As you maneuver through the maze of finding help for your child with dyslexia, you are bound to run into those who are not supportive. They think they’re being helpful, but they’re not. They range from grandparents who believe there are no issues to other parents who may or may not have children with dyslexia themselves.
You may hear platitudes, disrespectful remarks, and “advice”, among other things. You may find that people think they know more about dyslexia than you do, based on something they read or heard. You may be cornered and told that you’re not doing the right things for your child.
Everyone’s an expert, and everyone’s been there. Certainly, they know more than you do when it comes to supporting students with dyslexia. (I’m being sarcastic here.)
No one, I repeat, no one is traveling the same journey you are, whether they have dyslexic children or not. So no, they are not the experts they think they are, and to refrain from getting upset, please consider the source.
I’m not saying they mean any harm to you or your child, because they don’t. They think they have your child’s best interests at heart and simply want to help. I believe most people are well intentioned, but they can’t understand what you’re doing and why. Most likely, their thinking follows the old paradigms that dyslexia is forever and cannot be reversed.
You, on the other hand, know that it can be. You’re 20 steps ahead of them, but it doesn’t help when they’re certain they know what you need to do.
So how do you deal with the 24th time you’ve heard, “Why aren’t you doing X, Y, or Z?” or “We know a person who provides professional help for students with dyslexia, here’s his number”? Try these ideas to keep your sanity and maintain your relationships.
Changing the subject works much of the time, especially if you start talking about that person. Ask about her job, children, family, new car, anything to take the focus off your child. You may have to divert attention more than once to get it to stick.
The second method of responding to those who are not supportive is deflecting the conversation. You’ll answer the question or comment without going into detail, and then you’ll walk away if you can. Here is an example.
Your friend Mary: You need to take Jeff to Dr. Peters. He’s well known in his profession, and my friend Sarah used him last year for her son Dan. Here’s his card.
You: Thank you, but we have a doctor we’re happy with. (Walk away)
You’re not being rude, but you are letting that person know that you don’t need or want any more doctor suggestions. This one may not work with relatives, unfortunately.
Be honest and direct.
This one is best used for two types of people: those who will actually listen to you and then leave you alone, and those who keep trying to have the conversation with you. Let’s see what this looks like.
Aunt Betty: It’s time to stop this madness and leave Beth alone. There’s nothing wrong with her.
You: Aunt Betty, I know you love Beth, but she does have a learning challenge called dyslexia. I have some literature for you to read so you understand what’s going on. I need your support as we work through this.
And then you walk away. Aunt Betty can be supportive or not, and that’s her choice. No matter what you do, some people will never be supportive, and that’s OK.
When it comes to those who are unsupportive of your child with dyslexia, you will need to decide how to best handle the situation. Unfortunately, you may need to temporarily disengage from some people for a while if they cannot acknowledge your child’s needs. It’s a tough decision, and if you need help, I’m here.