Discussing a dyslexia diagnosis with your child
There are a number of things to consider when you receive a dyslexia diagnosis for your child, one of which will likely be a conversation with them about what this diagnosis might mean. We have put together a few ideas that may help you to get started.
Knowing you have dyslexia can be a big relief – there’s a reason why learning has been so hard. It may be helpful to know that there are ways to help your brain learn how to work with words. There are some enormous possibilities and strengths that come with meeting such a challenge.
Sharing some information about how the brain works can give you and your child some context. Here are a few fun facts you may like to share:
- The brain is the command centre of all you think, feel and do. It is divided into two halves – we call these ‘hemispheres’.
- Brains are not perfectly symmetrical; however, dyslexic brains are more so than non-dyslexic – and this means some parts of the brain may function at a higher level.
- All parts of the brain talk to each other as they help you to learn and grow.
- Some parts of the brain will work differently for different people. You might have a good imagination and enjoy art, your friend might enjoy learning facts and doing maths, and your brother might prefer to play cricket than study – this is because your brains have different strengths.
- When you learn new skills or information, your brain creates a pathway made up of cells called neurons.
- There are around 100 billion neurons that form 100 trillion connections in a human brain
Dyslexia is not about intelligence or ability – it is purely a skill-based difficulty. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart. It might feel that way, but it’s actually the dyslexia and the way the pathways in your brain are wired.
In the brain of a person with dyslexia, messages take a more creative journey instead of going directly to their destination: the language centre (the part of the brain that is responsible for hearing, seeing, understanding and writing words). This means it takes longer to decode and encode words and their meanings when reading or writing.
Having dyslexia means that school might be more challenging, and you may require more time to complete tasks. However, facing these challenges means that you develop strategies, skills, abilities and strengths, like learning how to problem solve or think outside the box. These will help you throughout your life – not just at school.
You may need to work a bit harder than your peers, but that can actually be a good thing. Some people don’t recognise the need for hard work until they reach high school or later, and then it can be more difficult for them to learn how to stay focused. It’s a great benefit to acquire this ability early in life.
Many accomplished famous people have been diagnosed with dyslexia: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Sir. Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Jessica Watson, Jackie French, John Lennon, Daniel Radcliffe and so many more. These people found school to be challenging, but they persisted and eventually found huge success in their chosen fields, be it mathematics and science, film and television, music, writing, politics, entrepreneurship, or even cooking! Vice-Chancellor Rufus Black of the University of Tasmania is dyslexic, and he studied at Oxford University in England as a recipient of the very prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Sometimes it can help to externalise dyslexia. Try drawing an image of what it might look like and recognise that it doesn’t define who you are. Having dyslexia helps to develop perseverance, the ability to overcome challenges, problem solving, creative thinking, and the ability to see what others don’t (among many other skills). Dyslexia is a part of you, but it is not the most important thing about you!