We all love our children and would do anything we can to make their life as enjoyable and easy as possible. However, when you have a child with a learning difficulty, anything can sometimes feel like everything, certainly a lot more than what I expected, and all this support comes at a cost. When I say cost I am not only talking about the financials but the extra time parents need to devote in order to fully support their child and most importantly the emotional cost to everyone.
In Australia, dyslexia is not included in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and there is no financial assistance available to families. Some allowances (adjusted exam times for example) can be made to sufferers by their schools however a diagnosis is required before they can do so. This is just the first step needed to implement a course of action. A diagnosis by an Educational Psychologist is expensive, it can run into the thousands, and is often beyond the financial capacity of many families. Add to this ongoing therapies and tutoring possibly for all of their schooling life and the burden can feel overwhelming.
Most parents, especially mothers, instinctively know that their child has a learning difficulty before the testing is done. Teachers usually recognise it also so it seems like a lot of money to spend just to receive a few allowances at school however they can make the world of difference to their overall mark. My son who had adjustments and allowances across all his subjects last year decided that he did not want to be treated differently for Maths as it was his strong subject. In Year 10 he chose to do Advanced Maths as well as Extension Maths with no allowances or adjustments in exams for his dyslexia. His first exam came back and he hadn’t done as well as he expected. Comments were, “make sure you read the questions carefully” and “simple errors were made”. He learnt a valuable lesson and his adjustment of being able to have a question read if required have been reinstated for future Maths exams. As his teacher explained to him, this is not about getting special consideration. It is simply about trying to bring him up to an equal playing field with his peers. So if the diagnosis is required why is there no financial support available for families to obtain one?
Before and even after receiving the diagnosis, parents of dyslexic children usually go through a trial and error process of various programs and tutoring. When I first started to see signs that my son was struggling I turned to his teacher who told me everything was age appropriate. I knew this wasn’t correct so I turned to the internet. I researched everything I could and there was an endless supply of businesses that claimed to be able to help my child learn how to read. Even when parents can’t really afford it, it is very hard to put a price on your child’s education and future. There was never a quick fix solution though. Not only did we pay thousands of dollars for different programs our son then had to devote hours upon hours of his time trying his hardest to improve just so that he could be equal to his peers.
What exactly are the long term emotional costs of all this extra work during an already difficult 13 years of schooling in which no matter how much a dyslexic child tries he or she can’t keep up with their peers in regard to reading and literacy when reading and writing are the cornerstone of nearly every subject? As parents and teachers we can encourage them, tell them how clever they are, provide them with extra help and support but they continue to watch their friends around them succeed while they struggle. It must feel overwhelming. A UK report called ‘The human cost of dyslexia’ states that young people who have literacy difficulties also report a higher level of mental health difficulties. It also likened growing up with dyslexia to being similar to a psychological trauma saying that symptoms of trauma are shock, confusion, anger, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, guilt, shame, self-blame, withdrawing from others, feeling sad or hopeless and feeling disconnected. All of these symptoms can be used to describe how at times a person with dyslexia feels. It is heartbreaking as a parent to think that every day we send our child off to school in which no matter how hard they try they come out feeling this way. It is a difficult life lesson for a child to learn so young, however with the right love and support out of this comes resilience and determination, which are possibly the best personal traits someone can have to succeed and flourish in adult life.
What makes it all worthwhile? Last week I was cuddling my son on the lounge when he said to me that he was so grateful to have me as his mother. He said that he knew how much money and time we had invested into his education and he acknowledged that he wouldn’t be doing as well as he is today without the belief I had in him and the long hours I had put into researching and supporting him. While the financial, emotional and social costs of dyslexia on children and their families needs to be acknowledged (and should be compensated), at the end of the day I know I would spend every dollar and moment again in a heartbeat.
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves