t do. It is innately part of you and you would have a tough time defining yourself or imagining life without it. 

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For some, their superpower is an obvious talent such as dancing, sports or art, but for others, it may be more subtle. For example, you may be particularly charismatic, or funny or a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about a particular subject. Whatever it is, it is your strength and your gift to the world.

Dyslexic children often find it more challenging to discover their superpower because it gets lost in the struggle of learning to read. They find themselves so overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to read that they forget that they are also blessed with gifts. Ironically, their dyslexic brain is generally the reason that they have this gift. Dyslexics tend to be particularly blessed with creative or athletic abilities and/or big ideas. However, it’s often later in life that they are able to recognize and celebrate their gifts.

As the parent of a struggling student, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the need to support your child’s weaknesses, and there is a tendency to forget to equally support their strengths. Afternoons that would normally be filled with playdates, athletics or singing lessons become consumed by homework and tutoring sessions. It’s no surprise that our children become completely overwhelmed themselves by the struggle of it all. They already have to work ten times harder than the typical learner, but the end of the school day is never the end of the work day for them. Homework that takes a typical learner an hour to complete, takes them at least two, if not three — and even then, it’s filled with frustration and confusion. It’s rare that all that effort put forth is rewarded with a good grade or a even a pat on the back, so it’s no wonder that many get frustrated to the point of giving up.

So what can WE do as parents if we want to help our children recognize their inner superpower before the struggle overwhelms their spirit? First, get your child the support he or she needs as early as possible, but most importantly, make sure their world is not all about supporting their weaknesses — tutoring, summer school and after-school help. Balance is essential if you want them to stay engaged and invested in the process. Make every effort to identify what gets them excited and energized! Everyone has at least one thing that gets them pumped to get out of bed in the morning. Create space for your dyslexic child to not only explore their passion, but also invest in it. Put as much energy into nurturing their superpower as you do their weakness. If you do, you will probably be surprised to find that your child discovers the inner strength needed to conquer their weaknesses as they are able to appreciate that they are capable of doing great things.  

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Even though your child may have to work twice as hard as the typical learner, the lessons he will learn by virtue of hard work will provide him with essential tools for success in life. However, without support, encouragement and awareness of strength, he may never develop the self-confidence needed to strive towards his potential.

Very few can develop a healthy self-esteem in the absence of accomplishment. So, even though reading support is an essential for these little darlings, losing sight of the big picture and your child’s gift may cause their little light to dim… or worse extinguish. Give them the gift of your support and love while nurturing their inner spirit and discovering their inner superpower. The day they become their own superhero is the day the door to endless possibilities will open.

You Mean, I Actually Need to Read My Child’s IEP Before I Sign It?

A lot of parents feel that once they have their child’s IEP in hand, their work is done. All they have to do is sign and submit. What they don’t realize or even consider is that there are often errors and/or misinformation that require adjustment. The most important reason to review your child’s IEP prior to signing, however, is to fully understand what the Team is proposing with regard to accommodations, goals and services. It’s one thing to walk away from a meeting feeling like the Team understands what your child needs. It’s another thing entirely to agree to the plan in writing.

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When you leave your child’s Team meeting, you will likely have a basic understanding of what will be included in your child’s IEP and, typically, you will receive a copy of the meeting notes so you can confirm that the Team’s understanding of what was stated matches your own. However, I often find that the goals/benchmarks/objectives stated in the IEP are too general or are not measurable. It is important that your child’s goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Uses Action Words
R – Relevant
T- Time-limited

It is also vitally important that your child’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance are correctly stated. If it’s not abundantly clear where your child’s current strengths and weaknesses are, how can you possibly measure progress? The present levels establish the baseline or foundation from which all progress is measured. If the present levels do not accurately represent your child’s current performance, it will be hard to determine if the services in place are effective and are allowing your child to make progress.

Another important reason to read through your child’s IEP is to make sure that your Parent Concerns accurately reflect your worries and concerns for your child. This is the place for you to establish a history of expressing concern about your child’s areas of weakness to the school. This section of an IEP is often underutilized, but if done well, can establish the foundation for indicating concern well before the issues are even addressed by the school. Should you ever need to file for Due Process, this history will serve you well. I always recommend letting the Team Chairperson know that you would like to send your Parent Concerns via email within 2-3 days of the Team meeting so you have some time to reflect on the outcome of the meeting and any new concerns that may come up. However, make sure that you follow through with what you say you will do. You don't want to be the one responsible for holding up the process.

Above are just a few of the many reasons why you should not only read through, but fully understand your child’s IEP. Once you accept and sign the IEP document, you are stating that you agree with the proposed plan for your child. Never should you just trust that the school has your child’s best interest in mind. You must become well-informed so you can successfully advocate for your child. Remember, you know your child best and you are your child’s best advocate. Trust your instincts and know your child's plan.

The Pride of Ownership

I often find that parents struggle with the idea of "owning" dyslexia and sharing with others that their child is struggling with it. Perhaps it's the stigma... perhaps it's the constant reminder of dark days. Whatever the reason, I think there is so much to be gained by owning the label and allowing your child to call it by name. That is not to say that your child should ever be defined by dyslexia. By no means is dyslexia everything that your child is. But, it is a big part of her and is part of the reason she is who she is. Allowing your child to claim dyslexia gives her permission to tell herself that she is not damaged. She simply learns differently.

The minute you claim dyslexia, you accept the obvious struggle that comes along with the journey, but what you also gain is command over its impact on your spirit, your drive and your willingness to reach for the stars. If you are ashamed of dyslexia and push it down like it’s something to be embarrassed about, then it will never be a badge of honor for you. If, on the other hand, you wear it proudly and accept that the road ahead may be a bit bumpier than it is for others, the journey may also allow you to uncover the beautiful you that would not exist without dyslexia! It may also teach you that you are strong and have what it takes within you to overcome.

I tell my son every day that I am glad he has dyslexia because without it, he wouldn’t be him. Dyslexia is a part of him, a big part of him. With struggle also comes strength. Today, my son owns his dyslexia and the lessons it has taught him. Big or small, dyslexia is helping to shape the fighter, the hard-worker, the determined spirit, the passionate person and the talent I see before me today.

As his mother, I am not afraid to let anyone who asks and even those who don’t, know that my son has dyslexia. His journey is an inspirational story that I am proud to share. Although not every journey has a happy ending, we all have so much to gain from owning each and every part of our story and who we are.

My struggles as a child did not include dyslexia. For me, it was bullying. However, I know in my heart that I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiencing all that I did… as hard as it was at the time. Let me be clear, I am NOT suggesting that you should allow your child to be bullied so he or she can develop “character”. There are other ways to go about developing character. However, what I am saying is that if your journey includes struggle in any form, embrace the lessons the experience can offer you. We all have a great deal to gain from experiencing both mountain climbs and valley crawls, but we have to be open to continuing to move forward, despite the rough terrain.

As my father used to tell me as a child… “if you are in a valley, just keep walking because life is not like Texas. You will eventually encounter another hill.” It’s relevant to mention that I lived in Texas at the time.

Even though it has taken me decades to appreciate the tough years I experienced in middle school, I am starting to own that part of my journey. I still find it hard to reflect back with appreciation for those years, but I am becoming more and more aware of the gifts I also gained. Today, I know that I am a better mother, coach and friend because of the empathy I developed as a result of that experience as a child. The key is to remain open to the gifts that your journey offers you. Maybe it’s dyslexia, maybe it’s bullying, maybe it’s an illness, maybe it's a loss. Whatever it is, if you are open, there is a hill before you and a valley to look down upon… if you just keep walking forward. Own it.

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