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Dyslexia's super powers build confidence in my child

My daughter Ruby was about 3 years old when I first began to observe her emotional intelligence.

During play dates and in her preschool school classroom, she would rush to comfort the distressed. She had a knack for seeking out the child who was being left out or the one who was upset.

Since preschool at parent-teacher conferences, each one of Ruby’s teachers have commented on her helpfulness and good citizenship. The level of kindness she demonstrates is remarkable for her age. This might sound like a parent brag, but the point I am making is, one of her gifts or super powers is in the emotional area.

All children have super powers in some area or another. In schools, some children’s super powers are on display for all of their peers and teachers. Early on, it becomes quite obvious to the other children who is good — or not so good — at math or soccer or singing or reading.

Ruby's dyslexia screening with FLC's Connie.

Kids with dyslexia like Ruby have super powers that aren’t always the first to be recognized in a school setting. Around the time other children observe dyslexic kids’ struggle with reading, writing and spelling, kids with dyslexia typically stop liking school. Largely because dyslexia is so often misunderstood in schools, children and educators tend to label kids who struggle with reading skills as “dumb” or “slow.”

Because I work at a dyslexia center, I understand how far this is from the truth. Kids with dyslexia have an auditory processing issue that makes it more difficult for them to learn to read, write and spell. But do not underestimate the dyslexic child.

Since one in five children have dyslexia, about one-fifth of children also have super powers in specific areas. Research has shown often dyslexic kids have strengths in the visual-spatial area, exceling at art, building and design. Other areas of strength can include the kinesthetic, creative and emotional areas.

We did not learn Ruby was dyslexic until I started working at Fundamental Learning Center when she was 10. Quite frankly, discovering Ruby’s learning difference was quite a shock to me.

Yes, I had noticed her standardized reading test composite scores were about half what her scores were in math and science. And, of course, I saw that practicing for her spelling tests for an hour the night before was not enough for her to get a perfect score.

But Ruby was so bright. She exceled in math and science. She was naturally inquisitive, and she noticed details in her environment no one else did.

I did not know that some of these characteristics indicated dyslexia. I worked as a high school teacher for 12 years, and I thought dyslexia was reading backward, which it is not. No one in my teacher education program or at the schools in which I worked ever educated me about dyslexia.

I also had no idea how much Ruby’s self esteem was suffering. At school, she noticed the other kids were reading faster and more accurately than she was when her teachers asked her to read aloud. She did not understand why what seemed easy for others was difficult for her, and she certainly did not recognize that her super powers were signs of intelligence.

But she does now.

As a parent, it is my job to show my child her very specific and beautiful gifts. I want her to focus on her strengths — and yes, working on her reading skills. However, without acknowledging her talents, she might not have the confidence or energy to work to improve those things that are more difficult.

So we focus on her super powers, and we recognize strengths that we might have once overlooked — things like her visual memory, how she collects tiny objects and categorizes them according to characteristics they have in common; like the fact that she can remember practically every word anyone has ever said to her, including every promise for privileges and treats; like the speed at which she can run and the control she has over her body during ballet class.

Since Ruby can now identify her distinctly wonderful super powers, her struggle to read fluently is one challenge that seems a great deal easier to overcome.

If you are interested in discovering reading, writing and spelling solutions for your child or you want to learn more about dyslexia, call us at 316.634.READ(7323).

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