Wednesday 21 March 2018

Parenting: I'm worried dyslexic son will drift through life

David Coleman

David Coleman

ONE of my sons is 20 years old and was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia at age seven.

While in primary school he had great support from an excellent special-needs assistant (SNA). He flourished there. But when he moved to secondary school he refused a re-assessment and any support. Things just went downhill.

Now he has dropped out of school. He started a PLC course and a FAS course and has dropped out of both. I have tried explaining he needs support but he doesn't want to know. He seems to be getting into trouble for the past few years when he drinks alcohol. He has always been very determined, very adventurous, a risk-taker, stubborn and strong-willed, so there is just no talking to him.

He apparently started smoking at 15 and still pretends he doesn't smoke. I'm concerned that he will just drift through life.

He is the most intelligent of my children and can be very thoughtful. Have you any advice on how we can guide him, as he needs more support than his five siblings?

Recently, I responded to another query in which a young teenager was struggling with dyspraxia and wasn't accepting help. Very much like your son, his stubbornness in refusing help was making his life in school harder.

After the article was published, the Dyspraxia Association of Ireland alerted me to their existence. They are a national support group based in Dublin. They have been around since 1995 and have support groups from Belfast to Waterford.

If you haven't already been in touch with them then they could be a great source of support. Look at

It sounds like your son has real difficulty in accepting that he is different to his peers and that he actually will benefit from help. I could imagine that, in his early teenage years, his desire to fit in meant that he felt having an SNA, was a no-go as it differentiated him.

Typically, however, as youngsters grow older they gain more perspective and can see that there is a positive gain to be had from taking help. One of the blocks to this, however, is that over time they may have become disillusioned with the educational system and can't find the motivation to re-engage.

It strikes me that this is where your son may be. Clearly you have been encouraging him, all along. It seems like he just isn't listening any more.

I wonder whether some of his reluctance to take responsibility for his future is his belief that you and his dad will continue to take care of him? If so, he can afford to be irresponsible (like when he goes out drinking) and to give up on training and education.

I'm intrigued that he has money to drink alcohol and to smoke. Neither of these are cheap habits. I wonder how he earns this money, or if he earns this money? Leaving his difficulties aside, he does seem to have developed a sense of entitlement.

It isn't that he can't achieve academically (you know he is smart), but he just needs help to overcome his dyslexia and dyspraxia. He needs a good reason to do this. He needs to learn why it is in his interests to overcome them. One way for him to learn might be be for you to practice a bit of "tough love". Perhaps it is time for you to tell him that, as an adult now, he needs to be responsible for feeding, clothing and lodging himself.

Pulling back, entirely, like this may be shocking for him, and for you, but he does need some seismic shift to move him forward. The key aspect of being an adult is that we have to take responsibility for our behaviour. Until your son is forced to take that responsibility he may just continue to drift, upsetting you and disheartening himself.

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life