There is nothing like working on a passion for a decade to give you perspective, mine is literacy. Besides how much I’ve learnt since those early days, 10 years ago last month, when I got the keys to my own school. I’ve seen a frightening trend developing over the last five years in particular. I’ve been trying to chart the reasons as to why I now work with increasingly traumatised souls younger and younger. In the beginning, I felt I was a victim of my own success. I wondered did I attract these situations others had struggled to find solutions for simply as my own reputation grew? Sure, there was an aspect of this as I became known for being an expert in reuniting the world with teens who’d been trapped in their bedrooms for years. But this doesn’t explain the 6 and 7-year-olds I am meeting regularly. Why has not being able to read, write or pronounce a few words become such an issue? When did this become the end of the world? Why does this shatter their confidence so much? Why is everything from anxiety to bed wetting or not sleeping now in the mix? Why have they all been for so many assessments or “interventions” before I meet them? Why has so little helped them? They are all in learning support.
The answers? I realised that parents have been sucked into a vortex of feeling that a label, not a solution will give their children the “edge” in life, especially in the education system. The only reason we do assessments is to provide schools with a branded identity for our children to have resource time that very often doesn’t help them at all. I know this sounds harsh but it’s the truth that I’ve seen on a repeat loop for a decade. A loop that is becoming increasingly more traumatising for the children involved. Now it has become so skewed that parents feel they must label their children before even entering the system in order to provide a survival net. Yet teachers complain to me their classes are filled with excessively labelled students. But often it is the schools insisting on these assessments or even taking the power to do them without the inclusion of the parents. A label means money for a school. Not a solution to the problem or tailor made help for your child to learn differently. It doesn’t provide them with coping strategies for life. As a by-product of the label, I listen to parents every day tell me what their child will never be able to do well. As I’ve done and succeeded at it all despite these claims, I feel qualified to say this is utter rubbish. In fact, I only went to college to do a degree and later a PhD in order to be a qualified voice on what you can achieve with a severe dyslexia label. It’s why I’m now a writer too.
It’s time parents took their power back and stopped feeling forced to label their child as a solution to often very insignificant challenges. So what if they take 6 months longer to talk? So what if they are quiet? So what if they fidget? So what if phonics don’t teach them to read? So what if they use their fingers to count? Or mix up their b’s and d’s. Does it matter if they don’t ace the spelling tests? Who cares if you get your pen pass first or last? Who invented the pen pass? Your child’s happiness is so much more important than these educational milestones. Life doesn’t have to be such a competitive race.
In the long run, It’s better energy spent If you start to look online for solutions for ways to support rather than brand your child. Your child will not grow up to feel there is something fundamentally wrong with them. We need a change of mindset to readdress the power dynamics currently being played out at younger and younger ages in schools not just across this country but the world. Daily, I deal with the same problems, the same trauma created across 6 countries globally. The same problems in mindset in contrasting cultures with parents all seeking the “edge” for their child. A very important part of being a parent is to be an educator yourself. No one else is going to fix your child’s challenges better than you.
Parents seem shocked initially when I set them 6 weeks of work for them to do with their child at home. Yes, you can take the power back. Yes, you can help. And yes, in a very short few weeks they are all reading, writing or speaking better. No therapists. No labels. There is a whole world of internet material on various platforms to help you. I personally record a podcast for this very purpose, Purple Psychology. But there are endless resources out there on Pinterest or Youtube and so on to help you.
The biggest part of my work is not the help or program to learn differently. It’s the rebuilding of confidence of little damaged souls and the encouragement of parents to trust their guts. You do know your child better than anyone else. Don’t listen to any therapist or psychologist who tells you differently. You know the days to push. You know the days to back off. The times to hug. You have all the encouragement inside in you. Just stop the labels, please. Stop racing to some universal “average” someone else dreamed up for your child. We need to embrace difference again and parents need to be the ones to decide this shift. Years ago, I wrote, “It doesn’t matter what you can’t do, only what you can.”
Naoisé O’Reilly reflections February 2019