If you’re reading this article during your daily commute on public transit, chances are there are at least five dyslexic people in your midst. The reading disorder effects 10 percent of the population, with about 400,000 children diagnosed per year.
Dealing with dyslexia himself, Ben Foss has detailed how to identify and deal with the disorder in his new book “The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning.”
We asked Foss how to identify and foster a love of learning in students who are struggling.
Knowing if a child has dyslexia starts with paying attention to their habits and strengths. Foss says that if children mispronounce words or avoid reading aloud under any circumstances, that could signal to parents that it would be a good idea to have the child tested. Some dyslexic children have trouble memorizing a series of numbers, or confuse words that sound familiar. But dyslexic children have strengths, as well, Foss stresses.
“If your child is dyslexic, you should find where their strength is and you play to it,” he says. Stressing the things that a child is good at strengthens their self-esteem and makes any anxiety related to dyslexia easier to manage.
Orient your thinking
Foss says a perspective shift is also in order. “You want to make sure you don’t think about dyslexia as a disease. I am from New Hampshire, I’m not diagnosed as being from New Hampshire, I don’t suffer from being from New Hampshire I just am from New Hampshire. What you suffer from is being in a school system that expects everyone to do everything the same way. If you’re in a wheelchair, the problem is not the wheelchair, it’s the stairs.”
Encourage your child’s resiliency
“I cannot emphasize enough, you really want to explain to your kid that they’re not broken and that they’re smart and you love them. The main thing you’re looking to build in your child long term is resilience,” says Foss. “You can do this by giving your child unconditional love and giving them responsibility.”
Get your child formally identified
Foss explains that this will be a defense against schools trying to tell you “your kid’s just developing slowly” or “your kid’s just not college material.”
Get the facts
“Learn what dyslexia is, learn the background, explain it to your child and then teach your child how to explain because they’re going to run into people all day at school who have questions for them,” says Foss.
Dyslexia myths, debunked:
"Your child needs to be fixed."
“I think one of the biggest myths is that we’re going fix your child. The thing is, your kid’s not broken in the first place,” Foss says.
"It’s better not to tell your child they have dyslexia."
“The child will figure it out and they’re going need to be a part of the team," he says. Dyslexic students "need to get out there and do the hard work of telling their story and self-advocate, so you really want learn to embrace the profile."
"Reading is the best way to learn."
Foss reminds parents that reading is not like blinking or breathing. “It’s only been in the last 100 years that humans have been expected to read," he says. "I completed Stanford Law School while never reading a book with my eyes.” Foss suggests other options such as audio books or iPads that read aloud to you as extremely productive ways for your child to obtain information.
"It’s your fault."
“The only thing you contributed were your genes,” explains Foss. “Dyslexia is genetic.”
Celebrities with Dyslexia:
Follow Julie Kayzerman on Twitter @juliekayzerman