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CONFIDENCE BUILDING FOR A DYSLEXIC CHILD

A CONFIDENCE BUILDING EXERCISE FOR A DYSLEXIC CHILD


The majority of dyslexic children have come to the conclusion that they are stupid! In any school in any week of the year a dyslexic child experiences a huge amount of failure. With sequencing difficulties, any form of writing or math/s is going to present severe problems, and the dyslexic child cannot fail to notice that almost all of the other children are able to do the work which he or she finds so hard. Why can't he read and spell? He must be dumb, thick, stupid. It's the conclusion that anyone would reach in similar circumstances, and it badly needs changing before any corrective teaching is going to be effective. However good our methods with phoneme awareness, finding interesting books and word games are, this basic foundation for each child of a secure self-confidence has got to be addressed before any real progress can be hoped for The difficulty with dyslexia is that it is not visible. If the child had a broken arm, everyone would be rushing around giving extra consideration. 'Of course he can't write - his arm is broken! There's nothing wrong with his intelligence.' But no-one ever says 'Of course he can't spell - he has inherited a different pattern of brain circuits! There's nothing wrong with his intelligence.' Teachers, parents and the dyslexic child himself come to the clear conclusion that he must be slow-witted. What I am suggesting is a little cognitive therapy by the teacher, if possible in conjunction with the parent! Not as hard as it seems. The assumption in the child's mind - that he is stupid - is inaccurate, and it needs correcting if he is to re-establish the self-confidence he needs to learn. This is not going to be achieved simply by telling him that he's as intelligent as the next person. Well-intentioned people have been telling him that for years to no effect. He needs evidence, and he needs to re-construct the picture he has of himself in his own mind. Only in this way can he see his difficulties as a dyslexic learner in the proper context of a person - like anyone else - who has both strengths and weaknesses. Most dyslexic people have great strengths in the areas of physical co-ordination and/or creativity and/or empathy with other people. His strengths may lie in some of these areas, and he will know that lots of other children are weak in exactly these same areas. The following exercise has a great effect on children, and can be carried out by a parent, or a teacher, or, if at all possible, both together with the child, who needs to be on his own (not in a group situation). Take a sheet of paper and make two columns: in one column put 'Things I am good at' and in the other 'Things that I am not so good at' Things that I am good at Things that I am not so good at

Take about five or ten minutes of discussion with the child for you to write a list of things that the

child is - from an objective point of view - successful at. These will include such skills as swimming, sports, caring for pets, making a collection, dancing, drama, singing, art, painting, drawing, and so on. In the 'Not so good' column let the child tell you the things like spelling and writing that he really finds hard. The list will look something like this, depending of course on each child's interests: Things that I am good at Things that I am not so good at

swimming diving basketball looking after my rabbits drawing painting collecting stamps getting on well with other children clearing the table making people laugh softball being friendly to grandpa knowing about space and the planets etc.

spelling reading writing math/s

The evidence is staring the child in the face: there are far more things that he is good at than things he has difficulties with. He can't possibly be stupid. He is clearly a successful person. But he may well say that the things he is weak at are the things that matter in life. If you can't spell, how can you pass exams and get a job? This is the stage at which you have to argue - not tell - and say such things as 'What do you value people for - because they are good at spelling? Of course not. You value people for all sorts of qualities, especially their ability to be friendly, get on with you, consider your needs, think of other people before themselves and so on. It's up to you to keep the argument going until the child can really begin to see himself in a new light - as a successful person who just happens to have been born with a small handicap. Like being colorblind. It's not his fault. It's not because he doesn't try hard enough (as, unfortunately, many teachers will have told him). Seeing himself in a new light can be a turning point for the child - whatever his or her age - and this new-born self-confidence can lay the foundation for the special kind of learning he needs to build up the spelling and writing skills that his fellow pupils find so much easier to acquire. But it's not an over-night change, and it needs carefully nurturing over the coming month. The list should be carefully preserved and pinned up at home in the kitchen for all to see. He needs praise, gold stars, credits, and certificates over the coming weeks for things he does in school - of a non-academic nature - which are commendable: helping a new pupil to settle in, co-operating well in a games session, coming up with a fresh creative idea for art, and so on. The certificates he receives for these valuable activities may be the first he has ever received in his entire school career. John Bradford June 2001

