The Mislabeled Child (page 2)

The Mislabeled Child

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Updated on Mar 5, 2009

For example, children with dyslexia are often also extremely gifted, the Eides say. In fact, that's why dyslexia is so often misdiagnosed. "The kids present in ways in which no one would suspect a learning disability. They're often early readers who read at, or above, grade level. But they have significant problems in written output, spelling, and often math." Studies have shown that the average IQ of a child with dyslexia is higher than that of the regular population. And it's just these smarts that get them into trouble.

"They stretch the boundaries," Brock Eide says. "When they read, they can't just automatically match sounds and letters, so they use contextual cues and problem solving and no one may realize there's a problem."

In fact, dyslexic children often become creative adults – they're used to solving problems on the fly and end up as engineers, scientists –  "some of the world's greatest contributors and thinkers," Brock Eide says. It comes back again to labels – a flaw in the standard way of looking at learning disorders in children. Difficulties in school are often because a child processes information differently than his peers, rather than because there's a problem with learning or attention. Some take information in best through hearing it, some through seeing it, and some through doing. "Nobody is globally food in all areas," Brock Eide says. The most important thing you can do for your child is to recognize how he or she learns.

That, and to set them up for victory. All kids need parental support. But when a child spends his whole school day being frustrated and feeling like he's not smart, he needs parents who can tip the balance in the other direction – emphasizing his strengths and focusing on his gifts. "We sometimes see gravely disabled kids, but we've never seen a case where something couldn't be found to bolster learning," Brock Eide says. What they have seen, are children who've been chronically put in situations where they can't succeed. "These kids are often put through chronic stress, repeated failure, and situations they're incapable of dealing with, early in life and they develop negative responses because of it. These problems become well established and children sometimes exhibit them when the underlying neurological processing is no longer a problem." Long after the learning problem falls away, the negative patterns can remain if the feeling of being unworthy is still there.

As a parent, it's tempting to focus on the label. But labels are broad. And they tend to point to the problem and never the little gifts that may accompany it. "In all of these areas, time is on your side," Brock Eide says. "ADHD is compounded by problems with frontal executive function and that falls away dramatically in the teen years. And children with autism spectrum disorders have severe difficulties multitasking and with complex interaction of functions. But there's an exponential development of these skills in the second decade. Time is on the side of the child."

They just have to have the confidence to get there. And parents have to have the patience to make the journey as smooth as possible. "Find the treasures in your child and learn how to develop them in positive ways," Fernette Eide urges. Because you are uniquely suited to see the jewels that might be hiding just beneath the surface.

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