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The Relationship between Dyslexia and Anxiety

Written by: Janie Hortman, M.A.
The Relationship between Dyslexia and Anxiety

There have been growing numbers in children with the learning disorder, Dyslexia. This can be described as difficultly reading, retrieving words to use, and sounds in language. When you hear “learning disorder” you may think there is a lack in achievement or abilities, this could not be more false. It is about learning how your brain works and adjusting how you learn to fit your needs. Children with Dyslexia are proven to work much harder than peers to “keep up”. Research has shown about 1 and 5 children are dyslexic, and some may not know. Whether they are aware or not, children can feel different by “not being able to keep up” with reading and it can affect their self-esteem and anxiety. This information is not to be used to diagnose Dyslexia but to bring awareness to how a learning disorder can cause anxiety in our kids.

When a child has difficulty retrieving or understand words, it can affect more than school but also peer relationships. Socially it can cause children to feel disconnected and anxious about social situations. They might feel “stupid” compared to their friends and not want to reveal weaknesses, which can lead to avoidance. You may notice that your child doesn’t want to do schoolwork, play with friends, follow directions, or play games because of the anxiety to mess up. For example, at school when the children go to the library, your child may get anxious because they do not want the other kids to see they get an “easy” book. Or when they are playing with a friend, they get anxious when a board game is pulled out because they do not want to be called out. These incidents can cause a child to feel embarrassed and begin to feel negative about themselves. With support, children overcome incidents quickly but without they can build up and create more anxiety. With the ongoing stress of dyslexia, a child may feel like “I can’t” and stop doing enjoyable activities or talk negatively about self. The feeling of not being able to control or fix what is going on leads to a defeated attitude. This may show up as avoidance of school, not hanging out with friends, disciplinary issues to cover shame, and many more.

These anxious feelings can be helped with support and more information about Dyslexia. If you are noticing your child struggle, act immediately. Let them see you are supporting them in figuring it out and providing them with the right tutoring to help them understand how their brain works. Talk openly about anxiety symptoms so your child can be prepared and use calming skills. Help your child understand what Dyslexia is and how it has nothing to do with their intelligence. Support and encourage activities your child is a good act, so they enjoy a confidence boost. Validate and acknowledge struggles because they can find self-esteem in overcoming them. If your child is experiencing negative self-talk, do not ignore it. Ask them questions about how they feel and help them reframe. For example, “I am stupid” can be reframed to “Look how hard I work to understand myself”. Seek professional help with Dyslexia but also through counseling to learn calming skills for anxiety and increase self-esteem. The more proactive you are can minimize the anxiety in your child and allow them to flourish.