Experts in dyslexia have for many years focused on teaching children to read in the conventional way. But there are hidden costs to this more-of-the-same approach that impact many children who have a hard time in a mainstream classroom: self-harm, such as cutting or anorexia, and bullying.
There are different types of reading: eye reading, ear reading and finger reading. Blind people read with their fingers; mainstream people read with their eyes. In my case, I use my ears, as shown in this demonstration of using speech built into a standard iPad from Headstrong Nation, a national organization for dyslexic people.
It’s very important for all children to get a fair chance at learning to read with their eyes. However, focusing on eye reading in perpetuity can create painful shame. The shame comes from being told that part of you is unworthy—the part that does not read with one's eyes.
I interviewed over 200 people who are dyslexic to create the Intel Reader. There was a pronounced pattern of dyslexic children who felt shame harming themselves: cutting, starting to abuse drugs and alcohol or developing an eating disorder because they felt unworthy.
And then there’s the bullying. Bullies often taunt kids for not being “normal,” but if the school's version of normal is “do it the way everyone else does,” it encourages picking on people with dyslexia on the playground or, increasingly, online.
The image below shows my strengths profile. Notice how it identifies my top three strengths: verbal ability (I’m a good talker), social ability (I pay attention to how people interact and am able to engage in most social situations) and narrative ability (I know a good story when I hear or tell one). On the other hand, I’m far from perfect. My musical skill is downright weak. In the case of kinesthetic ability, I was a solid high school athlete but I wasn’t winning any scholarships.
Once you’ve figured out your child’s strengths, play to them. Think of kids’ brains like a geographic region. If the eye-reading path is a rocky, cold mountain pass with snow, the path involving their strengths might be considered a sunny meadow perfect for leisurely strolls. Yes, you want to do your best to open the blocked path (perhaps using Orton-Gillingham methodology for a few years and then moving on). But if your child is naturally kinesthetic or spatial, three-dimensional models and experimental science labs could be better than books alone.
It’s also important to begin measuring your child’s emotional coping skills. A wonderful piece of research by Marshall Raskin, the former chief clinical researcher for Charles Schwab (another successful dyslexic person), showed that long-term outcomes for people with dyslexia are much more tied to resilience and proactivity than they are to IQ or SAT scores. Indeed, in Raskin’s study, IQ and SAT scores predicted accurately how well someone would do in life less than five percent of the time, whereas emotional skills were the key 50 to 75 percent of the time.
At the end of the day, we should make dyslexia more about the heart and less about the head. If we do, we can increase access to learning and reduce bullying and self-harm for all kids.
See Ben’s “Native Tongue”I have found that people have a hard time believing my dyslexia when they see only the final product of my written work. These days, I generally speak to a computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to have it transcribed, greatly increasing my speed and accuracy when writing. For this blog, that material went through a few rounds of edits, including structural, copy and proofing, further polishing the material.
You will see the first two paragraphs of this blog written as I would write it in raw format. In this case, I listened to the text and transcribed it without the benefit of spell check or word correction now standard in most word processors. I publish it to let you see “behind the curtain.” Yes, I am dyslexic for life and proud. Consider this my, and all dyslexics, native tongue.
Experts in dyslexia have for many tears focus on reaching children to read in the coventional way. But there are hidden cos that impace many chillren in a mainstrem classroom. slef harn such as cutting or anoresxi, an Bullying.
Ther are three tyipe of reading. Eye reading, ear reaidng and finder reading. Blinf eople read with thie rfinders, mainstream people read with their eyes. Im my case, I ead with my ear.s, as show int thie demonstration of using speech built into a ipad on headstrong nation, the national oragnization fo adults who are dyslexic.