Words of Affirmation
In this video and blog post we’re looking at how important the words of affirmation and encouragement that parents and teachers speak are to a dyslexic child.
Our focus is the story of Laura Schifter which you can find in more detail on www.understood.org.
Laura tells of how she would sit and read with her sisters and prefer the pictures stories because she couldn’t read the words so well. She would sometimes memorise the stories and pretend to read them. Her peers laughed at her when she tried to read out loud at school and eventually she was assessed for dyslexia.
After the evaluation her school started to advise her parents not to expect too much of Laura academically. Her parents didn’t agree with this and continued to speak words of affirmation and encouragement over Laura and to tell her that she was really smart.
Laura noticed that if her teachers accommodated her dyslexia and made adjustments for it then she did really well. In the classes where there weren’t any adjustments made then she continued to struggle.
paying it forward
This experience has inspired Laura to ‘pay it forward’ and pursue teaching. She’s now a Harvard graduate in the Special Education Policy Department helping to create a school environment where children hear words of affirmation and encouragement for themselves to help them believe that they are smart.
choose what to say
We’ve used the illustration of wearing t-shirts and asking the question, ‘What is written on your t-shirt?’ as a way of asking what are the words and feelings that are being communicated to your dyslexic child. If they are words of affirmation and encouragement then that makes a massive positive difference to your child.
After reflecting on this story I can see that there are three key moments in Laura’s story and I think they are key for every dyslexic child’s journey. There is the moment she is assessed for dyslexia, her teachers’ response and the response of her parents.
value of evaluation
Laura was sitting reading with her sisters but knew that she was doing things differently. It’s natural as children to compare how we do things with how our peers do things and it is often how we learn. A dyslexia evaluation is really important in helping to start and understand the reasons for how your brain thinks and works and that it is okay to be different.
The experts and teachers in a child’s life and their opinions and approaches are very significant voices. Often they may be acting out of good intentions and trying to manage expectations but that can sometimes be discouraging.
Parents are the ones who know a child best and have the biggest influence into their child’s life. If they are ‘wearing t-shirts’ with words of affirmation and encouragement on them and believing in their child’s capabilities then their child hears this in how they speak and act and starts to write similar words on their own t-shirt.
adjustments and accomodations
It was interesting to observe that the lessons Laura thrived in were the ones where adjustments and accommodations were made for her. An adjustable spanner gives a visual illustration of the idea that there are sometimes a range of adjustments that need to be a made. Teachers who make the necessary adjustments, even if it’s the equivalent of opening the spanner as far as it will go to accommodate the imagination and creativity of dyslexic children will always see the best results.
be a good influence
It is wonderful to see that Laura Schifter now wants to pursue a career in education. She is essentially in a position to a wear a t-shirt with words of affirmation and encouragement for the next generation of school children so they too can believe in themselves.
The challenge for all us is to stop and think about what we have written on our t-shirts. Sometimes we can feel discouraged by other people’s opinions, however, we get to choose the words we speak and our attitudes and we can all choose to wear words of affirmation and encouragement to influence the children around us to believe in themselves and the gift that they are.
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