Success using the confidence-building exercise "Doing this exercise may be the most rewarding experience Kevin has ever had. It was as though he had seen himself for the first time: his usually close-knit brows and solemn expression vanished. I really saw a physical change in his appearance the next time he came for tutoring. I recommend that everyone give this a try." (A.D., TN, USA)

Confidence-building in practice I began this activity by talking about a new session my learners would be having with me, which is Positive thinking. I modelled on the board my list and the children called out ideas. At the beginning of this activity this particular learner said, 'I'm not good at anything'. My reply was 'Yes you are. You are good at football'. This made him realise that - yes - he can do things. With some discussion he managed to make a list. Things that I am good at: Football Running Drawing Helping my friends Things that I am not so good at: Reading Writing stories At the end of the session he felt quite confident about the things he isn't so good because I was able to bring to his attention that he can read just not as well as he is wanting to at the moment. We talked about books he had read and group reading activities where he sometimes helps other children with words like they help him. The following day it was group reading. He put his hand straight up to be the first to read and he read steadily and more readily accepted help from the other children. (S. B-W., Somerset, UK) Recognizing low self-esteem A J is the typical 14-year-old boygreat athlete, cool with the girls, and loves to clown around when the pressure is on. I believe that underneath that faade what he projects is fear of failure in the eyes of his peers. During class he appears to pay attention but, when he is called upon to answer something that he is unsure of, he pretends not to have heard anything in the past five minutes. This elicits a classroom response of giggles, especially in English or history. Science is a totally different matter, where he is truly interested, and is the first to answer or ask questions about an experiment. History and English are difficult, so he is frequently forgetting to complete assignments on schedule without constant reminders. He wants his peers to believe that he is

just as carefree as everyone else and that school doesnt offer any extreme challenges. (Lisa Landers, Texas) Using different words to praise a child There are so many different words you can use to praise a child ~ with older children you can make the praise more special by using unusual or unfamiliar words:Stupendous! Spectacular! Exceptional! etc. (S.W., Malaysia).

Praise for non-academic achievements Dyslexic children rarely receive certificates, merit points or stars for academic achievements. To compensate for this, non-academic achievements can easily be recognised and rewarded. Examples of such instances include:-

Helping in class by handing out/collecting in work; Demonstrating to rest of class in P.E.; Showing good effort (regardless of outcome); Keeping desk tidy; Being organised with own equipment for lessons; Showing kindness to others; Willingness to participate in discussions; Sitting quietly and attentively; Good table manners at lunchtime; Helping to put out equipment or tidy up; Being polite; Setting a good example to younger pupils; Willingness to become involved in all aspects of school life (productions, clubs, trips, fundraising
activities, etc). (Rebecca Draper, Suffolk, UK) Creating a true picture I made a list up with MC of his strengths, things that come easy to him, and his weakness', things that he struggles with. When we started the list it was just me asking him what he thought of himself and he mainly focused on the areas he thought he was weak in. He seemed to think that there was automatically suppose to be more negative than positive things on the list. If there was more positive he tried to come up with negative things to make that side more. So then I had his sister, dad and I be a part of the list and we had so many positive things to say about the type of person he was that he was smiling and agreeing with them, he could tell we weren't just saying those things but that we actually meant it. By the time we were done the list of strengths way out weighed the negative and he believed that the list was right. He was able to see on that piece of paper the areas he struggles in are just a very small part of who he is a whole person. (T.R., Orlando, USA) An adaptation to the Confidence-building Exercise

