The Relieving Power of Silence
I have been extremely stressed lately, and I have had to really listen to my mind and body to help keep things balanced enough to not spiral. There have been a few points in my life when the stresses of situations have gotten to very high levels. The demands of school, bad relationships, the sickness or passing of a loved one, are all times when I felt like I may not be able to keep up. Being dyslexic adds a layer (or more like 100 layers) onto these stressful times. But through the years, I have been able to empower myself to learn how to accommodate to and let go of the things that dyslexia exasperates.
Dyslexia is a language processing disorder. This means that dyslexia is not just about reading and spelling. It is also about processing spoken language. When I am stressed, you will definitely find more reading and spelling errors in my work. These errors, I have learned to just let go. I don't care anymore if someone points out a spelling or grammar error, and I have audiobooks and text to speech to help with reading when I cannot muster the energy to eye-read. But what is really hard, and what you will also find, is my abilities to listen and talk goes down. This often looks like I am not focused or ignoring, but it is actually because my brain is already so overwhelmed that using the enormous amount of energy needed to process spoken language is simply not available.
In school, everyone has to be a good listener. All students must listen to their teachers' instructions. They must listen to the announcements. They must listen for the recess whistle. They must listen to their classmates. There is so much listening required to simply be at school. For about 70 to 80% of the population, this isn't a big issue. But for dyslexic people, it is exhausting. If there is a teacher or student that talks fast or with an accent, let's raise the hardness factor by 1000!
Knowing that there are times when my mind and body are so overwhelmed that listening and talking is too hard has taken me years to understand. I used to beat myself up about not being able to keep up in a conversation, or I felt bad if someone thought I was being rude because I didn't respond right away after they asked a question. Now though, I have learned how to deal with these times. I have learned to give myself an oral language break. I understand that listening and talking take more energy for me than they do for many people. This means that I need to take time during the day to just be in SILENCE. This means no talking, no listening to words, and no music with lyrics. To just be in silence is precisely what my brain needs sometimes. Basically, on a daily basis, I take time just to be silent. This happens while I am driving in the car, or the hour or two after my last tutoring session for the day. Or in the middle of the day, I may just turn off the lights in my office and just sit in silence for 15 minutes.
Parents, your dyslexic child may need some time when things are just silent. They may need a break from listening or talking. This is not break time to watch a TV show or play a video game. This is merely quiet time.
With school starting back up for some in the next couple weeks, I hope you will schedule some time to be silent and give your brain a rest. When you pick the kids up from school, try not turning on music. Try turning off the TV and not having background noise for 30 minutes. These are some of my suggestions. Let me know what your ways of being silent look like!
Laura Busby, M.Ed.