In response to an earlier post and video by Dr. Russell Barkley called ADHD is Not a Gift, Katarina, a mother of a teenaged son with dyslexia, sent in a comment that I thought was so good I asked her permission to put it here (below) as a separate post .
…If it is, what’s the refund policy? (my corny sense of humor)
After watching Doctor Barkley’s video, I wanted to write about my own experiences as a parent of a son with dyslexia.
First some questions: Do you all have any suggestions on what parents should tell their kids, as this video speaks volumes?
What should a parent tell a six year versus a 12 year, etc.? How do we as parents not focus on the “ADHD is a gift” trend, etc.?
For some parents, it may help them process what is going on with their kids but in the end, the trend may be more problematic. How do we not send our kids the wrong message? It is important, I think, that successful business professionals, athletes, teachers, coaches, scientists, etc., have admitted their struggles with learning disabilities. How does a parent balance all of this out with their kids who are having some significant struggles?
In a society where the emphasis (in some circles) that ADHD is a gift, or that dyslexia is a gift, we may be missing the boat. I know what worked when we told our son about his dyslexia when he was diagnosed at 12 years of age. The truth hurts but it was the truth. We kept it age appropriate for him as it was a lot to intially process. We did emphasize his strengths as a balance to the condition of dyslexia. We also emphasized that the condition requires more effort and more school interventions to address the deficits. The diagnoses was a “ah ha” moment for him in many good ways but still a lot to digest for a 12 year old. The diagnoses was a lot for my husband and I to process as parents, but it did answer many questions.
Now two years later, he better understands the complexity of dyslexia and how it impacts his learning style. He is also understanding in some ways how he compensates. Can compensation also occur intuitively? I don’t know, but something is working for him. He did focus significantly on his ability to play certain competitive sports after the diagnoses. It worked for him. Ironically, he is enjoying reading certain topics of interests. Nevertheless, he is reading something–if only paragraphs and statistics about the top 100 football players of all time. Or, the story of Jackie Robinson or a civil rights leader or a teen novel about a football hero. A novel is hard to get through for him but AT does help. Like any person, one enjoys reading topics of interests. There is always a recognition of how and in what ways the dyslexia impacts his learning across the curriculum. He cannot avoid such. Yes, he gets appropriate support in school but advocates for less as he wants to be challenged. Assistive technology does help him but he does not solely use it as a way to access course content.
The process of reading and writing is diffcult for him but not impossible. It takes time and more strategies. He has a faith that sustains him. He will need that faith in the years to come.
Is dyslexia a gift? For my son, it has forced him to “think outside the box” as his woods teacher informed me. It has forced him to study and remember the football plays in ways that are unique for him. It is not easy. What others may see as simple concepts to learn, he is thinking about them in different ways in order to achieve success. It is because of his dyslexia that he has to take extra mental steps while rethinking, flow charting and processong more than others. This is not easy. But over time it is becoming second nature. It is an ongoing laborious mental process.
In years past, I saw the disappointed and confusing look on his face when he could not remember a play on the spot. A few years ago before the dyslexia diagnoses, a football coach told me that “your son mentally beats himself up too much when he does not understand a play. He has the strength and speed–tell him not to give up so easily.” After his diagnoses of dyslexia, he understood the deficts and started strategizing and compensating–especially in sports as well as acadmics. I do have to give much credit to a sports psychologist at a camp who taught him how to mentally view sports beyond the physical act of playing. That psychologist was a blessing for him. My son shifted his thinking. That shift resulted in a new type of athlete and student. This is his reality. That reality he does not take for granted. He works harder than most athletes his age as he cannot let up. If he does not take that extra time and more to process a new play or move, he may slip up. That is what gives him the advantage. He does not win all the time–but he knows how to stay in the game mentally and physically.
He has learned to do the same with his academics. It is an ongoing struggle. The truth is the truth–it is a struggle and such is the reality of dyslexia. I cannot imagine how a 14 year old must deal with the condition of dyslexia. He counts his blessings. Each child is unique. Each child has their own learning profile. The dyslexia still, at times, is a hard pill to swallow. There is a lot of self regulation for dyslexics as one does not want to be ridiculed by classmates or fellow athletes. He still gets a tease or so from schoolmates. Each tease forces him to rethink how he may be saying a word incorrectly, his handwriting, his speech, not fully ariculating his thoughts, etc,. There is a lot of self-regulation. It is an ongoing process. My son is now, as we moved to a new school district, around some very competitive scholastic athletes. He now has to rethink things in different ways to stay competitive. Academically, he will find new strategies to keep up. He knows he will not be at the “top” of his class but he will be on the “bottom”.
Is dyslexia a gift–no it is not. We can teach our kids to honestly view it for what it is and not dismiss who they are. We chose to teach our son about the complexities of his dyslexia over time so he can gain a better understanding of how he learns. We are still working with him on such. We can help our kids understand their strengths and well as their deficits. They, in turn, can help younger kids who are dyslexic understand a very complex condition. I am thankful for my child. This is my story of how we deal with this. It is not a guide for other parents just a perspective. I respect that we all have our personal journeys and so do our kids.
From Katarina, a concerned mom.
So, what do you think?