7 secret fears about dyslexia

When people talk about , they tend to focus on the practical challenges: spelling tests, chapter books, standardized tests. But it’s the secret fears about how a child’s dyslexia will play out that can trouble parents the most.

I’ve written in the past about how parents of dyslexic kids can avoid some of the pitfalls that my parents and I faced. Part of this process is bringing secret fears out into the open.

Talking about what scares you most with a community that you can trust is like putting sunlight on a muddy road. With enough time, the fear will dry up like the water in the mud. You can begin to focus on how to move forward.

Things people say — or things we think they might say — often provoke parents’ fears about their children’s dyslexia. Here’s my list of top fears and the types of comments that may trigger them.

Teacher says: “Not every child is college material.”

Parent thinks: I fear my child isn’t smart.

Bully says: “Hey retardo! Can you spell ‘retarded’? Or are you too stupid?”

Parent thinks: I fear my child will never fit in.

Dinner party guest says: “Did I tell you that our youngest just started reading? And she’s only 4. My wife was so excited!”

Parent thinks: I fear people are judging me and my child.

School says: “We’re placing your child in the lowest reading group.”

Parent thinks: I fear my child will never learn to read.

Well-meaning uncle says: “You know, some kids have to be the ones who end up earning minimum wage.”

Parent thinks: I fear my child has limited potential.

Grandfather says:You loved curling up with a book and a flashlight in your room. I figured you’d have a little bookworm.”

Parent thinks: I fear my child will not be like me.

Spouse says: “I know you hated special ed, but this time it will be different.”

Parent thinks: I fear my child’s experience will mirror my own.

The root of these fears is the thought that your child is somehow broken because of his dyslexia. People often talk about dyslexia as a “diagnosis.” But this kind of thinking and talking furthers the notion that dyslexia is a disease, a scourge, an imperfection for which someday we can find a cure.

The fact is that there will be no cure. That’s because there is no disease! Dyslexia is a characteristic, like being male or female, being from a particular town or a graduate of a certain university. Perfection has little to do with these descriptions, does it? They simply contribute to who we are.

You can start changing perspectives in your own house today. Try replacing the phrase “diagnosed with dyslexia” with “identified with dyslexia.” When you feel alone, remember that you’re part of a larger community. For parents, I recommend that you find (or start!) a chapter of Decoding Dyslexia.

All of this is for your personal happiness. And it is crucial to your child becoming a fully integrated, happy, and independent person. Above all, remember that dyslexia should be about strengths, not shame. And as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said long ago, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Learn more about common myths about dyslexia.


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