Reading and Self Esteem

What to Do When Your Child Says He’s Stupid

famous people with dyslexiaThat’s a bold headline, but if you’re a parent of a child with low self-esteem, it can be heart breaking when it happens and you’ll do anything to help. Dyslexia can contribute to feelings of low self esteem.  In this edition of Ask Dr. Linda, learn how to help boost your child’s self-esteem and that many successful people struggle with and overcome dyslexia. We also have links for more information.

Hi Dr. Linda,

I really enjoy reading your columns and learn so much.  But we have an issue that I don’t think you have addressed and maybe your readers will benefit if you can help us with our situation.

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have three wonderful children. Our oldest and our youngest have always done very well in school. Our middle child is just as bright as his siblings, but he struggles in school with dyslexia.

He’s in 5th grade now and has begun saying that he’s the stupid one in the family. He’s even said that he’s the stupidest one in school. Our hearts break every time he says that. What do we do to help his self-esteem?

Thanks in advance.


Dear J.M,

To begin with, many things affect your son’s self-esteem. One of the most important is how he thinks others view him. At his age, the most important “others” are you and your husband, followed by the teacher and his peers. So, a good start will be to show him how much you and your husband believe in him and support him.

It will help him if he thinks that you and your husband think he’s the greatest. Acknowledge that his dyslexia will require working harder at things requiring reading. But that he’s just as likely to succeed in life as those without dyslexia since he’s just as bright and talented. Assure him that his dyslexia is just a blip in his journey. Reading and self-esteem go hand-in-hand.

Let him know that lots of famous and successful people with dyslexia including: Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs, Whoopi Goldberg, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Leonardo da Vinci, Ted Turner, Cher, Henry Ford, Anderson Cooper Tommy Hilfiger, Jay Leno, Walt Disney and even the 3rd man to walk on the moon, astronaut Pete Conrad! And you may not know his name, but Alexander Faludy became the youngest undergraduate in over 200 years at Cambridge University at age 15. At one time, this former child prodigy could barely write his own name.

Here are other things you can do to help him.

  1. Talk about dyslexia. Take the mystery out of it. Explain to those in your son’s life, that dyslexia is not, as once believed, reading backwards or writing reversals. His teacher may even talk about it in school so that the other children learn about the disorder. No one is ever ashamed to say that they are allergic to peanuts or need gluten-free food.

Talk to him about the challenge he faces everyday and listen to how he deals with it. If you need some help in this area, which is understandable, look for someone whom you can turn to for help, perhaps the school psychologist, the reading specialist or someone outside the school.

  1. Provide support. Make sure he gets help in school and out of school. He needs to be taught using methods that work specifically for dyslexia. Hopefully, the school will be able to provide these services. If not, look into changing to a more supportive school. If possible, seek help from tutors who are expert in working with dyslexia. Contact the International Dyslexia Association for more information.

You may find more information from the International Dyslexia Association‘s list of FAQs. I have written many articles on the subject of reading strategies for Dyslexia at and here on the Tiger Tuesday blog.

I hope you will find the information and useful and I hope you will let me know how things are going.

Warm regards,

Dr. Linda

If you have questions about Reading, Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia or ADHD Parenting, why not Ask Dr. Linda? Email (Linda at and keep watching this space. 


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