Kez Celiker suggests adding an additional column to improve the confidence-building exercise. A 10-year old dyslexic boy I did the confidence-building exercise with him. He had to make two lists of things he was good at and things he wasnt so good at. He could also make drawings with the list of things. The drawings he liked very much. He even drew himself smiling in the list of things he is good at. Before he started at the lists he had a serious expression on his face while I was explaining the exercise (I told it was a kind of game). He started with the things he isnt so good at. After that he continued this with the list of things he is good at. While he was busy writing down things he is good at (and doing a few drawings) and seeing the list being so long, the expression on his face started changing. He really started beaming! After he was finished I asked him if he was happy with his lists and he admitted that he was very happy because he had never known he was so good. The next time he started the session by saying that he has more things to add to his list of things he is good at. I had him do that. I was very surprised. He even said that now he was also thinking of what he would become when growing up. (P.T., Curacoa, Netherland Antilles) Praise for non-academic achievements These opportunities to praise AK, my daughter (aged 8), have really arisen at home over the last couple of weeks. Some of them have been rewarded, as well as praised. 1. You cross-country-skied nine kilometres on the school trip! Class record-breaker! 2. Youve been playing with your little sister really nicely, all afternoon. 3. Youve drawn such a beautiful picture. 4. You chose really pretty fish; our aquarium looks great with its new members. 5. The cookies you made (Grannys recipe) taste just as good as Grannys! 6. You got brave enough to put your face in the swimming pool water. 7. You were so kind to your little sister when she was ill. 8. Youve tidied away all the pens and pencils in your room, just like I asked you. (Ive learnt NOT to ask her to tidy her room, but rather to subdivide the task!) 9. I dont know how you can make such brilliant models out of so few pieces. You have a knack for simple but effective. 10. You are the best teacher Mummys ever had; Im getting better at rolling my rs in the Finnish language. (H.K., Finland) Making positive statements One helpful exercise someone taught me was to have the child repeat positive statements about their hard work and effort. Examples: "I do a good job when I work hard." or "I feel good about myself when I try hard." I've tried this with a child who was incredibly anxious about her academic performance, and it has seemed to help. By focusing more on effort and work rather than the end product or grade, self-praise can be earned each learning opportunity, whether it be an assignment or a test. Not all children can earn excellent grades, but all children can be proud of how hard they are working and putting good effort towards attempting a task. By focusing on the work ethic, we are teaching children that trying is more important than making a 100 on every test. (B.W., Tennessee) Increasing Motivation Our principal has been recognizing students when they make a particularly good grade, reach educational goals, or reach their reading goals. His recognition includes: giving the student a

token (such as a colorful pencil), a pat on the back and/or high five, and allowing the student to use his cell phone to call their parents and give them the good news. This only takes a few minutes, but gives each student a little bit of extra positive attention as well as keeping the principal updated on his/her progress. The students really enjoy this extra bit of attention, and love being able to give the principal the good news. (K.V.E., Russelville, AR, USA, a student on the Dyslexia Certificate course) Credit System 'In my classes in school I have a credit system. The credit system works in that you can get credits for anything. I encourage students to get to class on time, get their notebooks out and be ready to start work 5 minutes after the bell has gone. Those students who are ready get a credit. You can also get credits for volunteering answers, taking risks, being kind to others, amongst other things. When students have a certain amount of credits I send a letter home to their parents. Then, nearer the end of the year, we will have a party for everyone who has tried really hard and has, for example 50 credits. This will usually be the whole class. If some students dont have enough credits nearer the end, I will set them some tasks to be able to catch up. This works to motivate students and it is recognition that they are doing a good job. It also works to reinforce positive behaviour and works really well with forms 1-3 of secondary school. It also means that children with learning difficulties feel part of the class as the credits are not based on academic achievement. Having read the notes in the course text I think instead of a letter I will give them a certificate this year." (S.D., Mexico City, a student on the Dyslexia Certificate course) ---------------------Counselling and self-confidence Significant improvements were registered in the reading progress of 65 severely dyslexic children/teens given counselling. British Dyslexia Association Journal Related links

The Importance of Providing Scientific Information to Children with Dyslexia - Dr. Debby Zambo
describes how, with sound, scientific facts, children with dyslexia can build a better, more accurate conception of themselves and their disability. Without it they rely on personal experiences and put-downs from their peers. Conceptions built from scientific facts provide empowerment, understanding, and self-esteem.

Certificate Creator - create and print out your own certificates online to improve self-confidence. http://www.dyslexia-teacher.com/t66.html