Timed Competition and Children who are Dyslexic

Evaluation and competition are a natural part of life; timed competition in children who are dyslexic is something to consider. Measuring our success is just something we do as humans. Recently, I was reminded that it is crucial to consider your measuring stick when evaluating children who are dyslexic or any beautiful, neurodivergent brain. One of my children was asked to participate in a math competition, and the outcome was a teachable moment for us both.  Here is why it is essential to consider your measuring stick when evaluating children with dyslexia.

Time Pressure

While my child does well with math, his processing speed and working memory significantly slow him down. The math competition was broken into four challenges, some as a team and others as individuals. I am confident that the stress of the time and his learning differences impacted the outcome of his work.

Lesson #1: Processing complex math equations is not the most critical skill; we have computers that do that for us, right? Being able to correctly solve complex math equations and understanding the why behind the question is more important. Time pressure is an important consideration when evaluating children with dyslexia.


The school that my child attends is second to none. Before entering this math competition, the teacher reached out to me with concern about his anxiety. She explained that she was concerned that the competitive environment might be too much but thought it would be a good experience. I agreed it could be stressful but bring good life lessons, so we moved forward.

Lesson #2: My child’s teacher only knows the depths of my son’s stress and anxiety because I have advocated for him. Some children who are neurodivergent compare themselves to their neurotypical peers, which increases stress and anxiety. My child’s teacher was sensitive to these pressures and thought twice before bringing the team into the environment. Choosing the proper environment is critical when evaluating children with dyslexia.


Our incredible team was the only team to leave without an award. I wish I could say I didn’t notice or that my son was unaware. However, this competition was for the person or team that could solve complex math problems the fastest.

Lesson #3: That’s okay. The fact that they did not receive awards was a teachable moment in the car on the way home. I had an opportunity to talk to my son about considering the measuring stick when deciding if it was a success or failure. Because my son’s school is fantastic, they have educated their students on their learning differences and how to advocate for themselves. We were able to have a very adult conversation about his working memory and the impact of this type of activity.

People criticize competitions because their kid didn’t take home a trophy; others criticize when everyone gets a trophy. I am thankful for the experience because it inspired the conversation. Everyone has unique talents that should be celebrated, but not necessarily with a trophy. Being challenged to go outside your comfort zone is the only way to grow. This is an important fact when engaging in timed competitions with children who are dyslexic. Besides, how many of those kids can solve a Rubix cube in 42 seconds?

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