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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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The Social Side Of Dyslexia

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It really is annoying when you can’t read black on white, You just get lost so easily because you can’t tell left from right. When words all look like pictures and letters jump around, And mathematics baffles you because it has no sound.

I’m capable, articulate and speak with true conviction, Yet it’s written works and reading words that highlight my affliction. Sometimes I worry silently, the fear just makes me sick, I fear that people judge me because they think I’m “thick.”

So I offer up this silent prayer to ease my troubled mind, Let others see me, as I am, intelligent and kind. Please feel the struggle that I face each and every day, Dyslexia is not a myth, it’s real and here to stay.

-Teedy Dawn

The above poem not only highlights the academic issues associated with dyslexia – “can’t read black on white” – but also the social stigmas, “let others see me, as I am.”  While dyslexia is an “academic” problem, it is fraught with social repercussions. Children with dyslexia can often have problems with their peers and classmates.  Whereas people used to believe that emotional disorders caused dyslexia, experts now agree that this is quite the opposite. Children who are dyslexic experience no trouble socially until they begin to learn to read and write in kindergarten. Early reading instruction does not match their learning style – and that is where the problems arise!

Time and again, dyslexic children hear, “He’s such a smart kid. If only he would try harder, he would succeed.” Ironically, no one knows just how hard these children are trying, yet they continue to fail miserably because their minds simply do not work the way normative reading instruction is taught. Their frustration mounts and they begin to think that it is “terrible” to make a mistake. It is no wonder then that dyslexic children have trouble interacting socially. Below, I have outlined some of the specific social problems children with dyslexia may experience:

 

  • Anxiety. Anxiety is the most frequent emotional symptom reported by dyslexic adults. Because children with dyslexia anticipate failure, they become anxious when facing new situations. This anxiety can also lead them to avoid homework or participate in school activities. It is not that they are not interested or that they are lazy, instead, they fear failure.
  • Anger. Many of the emotional issues caused by dyslexia occur because of the child’s frustration with school or social interactions. This frustration can often produce anger. While the obvious target of this anger is school and their teachers, because dyslexic children feel safe at home, they are “able” to misdirect their anger at their parents. This becomes more intense as children grow, culminating in adolescence.
  • Low self-esteem. Children who constantly feel that they are failing even when they are trying will develop a poor sense of self. Children who are dyslexic often feel that they were “lucky” when they succeed, but that they are stupid when they fail. This low self-worth can in turn lead to less peer acceptance.
  • Difficulty reading social cues. Dyslexic children might be oblivious to the amount of personal space needed or to facial expressions that indicate emotions. This can make it much harder to make friends.
  • Impaired oral language. Though dyslexia primarily affects reading, it can also impair oral language functioning. Children might have trouble finding the right words or may stammer. This impaired speech can turn off their peers and make the dyslexic child seem less mature or intelligent.
  • Trouble with sequencing. Not only do some dyslexic children have trouble with letters, they can also have trouble remembering the correct sequence of events. That means that when there is a problem on the playground, the dyslexic child might reverse the order of events (i.e. “He hit me, so I pushed him; rather than “I pushed him, so he hit me”). For this reason, children with dyslexia are sometimes labeled liars, even if they unintentionally mix up events.

About the Author: An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation,, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net. Visit her on the web at rifkaschonfeldsos.com.


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