The Most Important Words for a Dyslexic
“You have greatness in you. You are not defined by school. It does not matter how you learn, it only
matters how you try.” Henry Winker, Rotary Club Magazine, September 2016
Understood.org published an article on September 2, 2016, talking about the importance of kids feeling accepted for who they are at home, and how if they feel accepted at home, they are better able to cope when life is tough outside the home. For kids with dyslexia, their first experiences outside their home is school, and school quickly becomes a stressful place where it is hard for them to succeed.
When I was growing up, I didn't know I was growing up in a "dyslexic household." It is only now, after years of study, that I realize my brothers and father are most likely dyslexic, and I passed it on to my son. But, the lessons I learned in a dyslexic household, were actually the best lessons I ever learned...to quote Henry Winkler, and my mother, "You have greatness in you. You are not defined by school." I heard this message a lot, as my brothers were "stars in all things mechanical." My oldest brother was repairing neighbor's lawn mowers at age six, and although he found them in their garbage, my dad would make him "return them" when he fixed them. My oldest brother had a very hard time reading, and my mom would constantly tell him "you are not defined by how you do in school." This lesson really sank home with me, even though I was not dyslexic, because I could see and experience how mechanically gifted he was, and that there were other kinds of "intelligence" besides reading.
In a dyslexic household, I learned that their are many kinds of intelligence, and although mine was school work, my brothers was athleticism, mechanics and art. Growing up is hard no matter who you are, and I knew my parents loved us all unconditionally.
So what's my point? If you have a dyslexic child, the most important gift you can give them is to tell them frequently “You have greatness in you. You are not defined by school. It does not matter how you learn, it only matters how you try.”
Finding your kids "gift", the thing they are "great at" is what I believe one of the top jobs of a parent. Sometimes I have a parent who will say, "I don't know what my kid is good at." Take some advice from Henry Winker, and ask them what they are great at. He says, "I meet these children and I ask them, “Tell me, kids: Who knows what they’re great at?” There is not a child in any country, in any language, who does not know what they’re great at. And whatever it is that these children are great at is incredibly valuable. This country is not going to stay great if every one of them doesn’t meet their potential."
And sometimes, maybe we need to redefine "great." Maybe their performance isn't great to adult standards, but maybe its pretty darn great for an eight year old. Or maybe, its just what they enjoy doing, and that can be their great. But whatever "their great is" invest in that. Especially for the dyslexic child, who is trying so hard at school, but it never going to get as many "kudos" as the others.
My parents always tried to find what each of their five kids "was great at." Maybe we weren't "the greatest", but whatever our interest and gift was, they fed. And, in my family, school was not always the strong point...but my siblings and my son, all turned out successful...engineers, electricians, graphic designers, musicians, t-shirt designers and art teachers.
When kids feel consistently accepted for who they are at home, it makes them better able to cope with outside stressors. If your child is dyslexic, and you have not been familiar with it in your family tree, take this article to heart. Put yourself in their shoes, and find what they love. Don't give up on school, but find what they love and build upon it.
Heidi Kroner, Founder of Literacy Lifeline, a non-profit with the goal of making dyslexia therapy more accessible for all. Follow me on twitter and facebook.