We often talk about the importance of a dyslexia diagnosis to support your child’s learning, but did you know it can also play a big part in looking after their mental health?
This month sees the return of Children’s Mental Health Week, from 6-12 February. Now in its ninth year, it was originally begun by children’s mental health charity, Place2Be, as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the mental health of children and young people.
The theme of this year’s awareness week is ‘Let’s Connect’ and it’s a reminder of the need humans have to be part of a community, to belong to something. Healthy relationships with family and friends are vital for our wellbeing and survival, without these needs being met we become isolated and lonely.
Dyslexia and your child’s mental health
You might be wondering what this has to do with dyslexia, after all it’s a neurological condition not a mental health issue but left undiagnosed it can have a devastating impact which can lead to longer term mental health problems.
We know that the struggle with dyslexia often becomes more pronounced during a child’s school years, once they’re tackling reading and writing more frequently and are in an environment where their development can be measured alongside their peers. School life centres around comprehension, and the ability to extract information and do something with it. If you’re struggling to read and process information then it makes every day at school a real challenge, and as your child gets older and the workload increases it can begin to seem completely insurmountable.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how school can become a place of frustration and worry for an undiagnosed dyslexic. It can already be a big, scary place but if you’re trying to learn without the right support it can become an incredibly hostile environment. Undiagnosed dyslexics will naturally take longer to understand and learn and as a result often brand themselves as ‘stupid’ or are called lazy because the lack of output is perceived as a lack of effort – all of which are completely untrue. This can begin a downward spiral of insecurity and lack of self-belief which can affect friendships, as they begin to pull away from large groups and discussions.
Left unchecked, this can be incredibly detrimental to a child’s self-esteem. They may try and mask the lack of confidence with aggressive social behaviour making it difficult for them to make, and keep, friends and leaving them even more isolated as a result. Alternatively, they may become quiet, withdrawn and reluctant to mix with their peers both in and out of school. They may begin to be seen as a bit of a loner by the other children and develop a social nervousness which can stay with them as they grow up.
The right tools for the job
But the good news is, this doesn’t have to be the case. School, and growing up with their friends, can be just as enriching and fulfilling for dyslexic children as for non-dyslexics, the important thing is that we equip them with the right tools and skills they need in order to learn and develop. In some cases, it might be that they get additional time to complete their work, for others it may be that using different colour paper makes all the difference, and for younger pupils something as simple as making learning more visual with flashcards or toys, can really help.
This is why getting your child assessed for dyslexia is so important. It gives you the opportunity to put those support mechanisms in place as early as possible and avoid the negative impact that undiagnosed dyslexia can have on your child’s mental health. A dyslexia assessment will identify the difficulties your child is experiencing and will highlight the specific areas of their learning that are affected. Armed with this it is much easier to talk to your child’s school and ensure that together you are creating a positive learning environment for your son or daughter.
Is your assessor qualified?
Getting assessed by a qualified practitioner is crucial to ensuring you get the correct diagnosis and can then access the help and support you need for your child. We often get approached by clients who require a second assessment as their original one was carried out by someone who did not have an Assessment Practicing Certificate (APC) and therefore could not be used to apply for the Disabled Students Allowance. To avoid the upheaval and expense of having to redo an assessment, always check the assessor’s qualifications on the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee website or for Educational Psychologists, check their credentials here.
About Dyslexia First
At Dyslexia First we want to help those who are living with dyslexia to enjoy life and the many opportunities it brings. We are relentlessly positive about dyslexia.
If you would like to talk further about dyslexia and discuss assessment for children or adults suspected of being dyslexic, then please get in touch.