The importance of calm
by Jan Montgomery, BSc, PGDip
First of all, I want to say that I am no expert on dyslexia but I do have lived experience. I also want to say that just because I have dyslexia does not mean that I understand your experience. We are all unique and our experience of navigating the world from a dyslexic perspective is unique too. I also want to say that having dyslexia is only a part of who we are – we are much more than an identification of dyslexia. I understand that having the identification is significant for many people and I also understand that being defined by the identification of dyslexia does not reflect all of who we are.
What I have come to understand as a mental health professional is that living with any form of neurodiversity is stress inducing. Some people write about neurodiversity as being a superpower, and yes, it can bring benefits, but that does not take away from the fact that being neurodiverse in a neurotypical world can be stressful.
So, what can I say that is going to support you and support your parents/carers/teachers to support you?
To parent/carers/teachers I would say that the more you are able to stay calm the more likely your child/children will be able to stay calm. Our role, while supporting children and young people, is to facilitate their emotional regulation and the only way we can do that it to be regulated ourselves. The more stress there is in the environment the less the child/young person will be able to access their learning. This sounds relatively easy, but it is not. None of us stay regulated all of the time – it is not how our biology works.
Plans are underway for an online event next year with Dyslexia Scotland South East branch to learn to tune into ourselves and discuss many different ways in which we can calm our system. Once we experience the changes that brings to our body, we can teach them to the children and young people with whom we live and work. We often function in a state of high alert without even realising it, and that can create stress in the bodies of those we live and work with. This also works in the other direction – when we are living and working with children who are very stressed, we can become stressed ourselves.
To those of you who have dyslexia – learning to listen to your body and respond to its needs can help you in so many different ways. Did you know that your body sends more messages to the brain than the brain sends to the body – by about an 80:20 split? Listening to your body can help you with your learning because you can tune in to when you are tired, when you need a drink, when you need movement, when you need food. Meeting those needs will help your body and brain manage the challenges of having dyslexia much easier. You will learn that ‘powering through’ does not produce good results.
Ultimately, my message is to learn to be kind and compassionate to yourself and those you support. When we can do that, learning becomes much more effective.