My Teen has Dyslexia: Five Things I Want You to Know About Him

My child, like 15-20 percent of the population, has a language-based learning disability. In honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, here’s what I’d like for other parents to know about my son with dyslexia.

My teen has Dyslexia

1. He’s smart.

In a world where AR levels are the talk of the mommy circuit, and where spelling/grammar errors are used to mock people all over the Internet, I want you to know my kid’s really smart. So smart he picks up on clues and context most people miss, even if he reads below grade level.

Despite the letters on his report card, he grasps concepts on a whole different plane, using heightened logic and creativity. For example, when he was 10, a test question asked him to estimate an angle. He ripped off the corner of his test paper and used that 90-degree sample to calculate the angle to an exact degree.

Learning disabilities aren’t the same as a low IQ. In fact, some of the world’s smartest and most innovative people are known dyslexics, including Leonardo de Vinci, Steve Jobs and Dean Kamen, just to name a few.

Here's what you should know about Dyslexia
Ursula Ferrara/Shutterstock

2. He’s not lazy.

Before my son’s diagnosis, I can’t tell you how many times he was urged by school officials and even myself to “try harder.” But when your brain works differently, telling a person to just buckle down and keep on trying the same old thing, doesn’t actually help them. In fact, it causes more frustration.

By trying different learning methods, getting specialized tutoring and accommodations, and working his butt off, my son has overcome many of his obstacles. If you ask me, that’s quite the opposite of lazy.

3. He gets in trouble on purpose sometimes.

School can be a nightmare for dyslexics, and it goes far beyond the English language arts classroom. Think about word problems in math. Or simply reading and understanding the directions your art teacher writes on the chalkboard or singing lyrics in music class. My son about had a panic attack when asked to read a list of teacher’s names during a school assembly or when it was his turn to read the afternoon announcements.

On top of that, homework can consume an entire evening, even if it was intended to take only 30 minutes.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that sometimes my son gets in trouble just to catch a break, avoid another headache or to dodge the embarrassment of his academic struggles. For some kids, even a trip to the principal’s office sounds better than reading a passage out loud to the class

4. His accommodations aren’t an advantage.

Sometimes my son is allowed to give oral reports instead of written essays. He often gets extra time on tests and occasionally uses audio books. Sometimes he’s allowed to write with voice-assist software or by typing, instead of by pencil and paper.

These do not give him an advantage over your child. They’re simply allowing him to show his teachers what knowledge he has inside his head, which doesn’t always come through with traditional methods.

5. Dyslexia impacts his life outside of school, too.

Dyslexia doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. Extracurricular activities like drama and music certainly require reading, and sports come with signs, playbooks, instructions, even names on the backs of jerseys.

Beyond that, there are menus. Texting. Playing board games. Brochures. Instruction manuals. Permission slips. Food labels. Calendars. Recipes.

Written language is everywhere. And a lot of people struggle with it. But it doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent, lazy, have unfair accommodations or their challenges stop when school’s out.

In fact, my son is one of the most hard-working, perceptive, funny and compassionate people I know, and his dyslexia is part of what’s made him that way.

Related:

Learning Disabilities: How to Succeed in College From Day One

About Jacqueline Miller

Jacqueline Miller is the lone female in a house full of guys. She travels freakishly light and can balance two kids on her Dutch bike. Her recent articles appear in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, and Sammiches & Psych Meds, and she’s working on a book about her three years in the Netherlands. If you enjoyed this article, follow her at www.boogersabroad.com and Facebook.

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