Monday, July 12, 2010

How to help build a dyslexic child’s self esteem

Self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself. It is how you feel about yourself with all of your successes, abilities, flaws and limits. Having a great sense of self-esteem is an important factor and a necessary component of success.
Doubt is one factor which leads to low self-esteem which can affect your abilities to succeed in the long run.

Low self esteem is when you focus on your perceived weaknesses and faults and give little credit to your skills. You believe you are stupid and that others are better than you.

A majority of my dyslexic students come to me with low self esteem. They believe that they are stupid. John, my first student had repeatedly asked me, “uncle Luqman, do you think I am stupid” A dyslexic cannot help but feel he is stupid as all his classmates are able to do work which he finds difficult. He experiences a huge amount of failure. The classmates call him stupid and so do some of his teachers. He can’t read and he can’t spell and therefore he must be stupid is what everyone will think. I try to change my students mind set and believe that effective teaching can only commence after their mind set is changed.

Low self esteem will lead to low self confidence and I try and build up his confidence. I look for his strengths and compliment him. Play card games and lose most games to make him get back his confidence. I keep telling him how clever he is in being able to beat me – his tutor.

Some of the behaviours of a child with low self confidence and self esteem are:

1.    Act foolish in class to draw the attention away from his weakness.
2.    Being irritating to draw attention away from his weakness.
3.    He feels worthless and thinks that he must be stupid as everyone calls him so.
4.    He will pretend to be sick to avoid going to school.
5.    Act bored as a defence mechanism.

As a teacher and parent we should look for signs above and help the child get out of this mind set.

A good analogy of a child will be a seed which has been planted. It grows healthy and strong and after sometime it becomes weak. Because it’s early life was good it will soon grow healthy when a little fertilizer and care is given to the plant.

The child brought up in a home environment grows healthy and has good self esteem because of the loving home environment. His self esteem gets affected once he enters school and his classmates call him stupid. When a good tutor or teacher finds out that he is dyslexic and gives encouragement and teaches him the way he needs to be taught he regains his self esteem and confidence and starts shining just like the plant above.

To give back a dyslexic child his self esteem and confidence all one needs to do is to praise him in all areas where praise is due. Do not take for granted that he knows that you are proud of him. Tell him in so many words.

Whenever he says anything listen to him. Let him know he is important by listening to him and answering him appropriately. Give him hugs every day. When he achieves success in sports and other events make a big fuss about it.

Avoid yelling at him and treating him harshly. Ten days of hugging, encouraging etcetera can be negated with one minute of yelling. The yelling will be remembered for a long time.

I know that encouragement goes a long way as I have seen in my students faces as to what it does.
I have noticed a wide grin and change in posture when I tell them that they are not stupid but that the English language is. (Excuse me for this. As I have mentioned in an earlier article we all know the beauty of the English language and the children will grow up to learn that fact too. This is just a temporary measure to get their confidence and self esteem back). This statement never fails to tickle them. So, I use it when we come across a word that makes no phonological sense. This is especially useful for us in Malaysia where we can compare Malay and English and explain to our students.

I had never realized that I have a problem with the letter V. I have always pronounced it like a “W”.
Two of my students always correct me when I read the ‘v’ word wrong. You won’t believe how thrilled they get when they correct me. Of course I take the opportunity to say things like, “My! You can even correct your teacher.”  (See note)

In conclusion, watch your child when he comes back from school and keep an eye out for changes in behaviour. Talk to him and pay attention to what he has to say. Give encouraging words and build his confidence and self esteem.

Note: This is something I forgot to write when I wrote about phonological awareness deficit. How can a dyslexic child hear the subtle difference between a ‘v’ sound and a ‘w’ sound so clearly if he has a phonological awareness deficit?

For notes on lessons - 2 click here:


Valrie said...

I aliteracy specialist with a focus in reading, I would be very interested in interviewing you in regards to your success with dyslexic children. I agree common sense is the primary quality needed to help these highly intelligent and frustrated students!

Please email me at or visit my blog:

Luqman Michel said...

I am glad that a literacy specialist agrees with me in regards to common sense being the primary quality needed in teaching.
I'll visit you blog. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well written article, covering all the bases. simple for all to understand. Definitely common sense is primry quality needed in teaching, sadly many lack it.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you very much for your comment. Wish you well.