Book Excerpt: 'Overcoming Dyslexia'

How you as a parent view your child is very important (page 313). If you feel that a diagnosis of dyslexia means that his future is doomed, he will come to feel that way, too. Having a diagnosis of dyslexia should not preclude a child from pursuing his dreams. Given adequate intelligence, skill, persistence, and support, a child who is dyslexic can pursue virtually any area that interests him. Men and women who are dyslexic have distinguished themselves in every area imaginable, including areas that the uninformed might not believe are possible for a person who is dyslexic: writing, law, medicine, science, and poetry. Children who are dyslexic should not be reflexively shunted onto a path of nonacademic ambition unless that is clearly their preference; they should at least be helped to understand that they have a much fuller range of options. Many parents of children who are dyslexic have experienced reading problems themselves. If you have, tell your child about them and about how you felt when you were growing up. Allow him to see that people whom he admires are not perfect and are able to succeed in life.

Finally, don't patronize a child or lessen his expectations. Always treat him as a person with many dimensions, not simply as a person who has a reading problem. Let his strengths and not his weaknesses define him as a person.

Dyslexics think differently (page 366). They are intuitive and excel at problem solving, seeing the big picture, and simplifying. They feast on visualizing, abstract thinking, and thinking out of the box. They are poor rote reciters but inspired visionaries. Adult dyslexics are tough: Having struggled, they are used to adversity; hard work and perseverance now come naturally. Having experienced failure, they are fearless, undaunted by setbacks. Repetition and practice are a way of life. Each person I've focused on was rescued by a special person-a parent or a teacher-who saw the raw talent and nurtured it in the midst of all the naysayers. The feeling of hope was sustained by the taste of success in sports, the arts, or some other activity. Yes, the symptoms of dyslexia persist, but they needn't interfere with success. Success is waiting for your child, and now you know what to do to help him achieve it. You don't have to rely on chance. You know how to identify a problem early and how to get the right help to ensure that it is your child's strengths and not the misperceptions of others that ultimately define him. You know what is possible and how to nourish it: Children blossom with reward and praise, and flourish because of high expectations. Above all you must maintain your belief in your child, provide unconditional support for him, and hold true to a vision of his future. The rewards will be great. Today, each dyslexic child is free to develop his talents and to pursue his dreams-and to know he will succeed. Dyslexia can be overcome.

Excerpted from Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Copyright© 2003 by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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