Emotional impact of Dyslexia
Dyslexia can have a profound effect on the dyslexic child’s educational experience and the child’s ability to master literacy skills.
Whereas assessing the dyslexic child’s ability in relation to literacy is relatively achievable, it is difficult to assess the effects of dyslexia on the children without considering its emotional and social effects. It is not only the specific cognitive inefficiencies that make dyslexia a serious problem, but it is also and mainly the adverse reactions and feedback the afflicted children receive from their social surroundings because of their specific learning difficulties.
Dyslexics, we could say represent a challenge to people and society in general due to the hidden nature of their disability. Never would anyone become impatient with the physically challenged who took longer to walk up to the school canteen counter. Visually noticeable physical challenges in others appear much easier to perceive and understand than the need to make allowances for differences in the way dyslexic brains manage certain tasks.
There is a considerable degree of a general lack of public awareness about the true nature of dyslexia and there are a lot of general misconceptions surrounding what a dyslexic may be facing.
It is crucial to know and acknowledge that a dyslexic student can be at great risk of failure not only academically but also socially and emotionally. The difficulties in learning experienced by dyslexic students may also lead to social and behavioral difficulties in class, and or at home. The ensuing frustration of prolonged failure on a range of school subjects, results in feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence that can have profound effects upon social status, friendship patterns in class, and acceptance and adjustment in the playground.
There is a strong possibility that more often than not aggressive and anti-social behavior may result from these tensions. Stress and insecurity can further lead to an accentuation of information processing difficulties. When dealing with problems, most dyslexic students will adopt strategies of avoidance.
A child who is dyslexic may be highly vulnerable to negative reactions from parents, teachers and peers, and may show feelings of shame of failure, feeling of inadequacy, low self-esteem, hopelessness and helplessness. At School, underachieving pupils may be seen as lazy and not trying hard enough, and their failure may be viewed in terms of mischievous behavior and attitude.
Increased impatience and an attitude of blame on the part of the teacher and parents intensify the child’s anxiety, frustration and confusion, and bring adverse consequences to the self-esteem. Students with dyslexia are very often described as having low self-esteem or negative self-perception.
Such descriptions are not surprising as dyslexic pupils often experience academic and social failure and receive negative feedback at school as well as at home.
Children low in self-esteem are more likely to exhibit anxiety and insecurity, and to perform less effectively under stress and failure. The more the pupils experience the consequences of specific learning difficulties, the less enthusiastic, optimistic and self-confident they may become.
Under these circumstances there is a possibility that in the later stages of life there is a much higher than average chance that such a child may develop:
Borderline Personality Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Addictive Personality Disorder
Anti social attitude and oppositional defiance disorder in an attempt to protect his boundaries.
If this is so then there is strong need to Develop efficient communication between the pupils and the others involved with them such as parents, teachers and peers and this is an important process towards the effective adjustment of dyslexic child in their environment.
Any attempt at remediation must find a way to reverse the cycle of failure and to experience success, build feelings of self-worth and increase confidence. It is important that social and emotional problems of students with dyslexia are addressed in the early stages, as there is evidence that these difficulties may persist into adulthood, affecting their performance at work.
The socio-emotional maladjustment of a dyslexic child may be the result of aggravated and prolonged states of stress related to their learning difficulties, particularly when their coping strategies are ineffective or even generate new problems. We have observed that Individual therapy or counseling could be effective when introduced in conjunction with special educational provision.
At the Dyslexia Association of India we provide counseling in a systematic, progressive and confidential manner. Group therapy may sometimes be much more effective than individual therapy, because peers may be a better source of support and insight, especially peers who have the same problem. Group therapy and individual therapy may often be recommended to compliment each other.
When insight is gained in individual therapy, it can be exercised in the safe environment of a supportive small group. This is recommended because dyslexic pupils do not often have a chance to air the problems they experience without being judged or criticized, not only problems with reading and writing, but also problems about making friends, feelings of isolation, shame or frustration.
Mostly dyslexic children have difficulties in articulating their feelings, and thoughts often get confused because they do not have the skills to verbalize these thoughts effectively. They may also have difficulties pointing to the source of their anger or frustration.
We need to help the dyslexic student develop a sense of commitment, control and challenge that may be useful when coping with their stressful circumstances.
Control allows the pupils to perceive many stressful life events as predictable consequences of their own activity and, thereby, as subject to their direction and manipulation. Challenge is based on the beliefs that change, rather than stability, is the normative mode of life. From the perspective of challenge, stressful event can be anticipated as an opportunity and incentive for the growth, rather than a simple threat to security.
When we asked some children who came to us the responses that were generated were insightful. These are just the tip of the iceberg and more can be found with each individual.
I feel frustrated by the nature of the handicap, of other peoples lack of knowledge and understanding of what I am struggling to cope
I feel unable to express to others the exact nature of the problem and my feeling.
I feel completely frustrated with the inability to get through to others coherently – sense of inadequacy.
Angry – furious to the point by the lack of understanding by many of the people
I might look relaxed, but I’m not. I’m always on the lookout, looking and listening. It’s sort of like being an actor.
I’ve always got my radar up.
I am not a failure as my dad calls me. Why does he not understand that I just want to be spoken to with respect.
I do not like fun being poked at me. If some one at school points a finger at me I want to hit out at him.
Don’t compare me with the other students. I also am a human being and have feelings. I do not like it when the teacher shows me down in the class in front of the others. It hurts.
I am terrified of being asked to stand up and read a passage. If I make an error, I am scared everyone will laugh at me.
Children who are impacted by underlying emotional issues mostly try attempting to conceal their difficulties from themselves by avoiding circumstance they were likely to fail in and by adopting diversionary behavior. Mostly children spoke of the embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and guilt they felt when faced with challenging situations. If children feel silly, frustrated and angry, they lose confidence in themselves as learners and often lose their friends.
No child needs to suffer continued frustration with himself, or invalidation through bullying, mistreatment by teachers and lack of parental understanding or problems with emotional regulation. If you allow yourself to fall in this trap you may develop low self esteem, self doubt and this will lead to chronic procrastination.
We encourage correct assessment and a recommendation for remedial services. If you feel that you are facing any of the above issues to any extent, do not sweep the matter under the carpet or think that the matter will resolve by itself. Issues that need correct professional intervention should be addressed and all efforts should be made to reverse as much as possible the underlying causes as early as can be.
Please call us to fix an appointment. No child needs to be left out and left behind.