Dyslexia is dealing with trauma, BDA report

It’s dyslexia awareness month. If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s that kids with dyslexia experience emotional distress on a daily basis — not caused by dyslexia, but by institutional ignorance.

If you want to find out more about this, I urge you to read the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) 2019 report, The Human Cost of Dyslexia.

They found that: “Dyslexia is dealing with trauma.”

The BDA defines trauma as: “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Symptoms of psychological trauma are shock, confusion, anger, irritability, mood swings, anxiety and fear, guilt, shame, self-blame, withdrawing from others, feeling sad or hopeless, and feeling disconnected or numb.”

Sound familiar?

The report identifies the key drivers of this trauma in dyslexic children as:

  • lack of support at school
  • stigma
  • fear of failure

Trauma may also occur at home — the result of increased financial and emotional pressure that is placed on families who, without support from the school, are forced to teach their children, pay for tutors, and generally “figure it out.”

The BDA interviewed students and parents for the report.

Said one student, “My mental health suffered badly: I assumed I was stupid, unable to do well, unable to achieve.”

Said a parent: “When your son is screaming he wants to kill himself, harm himself and repeatedly running away at the age of 6 because he feels
stupid, it’s so difficult.”

The report states that dyslexics are at higher risk for mental health issues because of how they are treated in the education system.

“Whilst dyslexia is not directly linked to emotional or mental health issues, failing to diagnose dyslexia early, and inadequate support – both academic and emotional – during education and beyond leads often to a short and long term human cost of dyslexia.”

They include a list of recommendations, and conclude that schools must work to prevent the trauma experienced by so many students.

“What these figures illustrate is not only the emotional cost that dyslexia has on a child, but also implies how little we have moved on in developing an inclusive education system if our current system allows children to experience these emotions in relation to a disability, and fails to address these issues.”

This report is about British schools, but we know that this is happening around the world to a very significant number of people (dyslexia is estimated at 10-15% of the population).

Helen Boden, CEO of the British Dyslexia Association,, concludes:

“The human costs of dyslexia are too high, and we need to change that.”

We need to change it, and we know how to change it. So let’s change it.

Read the report

The human cost of dyslexia: The emotional and psychological impact of poorly supported dyslexia; Report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other SpLDs, April 2019

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