Dyslexia and parenthood

A wonderful Insight in to dyslexia and parenthood from Julie McNeil, wife of Paul McNeil  one of our fantastic ambassadors

Books, reading, developing your child’s imagination and sense of creativity were about as fundamental to my approach in parenting as things come.

Paul, my husband who is Dyslexic, embraced this and we both read to our son Shea from a very young age – weeks old.

It is no surprise then that some of his first words were lines from his favourite stories and his language skills were pretty advanced for his age.

Unsurprisingly, for as long as I can remember he has loved books.

As he got older Paul would build dens (Dad’s dens were always better than Mum’s apparently) and the two of them would read together inside.
Shea loved the way his dad told stories as he was so animated and always added a sense of excitement or drama to the story.

I loved seeing his eyes light up and his imagination growing day by day. He loved to act out things he had heard about in books.

As Shea got older and was trying to understand his world he would often ask adults to “tell (him) a story about” this was Shea’s way of asking adults to explain something he didn’t understand.

Shea is all about the questions.

Laterally, Shea started pre school. The stories have moved on. The words are harder.

The other night when I was reading to him before bed he said “no mummy it’s Mr Kark not Krank, you always read it wrong. Daddy knows his name” now, I know it’s “Krank” but I am caught between wanting to read the right words to my young impressionable son and a real sense of loyalty and protectiveness towards my husband. For some reason I don’t want Shea to know his dad struggles with words…. I am not sure why. I know that day will come very soon where Shea will understand that adults struggle too. We don’t know everything, we are not always right and we all have our own difficulties/ disabilities or just things we struggle with in life. But to Shea at 3 we still have all the answers.

Paul is our hero. He never shies away from the difficulties he faces. I hear him spelling out words and learning about phonics because he knows it is important to Shea and he knows it’s important to me. I also appreciate how exhausting it must be for him.

Reading will always be something I value and something I will encourage in both my children but what Paul has shown me first hand is that passion, imagination and time are what lights the fire in children.

Shea begs his dad to take him to bed when he is home early enough from work because Paul tells him “a story in my mouth” instead of a book. You see Paul’s imagination is second to none (in fact second only to Shea’s) and is a very hard act for a Mum with a pile of Julia Donaldson stories to follow.

It’s funny how I thought it would be my role to encourage reading, imagination and creativity in my children when Paul and his amazing, wonderful, creative, Dyslexic brain surprises and amazes me once again.

I know things will get harder for Paul as the children grow and, who knows, maybe the children will be dyslexic too. What I do know is that the skills that Paul has had to develop to cope with his Dyslexia (creativity/ adaptability/ thinking on your feet) mean that Paul was much better prepared for the challenges of parenthood and it is a joy to see Shea lapping it up!!

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At what point do children become aware that mummy/ daddy are dyslexic and how should you to talk to them about it? And are there any useful books/resources to help them understand?

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