Dyslexia is directly impacts a student’s learning ability, mainly in reading and spelling. From an early age, many dyslexic students start to realize that they learn differently from their classmates, which can cause frustration and severely impact a student’s self-confidence. Helping students understand these differences in a healthy way is key to building up their self-esteem regardless of the challenges they face in the classroom.
Here are some tips for parents to build and foster self-confidence in dyslexic learners from an early age.
- Give Students the Power of Understanding
Equipping students with knowledge about dyslexia can help them understand their learning struggles and not feel so alone. There’s an important difference between “I struggle with reading because I’m not as smart as my classmates” and “I struggle with reading because I learn differently than my classmates.” If students are given accurate information about their dyslexia from a young age, it will be easier for them to put these differences into perspective and they may be less likely to compare their abilities to their peers’. It’s crucial for dyslexic students to understand that learning challenges have nothing to do with intelligence. This mindset may help them understand why they face more difficulty than others.
- Encourage Their Strengths
Although it’s important to work on reading and other subjects they struggle with, it’s equally necessary to help them identify their strengths, both academic and otherwise. While your student may have trouble reading, they most likely excel at something else. Maybe your student is really good at math, is curious about science, or knows a million facts about Ancient Egypt? Even if your student is not a fan of school, they are certainly skilled at something else. Maybe they’re an amazing older brother or sister, like to cook, or can build intricate Lego buildings. It doesn’t matter what the skill is, as long as your student is encouraged to pursue it and is consistently reminded of their ability to accomplish great things. Focusing on their strengths can overshadow any feelings of inadequacy they may feel throughout the day, especially at school. This recognition can help them see the value they have to offer those around them and that they are capable of achievement.
- Focus on Effort over Results
Providing students with positive reinforcement for their efforts can build confidence and help them maintain a healthy relationship with reading even though it’s challenging for them. Focussing only on the results, which may fluctuate and take time, can be disheartening for students. Learning can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but when students feel encouraged to keep trying, a healthy and confident attitude can emerge.
- Embrace a Growth Mindset
Those with a “growth mindset” believe that intelligence and skill set can be strengthened. When we apply extra effort to subjects that are difficult, it just means we are increasing our intelligence and improving our skills. This idea is far more liberating than a “fixed mindset,” which claims that intelligence is unchangeable and there is no point in working to improve in a subject that is too difficult. Cultivating a growth mindset from an early age will help students believe that they can learn new things and help them see the value in hard work. For example, it may be beneficial to adopt the word “yet”. “I can’t read this” becomes “I can’t read this yet.” “I’m not good at this” becomes “I’m not good at this yet.” A growth mindset can positively impact the way a dyslexic learner views challenges and setbacks. Instead of feeling defeated, students will ideally feel more prepared to continue working hard to achieve their goals. A growth mindset will lay the foundation of self-confidence for the rest of their lives.
- Find the Right Tools
Like all parts of life, problems are easier to solve when they are small. Noticing signs of dyslexia and receiving a diagnosis at a young age can help students get connected with the right tools early. This will help students find alternative reading strategies and resources from an early age. Additionally, make sure your child has books to read that match their skill level. It’s discouraging to attempt a book that is far beyond one’s current reading level, which can tempt students to stop trying altogether. Instead, low-level/high-context (or “hi-lo”) books are more beneficial and enjoyable for young dyslexic readers. Connecting students with the appropriate tools at an early age will bring fewer struggles, cultivate a healthier relationship with reading, and improve self-confidence.