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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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Healthy Coping Strategies as We Return to School

I want to talk for a moment about the concept of change. Transition. Time. It happens to all of us. We age, kids grow up, people divorce, die, stop being friends. Change can be a lot. 

Since our children are going back to school, some for the first time since March 2020, we are in a time of great change. Today I spent the whole day, every minute, working on our family schedule and preparing for the impending change. It feels massive. Overwhelming.

What do we do when there are SO MANY changes that come at us at once. Most importantly, how do we cope? For me, I tend to go straight to anxiety. Anyone else out there? In the end, I start to fear the future, mourn the past, and sometimes dig my heels and resist. 

The funny thing is that even good change can be hard. Promotions, moves, kids going to college, people sharing their truths with us. Despite the fact that change can be good, it is still a change and it can be really hard to process. Accordingly, I did a little research and found some healthy coping strategies that we can use when we are faced with change. Try a few and let me know what you think.

Coping Strategies

  1. Consider the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. According to Sara Smith, BSW and the Behavioral Health Partners at the University of Rochester it goes something like this:
    1. 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
    2. 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet. 
    3. 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
    4. 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
    5. 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
  2. Try Hand on Heart Anxiety Reduction. To explore this grounding technique please visit Melissa Nunes-Harwitt, LMSW here. It is like giving yourself a hug. I highly recommend this technique.
  3. One of my very favorite resources is You can filter by age group: children, adolescent or adult. The site offers an extensive list of worksheets, therapy tools, interactive aids and more. 
  4. Talk it out. Sometimes just verbalizing your feelings can make you feel better. It helps your brain rationalize what is going on. Moreover, If you’re like me, writing it out can also be helpful. 
  5. Interestingly, in a parent group meeting today someone suggested holding a piece of ice or an ice pack. While I know this is a popular notion from TicTok and Dr. Oz, I haven’t found any scholarly articles on it’s effectiveness. Buy hey, if it works for you then go for it!!
  6. Finally, in my post Peaceful Drops of Rain, I discussed the prolonged effects of the slow, subtle drip of water. Stress and anxiety left unchecked can eventually etch a hole in a canyon. Be sure you are acknowledging your mental health to keep the river at bay.

Therefore, as we turn an eye towards real life, albeit, with Covid, let’s be sure to model healthy coping strategies for our kids.