Charlie – my child with dyslexia…

Charlie – my beautiful bright, funny, lego obsessed boy.  He’s also extremely handsome (yes I can say that, I am his mum!).
Charlie has always been bright and inquisitive.  From a very early age he was engaging grown ups in conversations beyond his years.  With knowledge of the solar system, machines and engineering that surpasses my own tiny brain on these matters.  A happy child, with a thirst for understanding.  Sensitive in emotions and recognising others feelings.  Incredibly creative.  Building detailed lego models when only 3.  In the photo above he is working out how the Suspension Bridge is built and how he would improve it!

So, as parents, when he started to struggle at school with his reading and writing we didn’t know what to do. We just thought he was ‘one of the boys who’d get it later’. So we didn’t push him to read with us at home.  If we did, it resulted in things being thrown and stomping around the house, and I mean all of us when I say this.
Year two was particularly hard.  His teacher, during parents evening, advised us that ‘if he didn’t pull his socks up, he wouldn’t achieve 5 GCSE’s’.  He was 6.  6 and she had damned him for the next 10 years!  Leaving that meeting I cried.  Cried for Charlie, cried with the shock, cried with anger at his teacher and cried because I felt a failure as a parent.  Dan on the other hand went into ‘teacher’ overdrive.  Pushing Charlie to read which in turn caused heartache for all us.
Year 2 was tough.  Most mornings he clung to me, crying.  Begging me not to leave him.  Tried to escape the playground in the morning, running after me down the road.  It was tough.  He went from a bright, thoughtful, carefree kid to an anxious, worrier.  Afraid of the dark.  Afraid of being upstairs in the house on his own.  Afraid of going to the toilet alone.  Didn’t eat. Became very fussy.  And withdrawn.  
It happened gradually over a period of two years.  He wasn’t being bullied. But something wasn’t right.
Year 2 stats came and went.  We decided to not care!  And went on a weeks holiday (in school time) just before the exams, to chill him out.  The results came back and he was average for reading and writing – average.  That’s ok? Isn’t it? 
We breathed out.  It’s going to be ok.
Year 3.  Within 6 weeks into year 3 and a new teacher, it was suggested that Charlie was dyslexic.  WHAT!  Roller coaster of emotions again.  He was tested and the results came back – he was.
So this explains it all.  The self doubt, the anxiety, the not wanting to read.  He has been ‘hiding’ his problem for years.  Worrying that he will be found out.
My poor boy.
This was October last year he was tested.  Since then he has received help.  He knows he needs help and is willing to receive it – a huge step.  Now five months on, he is a ‘free reader’.  Will pick things up and read them.  He is happier, putting on weight.  Enjoying food more.  We played a family game of scrabble at the weekend.  And he actually wanted to help all of us find words.  He is enjoying reading and learning again.
It is all down to confidence.  His new teacher is AMAZING!  We all adore her.  She has boosted his confidence, understands him and wants to help.
The anxiety thing. We are still working on it.  A friend suggested homeopathic medicine.  I spoke to the local practitioner and she suggested Phosphorous, which helps with irrational fears especially in children.  One week in and yesterday he went upstairs to the toilet, on his own for the first time in a year!
We have a break through.  The relief.
Charlie’s learning will always be foremost in our lives.  But the progress he has made in five short months has been astounding.  We are very proud.
Dan and I are still learning about dyslexia, and know there are many resources out there for us and him.  But we are taking it slowly and building his confidence daily.   We are getting there.

Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and founder of Littlegreenshed.  A UK lifestyle & travel blog

Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and the founder of Sisterhood Camp – an annual creative retreat for recharging and empowering brilliant ladies, Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.

  • Learning about dyslexia, I’m afraid won’t come easy with all the misinformation out there… especially by the “lobby of dyslexia”. The term should actually be dropped at some point, when people begin to understand the whole mind better and also when the diagnosis doesn’t in fact gain so much profit for so many…
    The best way that you can learn is to begin researching your own right brains, how the two brain hemispheres function, other parts of the brain and the role of the brain for the mind etc. etc.
    Something worthwhile watching is “My stroke of insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, on TED talks.
    Your son’s world is totally different world from the one societies are made of in the West and especially which the educational system is based upon. Dare we challenge the educational system instead and discover this other world that has so much to offer?
    Great article! Thanks!

  • Hi Lou,
    I’m dyslexic and have dyspraxia I was diagnosed at about the same age as your boy. I’m sorry to hear his teacher in Year Two was so negative, some of mine were as well.
    I went on to move schools to a place where they were much more compassionate and understanding. I achieved GSCEs, A Levels, a Masters Degree and you know the rest.
    The most important thing Charlie needs is support and encouragement and it sounds like your family are able to offer that in abundance so I’m sure he will continue to thrive!
    When he’s a bit older would recommend getting him to learn to touch type. I learnt when I was 9/10 and am now pretty fast. The difference it made to my life at school, university and work (to the extent that from my GCSE’s onwards I took all my exams on a computer) cannot be understated.
    x

    • Hi Frankie, thank you for sharing this. Such great news that you went on to achieve so much in higher education. Dan and I are full of hope that C will get there too. Thanks for the idea on touch typing. A great skill. I will look into it. xx

