On Thursday 28 th April 2016 we once again welcomed David Linford and Lizi Hamilton who delivered a great presentation to us on Dyslexia and Self-Esteem, subjects in which they have a wealth of experience. Self-esteem starts to establish early with negative life experiences coupled with unhelpful rules and expectations. Things which lots of dyslexic children will encounter. There can be a tendency to draw conclusions about yourself and your abilities affecting your sense of self-worth. The impact of this can show in lots of ways such as school refusing/anxiety, meltdowns over homework, class clown/avoidant behaviour, feeling like you’re stupid /a failure, unable to do anything and the feeling of a need to escape.
How does dyslexia affect self esteem?
In a negative example a student may, confront difficulties daily, feel like they have failed in front of their peer group and teachers, be regularly assessed on things they might struggle with, feel like others do not understand their difficulties. A school may, have limited awareness of dyslexia as a learning difference, not offer a range of curriculum, deliver new curriculums which aren’t necessarily dyslexia friendly, use regular formal assessment, not offer enough support academically and/or emotionally. However in a positive example a student may, have opportunities to pursue specific strengths and interests, be given particular responsibilities in the classroom/school, pick a curriculum tailored to their strengths, have help from support staff/teachers, have pastoral support e.g. form tutor, overcome challenges. A school may, offer extra-curricular activities, embrace a student’s strengths and interests, offer a broad curriculum, train their staff on SEN and dyslexia, have a multisensory teaching policy, communicate with parents and outside agencies.
Some Coping Strategies –
For Schools. Have a good awareness of dyslexic students and dyslexia friendly practice, Use dyslexia friendly powerpoints and print outs, give small manageable tasks with instructions repeated, Offer multisensory learning, alternative ways of recording information e.g. Mind maps, use key word lists but most importantly acknowledge effort and be positive.
For parents. Good communication between home and the school is essential – try to establish what strategies your child is already benefitting from and share your experience of what works well. Take a solution focused approach – use goals and SMART “I can” targets and celebrate success! Work with ‘failure’ and allow a safe space for things to go wrong. Develop a toolbox using dyslexic friendly strategies, which can support homework tasks. Try and think about your own responses – model positive self esteem where possible. Create opportunities to build on skills and interests. Know when to step back, have quality time and relax.
For students. Be aware of your strengths as well as difficulties. Embrace strengths and interests in hobbies and in learning where possible and attend clubs. Communicate with someone that is trusted about difficulties e.g. Parent, friend, teacher, mentor etc. Get lots of sleep, eat well, drink lots of water for positive wellbeing. Try to persevere and work with your teachers, act on advice and feedback and use coping strategies and attend homework clubs, study groups as well as using online resources. Be well equipped with a good pencil case and coloured reading ruler.
And finally – a Building Positive Self Esteem Activity – Ask yourself these questions.
What do I like about who I am?
What characteristics do I have that are positive?
What are some of my achievements?
What are some challenges I have overcome?
What are some skills or talents that I have?
What do others say they like about me?
What are some attributes I like in others that I also have in common with?
If someone shared my identical characteristics, what would I admire in them?
How might someone who cared about me describe me?
What do I think are bad qualities? What bad qualities do I not have?
Their final thought. Whilst dyslexia is a gift, it can require someone to work harder, but with the right environment, dyslexia doesn’t need to be a barrier to success.