I’m a teacher – so why couldn’t my son read?
‘As a secondary schoolteacher, I’m only tooaware of how devastatingdyslexia can be for children.I’ve seen bright kids become completely demoralised by the fact they cannot read. They fall further and further behind their peers, and it’s common to leave school with no qualifications. It’s a scenario no parent wants for their child. So when it emerged that my own son, Kieran, now10, was struggling to read, I was fearful for his future.
He was diagnosed aged seven with dyslexia and dyspraxia, and I was shocked by how little help there was. While his reading was down on the fifth percentile, his IQ was on the 85th percentile, so he wasn’t considered far enough behind to warrant extra support at school. In fact, the disparity between his intelligence and his academic performance only added to his frustration – Kieran was bright so he knew he “should” be able to do all the things his friends could.
At school he went under the radar.In a class of 33 kids, he became adept at simply “disappearing”, sitting quietly and staring out the window. At one parents’ meeting, I was very upset to be told: “Your son is lazy.” I knew he wasn’t, he just didn’t want his classmates to know he couldn’t read.
Last year we reached the point where Kieran didn’t want to go back to school. It didn’t matter how many times I told him to just do his best. He saw it as torture.
Then I heard from a friend about a programme that had helped a colleague’s dyslexic son. I’m noadvocate of “alternative” therapies, but we were getting now he rewith the usual avenues.
Robin Pauc prescribed a brain-boosting diet, home computer exercises to teach Kieran’s eyes to converge properly, and physical exercises to stimulate specific areas oft he brain. It sounded wacky– for instance,he had to shuthis eyes whilewalking up anddown steps.
To be honest, I was sceptical. or the vision exercises Kieran wore special glasses and had to“zap” images on the computer once his eyes had focused: a bit like “magic eye” pictures. Kieran found it extremely challenging; it took him nearly six months to master. Bribery was involved. But by the end, I could see atangible change in Kieran. His teachers reported an improvement in his concentration. Of course,that could just be him maturing. But what convinces me that this programme really works is Kieran’s reading. At the start of the programme he was 2.7 years behind. Today his reading is age appropriate. At the start of the last school year, I thought Kieran would still be unable to read by the time he started secondary school. One year on, he can read anything his friends can, and that fills him with confidence. His dyslexia isn’t magically cured – his handwriting still needs help, for instance –but he says words on a page just make sense to him now. For the first time in years, I’m looking forward to Kieran starting a new year at school. And mos timportantly, so is he’.
THE SMARTER DIET
Tips from the BrainFood Plan to nourish young minds:
- Start every day with a healthy cooked breakfast, with good sources of protein, eggs, beans or salmon. This keeps kids’ blood-sugar levels stable, essential for children with a developmental delay. Sugary cereals are a disaster for concentration.
- Avoid meals that are heavy in processed carbs, such as white-bread sandwiches or white pasta – switch to wholegrains instead. And include healthy proteins too to avoid ugar slumps.
- Read food labels and cut out any sugary foods and those that contain artificial additives and sweeteners.
- Omega 3 fats can help kids with developmental delay, but for full benefitsit’s vital to also minimise saturated and trans fats (these bad fats ‘push’ good fats out). Fish oil pills are rich in omega 3, but choose supplements higher in EPA than DHA, as this is more helpful for behaviour problems.