By the time students reach high school, many have managed to camouflage their dyslexia with well-developed strategies or deceptions that cover up academic lapses. Others continue to have problems and may suffer from low self-esteem or depression. And since distractibility, dreaminess, and lack of motivation are age-typical behaviors, it's not always easy to separate real learning problems from adolescent angst.
Hats off to teens who are self-possessed enough to talk to their teachers about their learning problems. "It's not always easy to speak up for yourself," says Katie, "but it can pay off. And it's not just about getting extra help or taking an untimed test. Sometimes I just need the teacher's OK to take a break, get away from my desk and walk around the room before I get back to work."
As academic demands increase, dyslexic teens can find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by information overload. For some, taking a tape recorder to class can be a lifesaver -- they can focus on one or two elements without having a meltdown over missing something. "It's fine with me if a machine ingests the information," says one teacher. "As long as the student digests it later on."
Parents of high-schoolers still need to go to bat for their kids. If your child is visibly struggling month after month, arrange a conference with his advisor and talk about your concerns. "No matter how hard Andrew worked, he got D's in Spanish," recalls one couple. "Midway through the year, we decided to talk to his teachers. That led to a professional evaluation by a L.D. specialist, who helped us get a waiver for the foreign language requirement. Thank goodness we intervened."
Learning to drive an automobile introduces a new dimension for teens who have problems with spatial relationships or following directions. A mother in Raleigh, North Carolina anticipated the upcoming challenge by giving her son a map of the city and teaching him how to figure out the different bus routes. "It gave him practice -- and confidence -- getting from one end of town to the other," she says, "and it's one less thing to worry about now that he's behind the wheel."
Dyslexia's a drag at any age, but a self-conscious teenager is likely to feel especially stigmatized and demoralized. You can help lighten the burden by giving your child plenty of opportunities to shine in other areas. Whether it's rollerblading, painting, the swim team, or a rock band, encourage your teen to push the envelope a little and explore other inclinations and challenges. After all, dyslexia's only part of the picture. . . it shouldn't define -- or confine -- anyone's life.