The Emotional Impact of Dyslexia

by Maria Bechard M.A., CCC-SLP

“To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”  Hooks, 1994

Hooks' words certainly allow me to reflect upon the most rewarding aspect of working with dyslexic individuals.  When I started a private practice nearly four years ago, I truly believed that the most rewarding aspect would be to take part in each child’s “reading journey.”  Yes, I can say that this has been amazing to witness but what has brought me the most joy and sense of accomplishment has been to take part in the  social and emotional journey for each of my “kids”. (Yes, parents, they are my kids as well!)

Even though dyslexia is not an emotional disorder, it certainly can create both social and emotional ramifications, which can actually become more problematic than the academic difficulties, which the child is facing.  Many of my students have experienced various emotions associated with their dyslexia, which have included; anger, frustration, loneliness, anxiety, lack of self-esteem and confidence, embarrassment and guilt.  One of the most powerful emotions a dyslexic child may feel is that of shame.  Shame is such a destructive emotion for one feels that they are unworthy based upon “something they are.” In The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, author Ben Foss cites that the shame associated with a reading disability can often have the same intensity associated with incest.  Foss also notes that for many children it is a “slow drip” trauma for the child may feel “not normal” and not worthy every day as the struggles academically continue year after year.  

These feelings of shame regarding academic achievement can also affect all areas of a child’s life and as a result can have a negative impact on the child’s entire being.  That is why I believe that the emotional and social well being of my students will always be my top priority.  Of course, the visible goal for each of my students is to demonstrate improvements in the areas of reading and spelling, yet my main underlying focus is to have my students feel tremendous about “who they are”. In turn, this sense of self-worth will promote their self-esteem and confidence, which will foster a love for learning in all areas of their lives.

All of my students have made gains regarding their social and emotional well being by embracing their dyslexia and realizing that it is a characteristic of who they are which they should be extremely proud of.  As individuals, we want to feel a sense of worth and value to those we interact with.  I have always believed, that thirty years from now, I will not be so concerned if my “kids” remember the name of that lady who had them touch and say sounds, made them learn all of those syllable types and division rules and made them memorize those never ending spelling rules.  However, I do hope that they can remember how I made them feel worthy and respected as well as proud of their dyslexia identity- if so, then I will have truly respected the souls of my “kids”.  

Maria Bechard, M.A., CCC-SLP, is the owner of The Literacy Corner located in Crestwood, Kentucky.  The Literacy Corner provides expert diagnostic and therapy services for language-based impairments such as dyslexia. Maria is a licensed and nationally board certified Speech and Language Pathologist. She has made it her mission to educate the community regarding the prevalence of dyslexia as well as the rights of the dyslexic individual. Maria is dedicated to promoting the love of learning that is often crushed for the dyslexic child.