This will come as no surprise to many parents of children with dyslexia, but when I read this article it gave me great relief and better understanding of how my brain works. In other words I greatly resonated with this news story and I hope you will too.
WHEN: December 21, 2016
WHAT: According to science daily, neuroscientists (at MIT and Boston University) have discovered that a basic mechanism underlying sensory perception is deficient in individuals with dyslexia, according to a new study. The brain typically adapts rapidly to sensory input, such as the sound of a person’s voice or images of faces and objects, as a way to make processing more efficient. But for individuals with dyslexia, the researchers found that adaptation was on average about half that of those without the disorder.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Sensory Processing Disorder exists on a spectrum and can affect only one sense like hearing, or taste, or all of them. The most common way it affects me is my response to my kids when they come running into the room screaming “mom! mom! mom! mom!” It takes my brain longer to process and when I have four of them doing it all at the same time it takes my brain a lot longer to process. Sometimes my response is to just freeze; at other times it causes me to have an angry outburst. Also, this link between SPD and dyslexia explains another reason that some kids have a difficult time in a traditional classroom with all the sights, sounds, and scents occuring while the teacher is giving instruction.
SO HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD WITH DYSLEXIA?
Help your child become their best advocate.
What are the triggers that overstimulate your child? For me, it’s always been noise. When I was an undergraduate one of the best things that happened to me was I developed an inflamed carpal tunnel. This made writing difficult and because I had a visible disability (meaning my hand was in a wrap) my instructors were more accommodating. Instead of taking tests in a noisy classroom with pen and paper I was allowed to take my tests in a quiet tutoring lab on a computer. My grades drastically went up as the distractions went down. Your child might be affected by sights or scents or more affected during the time of day. It’s important to know your child’s triggers and help them develop strategies for overcoming these triggers.
2. Sometimes it’s the little things that are the most helpful.
While an IEP or a 504 Plan is often a necessary tool in your child’s education there are other little tools that you can provide children that don’t have either of these documents. For example, fidget tools such as a koosh ball, a hair band, or simply a fabric tab sewed into a pocket can help your child. My daughter has a stuffed cat named Snowdrop who is well loved and goes with us most places. She’s small enough to not be a distraction, and she’s a huge comfort to my daughter. There are lots of low cost fidget tools on Amazon, and I’d encourage you to find what works best for your child.
3. Finally, Understood.org offers a list of sensory strategies that parents can discuss with teachers.
Many of these ideas are simple, easy to implement, and would benefit the entire class even if no one else has a sensory processing disorder (which I doubt is the case given that ⅕ of students have some sort of SPD). These strategies include:
1. Allowing the student to wiggle and use alternative seating. For example, a clipboard would allow the student to stand up and take notes or lay on the floor and take notes.
2. Allowing the use of earphones or earplugs for testing situations.
3. Allowing the use of a highlighter for notetaking.
Have you seen this connection in your child? If so, what are some strategies that you have helped your child cope with being over or under stimulated?