Coping with a dyslexic son

Tuisem Ngakang                                                                                        

OCTOBER IS commemorated as dyslexia awareness month, first adopted by International Dyslexia Association (IDA in 2002), a non-profit education and advocacy organization, based in the United States.  One research source estimated that 5–10% of the worldwide population is dyslexic. In our society, it is important that teachers and parents understand what dyslexia is and how it affects children. One should not just dismiss the students who have difficulty reading, and writing, and are slow in learning as simply stupid, idiot, with lower intellect, slow learners, and lack capabilities. They should also not sympathize with them for their learning disability but be sensitive enough and have the patience to understand their difficulties. According to the International Dyslexia Association web information,

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.

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Dyslexic children may face problems in reading or writing and spelling but they are intelligent, have good general knowledge, and are good at art or music or are good actors and excel in many other areas. It is unfortunate that undiagnosed dyslexic children are often ‘labelled as difficult’ or ‘not bright’ students and thus they are rendered vocationally and socially disadvantaged. Teachers can play a significant role in the identification of this disorder among students for better management at an early stage of their schooling. The teachers need to be trained to identify possible dyslexic children in elementary schools and refer them for further examination by specially trained rehabilitation professionals. Unfortunately, the support ecosystem needed to do this is non-existent in Ukhrul district leading to many children being discriminated against in the schools, resulting in extra stress on parents and teachers.

It is inspiring to see that many celebrities have a history of dyslexia, legendary heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali’s first fight was against dyslexia, An American actress Jennifer Aniston was a clown of her class who faces traumas because of dyslexia, yet despite her condition, she becomes an award-winning actress. Tom Cruise one of the highest-paid actors in the world was a dyslexic. In one of his interviews, he shared “when I was about 7 years, I had been labelled dyslexic. I’d try to concentrate on what I was reading, then I’d get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I’d read…” Many great personalities which include Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison are believed to be dyslexic as per their childhood stories.

My son is dyslexic and initially, I could not comprehend what was happening. I was disturbed to notice his confusion with the name and sound of the letter ‘b’, and ‘d’, he was also confused about the order of the letters at the age of 11, and had difficulty uttering simple words like map, nap etc. He was in his 6th standard and yet there were a number of errors when he read aloud, he was unable to clearly read any sentences. He looked tired and irritated when asked to read stories, he could hardly tell any stories in sequential order, it all jumbled up the beginning, end, and middle. He lacks the vocabulary to express what he wants to say. Sometimes he reads words with ease but struggles with the same word in the next paragraph. For example, he read “hecilopter” instead of “helicopter” or “debby dear” instead of “teddy bear”.

His room and school bag were messy, he has poor organization skills. At home, I reproached him and in school, he was scolded by teachers for being ‘lazy’.  But he was lively, cheerful, and playful and loved to watch animated and cartoon movies, and playing video games. 

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After many searches on the nature of my son, it turned out to be the case of a struggle with a specific learning disorder which is called dyslexia. The term dyslexia has Greek roots, ‘dys’ implies difficulty and ‘lexia’ means reading, thus dyslexia is a disability or difficulty in reading.  This means dyslexics will have problems with spelling and writing skills.  People with dyslexia have trouble reading at a good pace and without mistakes. They have a hard time with reading comprehension, spelling, and writing. They put equal effort into their work but could not achieve their desired result because of their hindrance.  

Today my son is in standard 8 and still struggling with reading and writing, he loves painting and aims to become a painter someday.  He occasionally still struggles with the letter ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘m’ and ‘n’, he still mixes the reading and comprehension activities done in school with a jumbled narrative. Despite all these difficulties, I am no longer disturbed by his imperfection because it is perfectly fine to be imperfect, ok to be confused. I can now see orderliness in his jumbled narrations! He is having his own dreams and grows up into a happy, cheerful, and lively child. My child is special and his worldview is unique!

The author can be contacted at tuisem.ngakang@gmail.com

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