by Erica Garza
When a child struggles with dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects how a child reads or interprets words, they may struggle with anxiety, too. Teachers and parents continually advise children that reading is an important life skill, from the time they are very young. So, when they face challenges in this area, they may fear judgment and criticism from those around them. They can suffer from poor self-confidence and wonder why they’re different. If you think your child may be struggling with dyslexia, anxiety, or both conditions, learn what to look for and how to help.
What Is Dyslexia?
People who struggle with dyslexia have difficulty matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. This difficulty affects how a person reads, writes, and spells. It’s a common condition that affects 20 percent of the population. It accounts for 80 to 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with learning disabilities.
Kids with dyslexia struggle with decoding new words or breaking them down into smaller chunks they can then sound out. It’s not a reflection of a child’s intelligence, and in fact, dyslexic children are often highly creative, with strong reasoning abilities. Child Mind Institute describes dyslexia as a “gap between a student’s ability and achievement.”
Can Dyslexia Cause Anxiety?
Research shows that as many as many as 20 percent of children with dyslexia also suffer from depression, and another 20 percent suffer from an anxiety disorder. Kids with dyslexia may have fears about what might happen if they need to read out loud in class. They may be afraid of failing, or of being judged or embarrassed in front of peers. They may even fear that they’ll never learn or succeed at anything because of their reading challenges.
“A lot of our work with dyslexic kids is to help them rediscover that they are smart and capable, because they’ve stopped believing in themselves,” notes Scott Bezsylko, the executive director of Winston Preparatory School, which specializes in learning disorders. While having dyslexia doesn’t cause kids to be anxious, in many cases, the more stress children face, the more sensitive to stress they become. This can contribute to a chronic anxiety disorder, extending to various aspects of a person’s life.
Signs of Dyslexia in Children
While it’s common for children to find reading challenging from time to time, when reading has become an ongoing struggle to the point that they cannot keep up with their peers, it’s possible the reason is dyslexia. Some signs of dyslexia in kids include:
● Difficulty sounding out new words
● Speech delays
● Trouble following directions
● Difficulty discerning left from right
● Lack of fluency compared to peers
● Tendency to reverse letters and numbers when reading
● Struggle with rhyming and associating sounds with letters
● Fear of being called on to read out loud in class
● Difficulty decoding signs and logos
● Frustration, stress, and anxiety
Signs of anxiety in children include:
How to Help Your Child Cope
If you believe your child may be struggling with dyslexia, talk with their doctor or teacher and consider having your child evaluated. The sooner you identify the root cause of difficulty with reading, the sooner you can help them feel less anxious about it. Ask your child’s teacher about classroom accommodations for dyslexia and other alternatives for adapting to their learning environment. Help your child cope with anxiety by following the five pillars—teaching them mindfulness techniques, ensuring they get proper rest, controlling their screen time, and promoting a healthy diet. You might also consider having them take Brillia, a homeopathic tablet that neutralizes the S-100 protein often responsible for anxiety, focusing on issues and irritable behavior. Lastly, remind your child that dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence or laziness but an issue in the brain that affects many other kids. They are not alone.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles and a mother of one. She holds a master's from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.