Monday, March 12, 2012

SEN Magazine - The emotional consequences of Dyslexia

The most current research into dyslexia tends to focus upon where it exists within the human brain or what form of intervention is most likely to prevent or overcome its effects.

Essentially, such approaches are reifying the concept, giving the impression that Dyslexia is a thing that can be identified or a condition that can be diagnosed and then dealt with.

If we consider Dyslexia from a more humanistic perspective, however, we find ourselves asking a totally different set of questions of the following nature:
  • how does it feel to be faced each day with the apparently simple task (in that everyone else can do it) of learning to read without being able to cope?
  • do any of the significant adults in one’s life (parents, teachers, partners) seem to understand (a) how it must feel, and (b) how to help?
  • if learning to read and spell is considered to be so important in our society, what effect is the inability to do so likely to have on a person’s developing sense of identity?
  • is there really an effective “one solution fits all” approach to literacy?
  • what are likely to be the long term effects of slipping through the net and not being recognised as suffering from specific learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature?
The comparatively limited research that has been devoted to such questions has tended to produce somewhat equivocal results.

A review of the research results relating to the self-concept of Dyslexic school children (Burden, 2008), for example, reveals that a person’s general self-esteem will not necessarily suffer irrevocably as a result of struggling at school from difficulties of a dyslexic nature, but that early recognition, intervention and emotional support are all significant factors in building resilience.

A closer investigation of this data, alongside more intensive interviews with young people who had been diagnosed as dyslexic, showed that their feelings of being understood played a vitally important role in coming to terms with early literacy difficulties (Burden, 2005).

This did not necessarily require the significant adult to understand the nature, cause or “cure” for the disability, only in the first instance that they demonstrated empathy with the dyslexic child’s feelings.

However, this was only the first stage in a long term process that would be necessary for the development of their ontological security.

As the American psychologist Martin Covington has identified, a growing child's sense of self-worth is highly likely to be closely associated with how well they are coping with school-based academic tasks.

If one is aware of not doing well, this in turn may well lead to what Covington terms “self-worth concern” and efforts to protect one’s sense of wellbeing. “… the student's sense of esteem often becomes equated with ability – to be able is to be valued as a human being but to do poorly in school is evidence of inability, and reason to despair of one’s worth” (Covington, 1992).

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