By Nicole Chua
Senior Educational Therapist and Specialist Tutor
Programme Manager (ARTVenture & Workshops)
I recall many stories of helpless parents over the years opening up to me about how scared they are upon discovering that their child has a learning difficulty. As much that they are relieved to be given a label for their children’s learning difference(s), more often than not, most parents are overwhelmed with the new information that they are downloaded with by professionals. What is dyslexia exactly? How is it that they are smart but failing all subjects? Co-morbidity with ADHD? What does that even mean? They are doom to fail? How are they going to survive in society?
Parents do not realise that their children absorb all these anxieties from them and the likelihood is that they do not know what to do with these negative energy. Children are not at the age where they can understand these anxieties but they can easily become susceptible to the changes it brings to their little lives. All of a sudden there are more classes to attend and being labelled in school and taken out for special small group sessions, what do these all mean?
If we look at Erikson’s Eight Stages of Social-Emotional Development – most of the children fall into the ‘Índustry vs Inferiority stage’ which is the fourth stage. Let’s see very real examples of how this stage affects our children.
Jenny finds reading an extremely uphill task so her parents put her through a psychological assessment. Upon being diagnosed with dyslexia her parents are willing to help her each night with her homework. Jenny attends intervention classes and starts to receive encouragement and praise for her efforts. Her parents work closely with the school and ensure the teachers understand Jenny’s condition. At home, her family focuses on her strength by letting her pursue her other interests such as soccer and hip-hop dance. Her parents often attended her matches and performances. Jenny feels good about herself despite her less than ideal academic results.
Jasper struggles with English, but his parents are too busy to help him with his day-to-day homework. He feels bad about the poor marks he receives on his English spelling test but is not sure what to do about the situation. Though he has been assessed to have dyslexia and receives the same intervention as Jenny, his school teacher still complains about his work but does not offer any extra assistance. Jasper gets reprimanded from his parents whenever the teacher calls and tells them about his poor performance. They always compare him with his younger brother who does better in every subject. Eventually, Jasper just gives up, and his studies become even worse.
While both children struggled with their learning difficulties, Jenny received the support and encouragement she needed to overcome these difficulties and still build a sense of mastery. Jasper, however, lacked the social and emotional encouragement he needed. At this stage, Jenny will likely develop a sense of industry where Jasper will be left with feelings of inferiority. So what does this mean for parents? Children do not know how to go about having dyslexia, unlike adults who are capable of speaking up for themselves and coming up with their own coping strategies. Children are dependent on their parents emotionally, mentally and academically. So when we feel that it is the end, they will feel it too. Their developmental stage does not provide them with the resources within themselves to motivate themselves to fight against what their parents think about them. I don’t speak for all as there are some children who are wise beyond their years, against all odds they overcome the stigma, emerging as champions amidst their challenges.
But most children are not like that. Basically, they are what YOU think they are. It is not because they are weak. As Asian parents, we tend to believe in the “School of Hard Knocks”. We feel the need to knock sense into our children in order to bring reality into them. We may also likely to give the ultimatum of either they passed their exams or they are doom for life. But what we don’t realise is that they do not have the RESOURCES in them to think and feel what we want them to. Simply because they are not at their developmental stage to be able to do that. Instead, all they decipher from our hostility is that they are not worthy of our love and parents’ love is conditional. So, parents, you have felt helpless many times in this journey and your anxieties, in one way or another translated into the pressure you put on your children to do well in school. It is for their own good, we say. Remember, we can feel helpless but we don’t have to raise frightful children.
Nicole is a mother of two and her eldest daughter attends DAS Maths Programme. She has been teaching children with dyslexia for more than ten years and has provided support to hundreds of parents throughout her years.
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This article was published in FACETS Vol 1 2019 – read it here!