Children and Young People: Q&As
Questions children and young people often ask
The questions below are all real questions from real children and young people. Occasionally we have worded the questions slightly differently, but basically the questions are the same questions children and young people ask us. The answers to these questions have been provided by the Working Group, all of whom are involved professionally with children and young people with dyslexia.
Q. What is dyslexia?
A. Each of us is different. Even identical twins as they grow up have little differences. Being dyslexic is about being a little bit different. You don’t look any different, and that is why people often say that dyslexia is ‘hidden’. Dyslexia is about how your brain works. If you have dyslexia, then your brain functions a little bit differently from other young people. It functions in a way that can make learning to read, write and spell challenging. It affects the way you learn. Learning the sounds and sound patterns in words can be a problem when you are in early primary. If you are older, then you might remember how you struggled with learning to read, how some adults didn’t seem to understand why you were finding it so difficult, and why when you started to write stories, no-one could understand them. You seemed to understand what they were telling you to do, but it just didn’t seem to ‘come together’.
Researchers are learning lots about how our brains work, and are getting more information all the time. Something in the way your brain works transmits the messages in a different way to others – in a way that isn’t very efficient for learning to read and write and it often affects numbers as well though not always. Though your memory works perfectly for most things, it has difficulty in remembering what sounds go where, and even when you learn to read, writing and spelling can still be difficult, as you have to work out the order things come in. For more information, visit ‘Dyslexia Unwrapped‘, Dyslexia Scotland’s website for children and young people who are dyslexic.
Q. I just feel stupid a lot of the time. Does being dyslexic mean I am stupid?
A. Dyslexia most certainly doesn’t mean you are stupid. In fact dyslexia doesn’t really tell us anything about how clever you are or aren’t. Dyslexia tells us that you find learning literacy – sounds, words, grammar, structuring stories, remembering some things, recognising symbols for example – difficult. On the other hand, there will be some things where you are just as good and maybe better than others.
Dyslexia is the reason you find some things hard, and it will help you explain to other people why there are things that you are just not good at, and have to work much harder than other people just to get right. It isn’t an excuse for not trying however. Though it is tough being dyslexic at times, you do feel great when you finally master things as things involving literacy are a lot harder for you than they are for other young people.
Q. What are the indicators or ‘symptoms’ of dyslexia?
A. Firstly, we would talk about ‘indicators’ or ‘signs’ of dyslexia, but we wouldn’t really talk about ‘symptoms’, as that would suggest that there is something medical about dyslexia. Although we would suggest that you check out medical factors such as eyesight and hearing with the appropriate specialists so we know these are okay, we wouldn’t ‘treat’ dyslexia like an illness. Dyslexia is about how your brain works, and there is unlikely to be anything wrong with your brain. It just works in a different way from most other people’s – in a way that isn’t good for learning literacy – especially in the early years. However it is likely also to mean there are different things that you are good at.
There is a ‘definition of dyslexia’ on the website which explains the likely areas of difficulty. Not every dyslexic person will be the same. We are all different and different people with dyslexia will have a different profile of strengths and weaknesses, so it isn’t very helpful to compare yourself with others. Try to see yourself getting better in comparison to the way you used to be, and you’ll hopefully see the progress you’ve been making, and can feel satisfied that you’ve made progress in spite of your difficulties.
Q. I am coming up for my National exams. What kind of support should I expect the school to provide for me?
A. Whatever type of support you’ve been getting in class when doing assessments is the kind of support you should also get in exams. You shouldn’t be expected to pick up some kind of extra help just in your National exams or Highers. However, if you are dyslexic and you don’t feel you have the appropriate support to enable you to demonstrate what you can do because your reading and writing skills are still weak, then speak to your Support for Learning teacher or Guidance teacher as soon as possible. You may be able to use a computer, or other assistive means which you’ll require to practise before you are in the exam situation. The school will make application for you to do this, so it’s important to get it arranged as soon as possible.
If there are other questions which are of a general nature, we will be happy to add these to the Q and As on this page. You can email the Working Group at email@example.com. We regret however, that we are unable to answer personal questions here. If you have something that is troubling you, the Dyslexia Scotland Helpline staff may be able to help. You can access them via the National Helpline at 0344 800 84 84 between 10am and 4.30pm (Monday to Thursday) or 10am – 4pm (Friday). Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org