Tuesday 19 November 2019

How can I manage my dyslexic eight-year-old?

David Coleman

David Coleman

I'm really frustrated, angry and at a loss as to how to handle the situation with my eight-year-old daughter who has dyslexia. The psychologist that assessed her also talked a little about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) being present as well.

School time is a very highly stressed situation for her although the school holidays have not been as bad. However, she does control the whole mood in the house. She goes from calm to angry in a split second and it is very difficult to watch and deal with.

The strange thing is that when she is in any situation other than the family situation she is the perfect outgoing, confident, funny little girl, whereas at home she sometimes brings me to tears with frustration.

With her dyslexia we have been trying to help her with her reading over the summer but it was causing such distress at times that it was hard to face and so I've given it a break for the last few weeks.

I'm a stay at home mum so I'm trying to give her the time that she needs but sometimes it's difficult to keep going with it. She is very strong willed. Hopefully you can help us.Right now she may believe that she is the 'bold girl' of the family

A NUMBER of things come to mind regarding your daughter. Dyslexia, a specific learning disability, means that she finds it harder to learn to read and possibly spell than her peers.

At the same time she is just as smart, if not smarter, than those same peers.

As a result, before you realised that she had this problem, she probably sat in class wondering why she couldn't read or make sense of the words like everyone else.

She probably compared herself negatively to her friends and the other children in her class. This may well have had a big impact on her self-esteem.

It is easy for children to feel frustrated and angry when they watch other children easily achieving things that they themselves find hard to do.

I am not surprised that school became a highly stressed place for her to be. Her behaviour at home may have been a reaction to this stress.

Now that you have had her assessed and know what is actually going on I presume the school is in a position to help her with learning support or resource teaching to help her catch up with the rest of the class.

It is great that her dyslexia has been identified so early as it gives lots of time for intervention. You may be positively surprised to see that as she gains more confidence from being able to read like everyone else that her behaviour improves there too.

I am glad that you took a break from the extra work at home over the summer. I think that you might be better served by reading to her, sharing the excitement of books and the stories they contain. This is less stressful for both you and her than reading with her.

Let the bulk of the work happen in school and then support that work at home by role-modelling reading for enjoyment.

The other good news for you is that your daughter is very well behaved in most situations outside the home. That means that something like ADD is less likely to be a problem since the symptoms of ADD are usually seen in all environments that a child goes into.

If her behaviour is very different, and more negative, with you it does mean, however, that something is going on in the dynamic between you, her dad, her siblings and her at home.

It sounds like she has built up habitual ways of acting at home. She seems to willfully try to manipulate situations by getting angry and throwing tantrums to get her way. However, this may have led to equally habitual cross responses and reactions from you and her dad which now may be part of that whole negative interaction.

Since she is still only eight the best way to deal with this is threefold.

Firstly, acknowledge how difficult she has found school to be. I think the more you can empathise with her about how frustrating she has found things the better.

In many ways she just acts those frustrations out in her moodiness. If she feels that you understand that her life can be hard, then you will find that she won't show you those frustrations in misbehaviour as much.

Secondly, you and her dad need to be really firm with her when she gets angry or tries to control the mood of the house. Start by letting her know that you can see she seems to be angry (because she is shouting, slamming doors or whatever). Then suggest that she takes some time to herself to calm down and that you are not going to discuss anything, or deal with her in any way, until she is calm.

The calmer you can remain while responding to her the easier and more effective this will be. She needs to see that you and her dad are actually in charge in the house and that you are not willing to let her control the mood in the house. So stick to your guns and don't give in to her angry demands.

Then, thirdly and most importantly, catch her being good regularly and often. You will be amazed at how it changes your perception of her when you notice and comment on her good behaviour.

This way, you will come to realise that she can be just as funny, confident and pleasant at home as she is in other situations. You will also be amazed at how it will change her perception of herself.

Right now she may believe that she is the 'bold girl' of the family because she ends up in so much conflict.

When you focus on the good things about her and her behaviour it will give her a new appreciation of her essential goodness.

You will find then that her willfulness and determination can be put to more positive uses as she seeks more positive attention from you.

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