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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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Academic Expectations

Academic expectations. What do they mean for our children?

As the summer days start to grow shorter, my mind is beginning to think about back to school and what that means for my children. As you are aware, I am the mother of a transgender child. Obviously, this fact in and of itself is cause for back-to-school angst. But today I want to focus on children in general. I want to look at one unintentional way educators and school leaders promote an environment that marginalizes groups of children. I want to have a conversation about ways we can make that better. So, my question is: 

Why are we setting the same academic expectations for all students? 

Let’s let this marinate for a moment. 

Each one of us is uniquely special in our own way. We have talents and strengths that when nurtured and developed, help us become our best selves. Sometimes, the focus is so grade and test score heavy, we forget that not every child shows what they know in that way. 

Do I think all children should work to the best of their ability? Of course. 

Do I value education? Undoubtedly. 

I just think that by having the same end goal, we unintentionally teach students that their personal best will never be enough and that they will never meet “the target.” By doing this, we are missing the best part of who they are because we are so hyperfocused on what they are not. 

Some of my children have a learning difference called dyslexia. My 12-year-old is considered Twice-Exceptional or 2e for simplicity. Should he really have the same academic expectations as other children his age? This highly intelligent child, with working memory in the 1st percentile, is a marvel. When traditional academic standards were in place he vomited before school every night. He is a perfectionist and seeks approval from teachers. When his working memory fails him, it causes debilitating anxiety. He cannot remember the sequence of verbal instructions and believes he should be able to. He worries the teacher is going to say he is not paying attention when, in fact, he is likely the most focused child in the room.

Getting my dyslexic children the support and environment that they need was so challenging that we are now in a specialized school. They are thriving and have friends. My kids love to learn. They read interesting books and are becoming writers. They think critically and analyze information before taking a stand. My babies get the opportunity to grow and learn because someone decided to meet them where they are instead of pushing them to where some data algorithm thinks they should be. 

My kids have this privilege and I believe that it will help them be the best, most confident, assured version of themselves so they can go out into the world as adults who make a difference. 

But friends, what about those who do not have this privilege? Those who we give an end goal that they may never get to. What does this teach them about who they are as a person. Of their value and the importance of what they have to offer? I would like to open this up to dialogue. Please email me and share some of your thoughts on this type of experience. Together, we are better.