Dyslexia – an Holistic View

Are you worried that your child might have signs of dyslexia, or other learning difficulties?

Learning to read seems simple enough. After all, how hard can it be to interpret those symbols on the page? For many, however, classroom reading instruction is the beginning of a lifetime of struggle, anxiety, embarrassment, shame and poor self esteem.

Immaturities in early stages of development may cause some children to struggle at school. This often raises concerns that they have a learning difficulty or disorder. 

Those who struggle to learn to read are often labelled dyslexic.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is generally used as a generic label for children who struggle with learning in a classroom. The standard definition of dyslexia includes those who:

  • have reading difficulties,
  • are of normal intelligence, and 
  • have participated in standard classroom reading instruction.

Children described as being dyslexic therefore have normal intelligence, but for a number of reasons, struggle with learning to read in a standard classroom.

Not Just Reading

Research shows that children with signs of dyslexia may also struggle in other areas of learning. This is often linked to  underlying immaturities in their early sensory and motor development. 

These difficulties may include :

  • maths
  • spelling
  • handwriting
  • memory
  • bringing thoughts to words
  • listening and following spoken instructions
  • clumsy or uncoordinated
  • sensitive, easily stressed
  • prone to motion sickness
  • organisational skills
  • study skills 
  • other everyday activities

Reading, therefore, is more than simply something that happens in the brain. It is also connected to the senses of balance, vision and hearing, as well as movement and muscle tone.

Intense tutoring and more instruction does not always help. Often, the issue is deeper than this and the classroom struggles that we see may only be the “tip of the iceberg”.

Smart but Feeling Dumb

Failure in the classroom can easily  hijack the early stages of a child’s school career. It doesn’t take long for children to realise that others are finding the learning much easier. Until developmental immaturities are identified and addressed, many children will continue to struggle, becoming increasingly behind.

“Smart but feeling dumb”, is the expression one of my students used to described herself. Your child with signs of dyslexia may become easily frustrated, or simply zone out in class. Ironically, they may be able to read perfectly well when given individual support in a more peaceful environment. Simply being with an emotionally regulated carer can calm their nervous system, making learning much easier.

Children need to feel safe in order to learn. For many, the classroom doesn’t feel safe. I know. I was one of those children. My preferred seat was at the back of the room, against a wall. This is where I felt the least threatened. 

Reading Readiness

Reading ability is built on a strong foundation of early sensory and motor Development. Skills that can help your child’s reading readiness include:

  • Feeling safe  – this comes from close and secure attachment to carers in your child’s early years.
  • Being comfortable when sitting still helps a child to maintain focus.
  • A well-developed sense of balance makes it easier for your child to take their focus away from the horizon, and  move their eyes together across a page of writing. 
  • Good visual motor skills mean both eyes are able to converge and  focus on a single point. Each eye picks up slightly different images, and the brain has to put this information together and make it meaningful
  • Good listening skills will help your child to “hear” and process the sounds and letter combinations
  • Good posture helps your child to concentrate, sitting comfortably without moving or wriggling
  • A well developed auditory memory will help your child link together a series of sounds to form words

Building Foundations for Learning Through Natural Development

Children develop in natural, pre-determined stages. Each new stage is built on the foundations of the earlier ones, a bit like building blocks. When one stage has been missed or is incomplete, the “stack” becomes unsteady, and your child will likely struggle to learn. The earliest of these stages of development happen during infancy and early childhood, through floor play and tummy time.

This is when your child is building the muscles necessary for being able to sit in the classroom and learn. They are also developing the hand-eye coordination they will need to be able to hold a pencil and write. At the same time their eyes and ears are learning to work together, connecting with their sense of balance, so they can sit still and concentrate.

We can help your child by addressing the immaturities, or filling in the gaps. The aim is to build the foundations for later learning in all areas – social, emotional, behavioural and physical, as well as in the classroom.

Holistic Approach to Addressing signs of Dyslexia

In my Holistic Counselling practice practice I offer an holistic approach to addressing signs of dyslexia. It’s not unusual to find dyslexia affecting several generations in one family. Rather than labelling or diagnosing your child, I will help you to look beneath the behaviours, to address the cause.  The aim is to support your child’s ability to learn for life, rather than simply tomorrow in the classroom.

The Good News

The good news is that it is never too late. Addressing underlying issues can help your child in many ways beyond just reading and writing. Without the frustration of trying to keep up, they are able to relax in the classroom. As anxiety decreases, social and emotional learning develops,  friendships become easier, the children have fewer meltdowns, and family relationships improve.

The First Step

The first step is to make an appointment for an initial parent consultation. This is a time set aside just for you, a safe place for you to share your concerns. We can talk about strategies and how I can support your family.

It’s Never too Late

It’s never too late to help your child, but is is much easier when they are younger, before secondary issues of poor self esteem, anxiety, anger and frustration start to creep in.

My aim is to help you raise happy, healthy children, able to achieve to their potential, and find their place in the world

Related articles:

ADHD – an Holistic Approach to Healing

Dyslexia and Sensory Processing

School Readiness

Learning to Read

Signs of ADHD

Learning Difficulties


About Rosalind

Since 2005 I have been helping children with learning and behavioural challenges such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other sensory processing difficulties. I use an holistic, or whole child approach combining counselling with a development movement program, known as The Extra Lesson. This program addresses underlying immaturities in early development that are contributing to their learning and behavioural challenges. Sessions are available online and at Moruya South Head.

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