  • Teapot 33
    John Lewis 105
    Keys 10

    Hello I was /am dyslexic (why they make the word so hard to spell I’ll never know) so I can understand how your son must have felt, great news that you have a great teacher! I’m a nanny and have worked for a family with a child who suffered from anixiety and we read a book every night called the bag of worries. They can put all their fears and worries into a bag each night (no matter how trivial they may seem) for example ‘I’m worried the cat doesn’t have any friends’ was one of our worries. But it also helps to understand what they are feeling and if you are able to help resolve them then it helps build confidence. It really helped to rationalise feelings. Think you can get it on amazon hope it helps Xx

    • Hi Primrose pretty. Could you tell me about the teapot 33 stuff please? Do they link to something? If so I might have to remove your comment. Thanks for your comment though on worries and I will look into that book x

    • Hi Lou,

      Sorry about the teapot/John lewis comment. When I was writing my comment it wouldn’t work so I typed it out into my notes on my phone and then cut and pasted it onto your comments. I didn’t realise I’d cut the the list at the top. It’s not a link it’s actually a list of things that I’ve bought for our new flat that I need to take out of our joint account. (Not vey exciting or a secret code:) the book is really good and I would recommend it.

      Gemma :)

  • My 6 year old son has the same anxiety issues.It drives me to distraction.Cant go upstairs to go to the toilet or anything!He is not dyslexic .Let me know how you get on with the phosphorous .It sure ain’t easy!

  • so glad you have got to the bottom of it. that first teacher sounds like an a-hole! how can they have two teachers with such different attitudes working at the same school? we are still trying to get the bottom of isi’s problem, dyspraxia is harder to diagnose and it’s taking ages. it’s really disheartening. your post has made me feel more positive about persevering. so glad for your gorgeous boy. x

  • My brother is dyslexic and was only diagnosed when he was about 11 or so after being held back a year at school and after being told by a teacher that he was stupid. He then went to a special needs school (the best option at the time In South Africa where we grew up). I am glad to see the progress that has been made in the education system where children are helped within a social environment that does not make them different from the majority.

    My brother also finds it easier to read on screens (computer etc) so maybe try him on an ipad or kindle?

  • My friends have a son who was diagnosed with dyslexia. They lovely embraced it and he recently finished his college degree in Electrical Engineering! He was very careful about choosing schools and found one that would work with his reading challenges. Amazing!

  • It upsets me what the first teacher said to you. “Professionals” in their field can get so focused on goals and not the person trying to achieve the goals. I had a similar experience with a doctor. He told me that I would never be able to become pregnant on my own and would require hormone injections. I left that visit crying. Less than a year later, after several weeks of acupuncture with a wonderful woman, and I was pregnant. So many people don’t look at the whole picture – whether it is how our bodies are working or how our children develop and learn.

  • A touching post. Just beautiful.
    God gives us all talents, each one different to the next. Charlie will make our world a better place with his.
    My nephew is dyslexic and he is exceptional at visual arts and sport, tap into these and his confidence sky rockets x

  • oooo you made me cry! You know my history, my living through a child’s diagnosis! I get it! And i have been a reader here for long enough to know how much you adore your boys, i could feel your struggle here! I am so grateful for teachers who care, so grateful for the progress. wishing you continued peace and progress and snuggles with your beautiful boy x

  • Hooray for wonderful, caring & aware teachers. So great to have a reason for the difficulties & some strategies to deal with them.

  • It astonishes me how negative some teachers are. I am so glad things are looking better for him now.

  • hello Lou – i’ve read your lovely blog for ages but have I’ve never managed to comment before but this made me determined to. I’m a teacher and this made me cry. Such frustration for you hearing Charlie’s teacher’s unhelpful (?inappropriate) and damning words, and then being so pleased that a more sensible and sensitive teacher helped to set Charlie on the right path. So many children I teach have dyslexia, and they are studying A levels, in History/ English etc etc. He’ll be so fine, so much more than fine. Very best wishes to you all for the future x

  • I’m appalled at the Year 2 teacher’s comments! That’s terrible!

    I’m glad that Charlie’s new teacher spotted the problem and that you (and he) are seeing such an upturn in his confidence and happiness. I’m intrigued by the homoeopathy for anxiety. L has quite a few irrational fears which I try to be understanding about, but they end up driving me insane. Maybe I could do with some, too.

  • That made the tears flow! My boy is 11 and was diagnosed as having dyslexia in the last yr of primary school. It was obvious things were difficult for him for many years. When he was diagnosed and I mentioned that maybe it would have been a good idea to test a few years before I was informed that confirmation of dyslexia means the child would need more resources, costing more money… So test just before secondary school and then finding resources is their problem!
    The teaches were all really good at keeping his confidence up throughout school and luckily as we live in Wales there are no SATS :)
    An early diagnoses would have really helped though – he has responded brilliantly to small things that are known to aid reading and spelling. These got a lot better with a programme called Nessy that the school had (and you can buy a simpler/game version for home).
    Thank you for sharing yours and Charlies journey x
    Andrea

  • That has made me well up. I am so glad you know now and that all the resources that will be available to him now will help no end.

    SATS? Urgh, going through it again this year with Florence, and I just don’t know. It’s not right, is it, age 7 :(

  • Its great that Charlie has got such a good support network. His future looks like its going to be good. My sister struggled for ages for her youngest son. Finally having moved to live near us by the sea, he has found an excellent local primary school that has some great teachers. He was so severely dyslexic that his current school were shocked that no-one picked up on it before. His future is looking good too. Elinor x

  • So pleased that you got the support and answers to help Charlie. It sounds like he’s thriving now. Well done Charlie! SATS seem to put a lot of pressure on everyone – the kids, the teachers, the school and the parents. I think they are too young to be tested in year 2. X

  • There’s no way anyone can predict a child’s GCSE results at age 6. So glad you’ve turned a corner xxx

  • I know just how you feel. We had a similar experience in Year 2 – with a teacher telling me that maybe my son just wasn’t as bright as I expected, and the problem was mine. Year 3, and a different teacher asked if she could test him for dyslexia as his spoken words bore no resemblance to his written work. We haven’t looked back since. He no longer needs learning support. A true light bulb moment when he realised he wasn’t “stupid” (don’t you just love other kids!) but just learned in a different way. He’s just about to take 11 GCSEs, and hopes to do A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry. So hang in there. xx

  • It is very worrying that children are tested and made to perform at schools in England so early. It might work for some kids, but many others, particularly boys seem to suffer from it. Finland always comes top in the World figures for the best Schools and results and children there don’t start school until 7. In Denmark children start school at 6, where the idea of learning through play is an important one, in terms of creativity and happiness and where children are allowed to be children.

    It is so obvious to see how frustrating this early pressure ‘to succeed’ must be for some kids and I was sorry to hear how your son and you have been effected by it.

    Van

  • i’m nearly crying reading this – it’s shocking that his teacher said that to you in year 2!!
    I’m glad he’s receiving help and you now can see some light at the end of the tunnel – what a relief for you. There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless, especially when it come to your children.
    As for the anxiety thing, we have had a similar thing with my eldest, he (at 9) still deosn’t like to go upstairs on his own and he’s been like this for around 2 years, although is better than he used to be. But having spoken to other mums in the school playground, it seems it’s quite normal and just one of those things they grow out of x

  • Wow Lou. First you descried my oldest boy very well!! We too saw a lovely creative and engaging boy turn slowly into a withdrawn, anxious boy. Year 1 was horrible, we got blamed we got told he was just ‘too’ young, when he grows up he may learn. We fell out with his teachers we tried to calm down! Year 2 was ok, had it’s ups and downs until suddenly he went into what I can only describe as depression. It was horrible he started to try and self harm, we’re talking 6 years old. He would hide in his bed under his duvet and tell me how stupid he was and how much he hated himself. We approached the school, they were sure he wasn’t bullied and that the problem must be at home, we fell out with the school again!! Year 3 something clicked. I was dreading it, I was an emotional wreck, but he finally bonded with his teacher and he started to enjoy school. But still he couldn’t read and his writing was well below average. Eventually towards the end of the year we were told he was dyslexic well the SENCO worker doesn’t like that ‘name’ and said he was only minor. He has some help and there are improvements but still he struggles. Jay is now in Year 4 and below average and still can’t read. He has help in a small group 3 times a week. We hope it will get better but until then we try and find the best ways we can to support him.
    Your school and his teacher sound amazing. And I think Charlie is one of the lucky ones, as they have obviously found a way of teaching him to read that suits him and he has picked it up quickly. Our school have told us to not be surprised if he can’t read when he moves on to secondary school year 12 and they don’t seem to think that’s shocking!
    Thank you for sharing Lou as I know how difficult it is and reading this makes me realise we and Jay are not alone x

    • My son was really struggling to learn to read – we used Toe by Toe which is a reading scheme which was fantastic, just a few minutes each evening. He had “caught up” within a year. Also, Barrington Stoke books are excellent for dyslexic children. Written on cream paper, in a suitable font, and appear to be “proper” books, rather than being held back. It worked for us. x

  • Ah that made me tear up (I’m at work so better brush them away). How could someone say that about a 6 year old?! Beggars belief…although my teacher friends tell me that they are under so much pressure…obviously some pass this onto the kids, which is wrong and self defeating. So glad another teacher has been so supportive. Charlie sounds amazing. I’m sure his confidence will grow. Such an elusive thing, but at least he’s got 2 brilliant parents. (Imagine the poor kids who don’t even have parents who look out for them). Sorry I’m rambling…but this was a really lovely post, Lou. Lucy xxx

  • Hey Lou,

    Just wanted to send my love to you and your family. I’m so glad that Charlie has found support through this teacher. It makes all the difference. And I feel anger at his previous teacher telling him to pull his socks up. My eldest had a lot of problems through infant school, and was labelled and sidelined. Year 3 and he had a teacher with a different perspective, and my son grew in confidence and started to shine. Sometimes the individual is overlooked, and more value is placed upon statistics and targets. Your son sounds like an absolute cracker ;)
    Leanne x

Comments are closed.