Princesses are supposed to be practically perfect, right? They should be pretty and kind, and they should be able to read.
What if the princess was pretty and kind, but she discovered she couldn’t read. What do you do with a princess like that, who isn’t quite perfect enough?
Part 1 – A Princess and Dyslexia
This is that practically perfect princess as a baby. She’s with her grandmother and great grandmother. Together they’re three generations of the Windsor family. Do you recognize Princess Beatrice, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Queen Mum of England?
That was Beatrice – until she turned seven. That’s when she discovered life wasn’t so perfect. The print in her book looked muddled, like a bunch of gobbledy-gook. Why? Dyslexia, and it made Beatrice feel confused, like she wasn’t good enough, or smart enough. Imagine – a princess who didn’t feel like she was enough?!
Beatrice is a very private person, but in the last few years she started talking about her dyslexia. How as a child she noticed her best friends were ahead of her. They read yellow and green books, and Beatrice, she was left behind in the white ones.
I was surprised Beatrice felt lucky, but her friends and family never made her feel like she wasn’t enough. The people that surrounded her talked about how to move forward. They looked at what she could do, not at what she couldn’t. Beatrice talked to them about her struggles, and it changed minds, including her own. How could it not? Everyone is a sum of their capabilities and limitations.
Part 2 – How a Princess Moved Forward
Beatrice didn’t share specifics about her journey with dyslexia, but I found a few things about her life post-discovery. Now as an adult, she’d tell her younger self not to be defined by the things that happen on an exam or in a classroom. They’re part of a lifetime of learning, and they’ll build you into the person you’re meant to be.
During secondary school, which sounds like American middle/ high school, the princess got support from the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, and it worked! Beatrice passed eight GCSE’s when she was 16. That’s the UK abbreviation for General Certificate of Secondary Education, and my guess is she passed eight tests. I wonder if she got eight certificates?!
Beatrice went on to pass three A-levels. In the US we’d call them college prep classes/end of year testing. She went on to college and graduated with a degree in History and the History of Ideas from Goldsmiths College in London. Here are two pictures of Beatrice, outside school of course.
The first picture is Beatrice skiing with her mom and sister back in 2004. She’s on the left. I did the math . . . She was 16 back then, and those GCSE’s must have been around the corner.
The second photo is of Beatrice with her baby sister Eugenie from 2013. I did the math again, and now Beatrice must be 24. She’s done all the hard work (school), and she’s working for a living. BTW – 2013 is the same year she became the Royal Patron for the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. Remember the group who helped her find coping strategies for her dyslexia? I bet it felt great to help the people who helped her.
Before covid, Beatrice worked for a software company. Her niche – communications and strategic partnerships. Best of all it played to her strengths in communication, and it’s much better than “sitting behind a desk.” She’s still at the same company, but Beatrice has worked herself up the ladder. Now she’s Vice President of Partnerships and Strategy at Afiniti.com. Would you believe it specializes in artificial intelligence, or that Beatrice says her dyslexia gave her an advantage?
She ended one of her interviews by saying that a lot of her colleagues have dyslexia, and that it’s a strength because they see things differently. They’re problem solvers who look for new ways to do things. They’re not afraid to be experimental or entrepreneurial. Beatrice said dyslexia turned into a gift. The best part – understanding that it’s not about what’s wrong with you. Dyslexia “is a great part of how your brain works, and everybody’s brain works incredibly differently.” What a great way to look at yourself and at your abilities! I imagine Beatrice’s parents are pretty proud of her 😊
Part 3 – Dyslexia: How to Recognize and Cope with It
Dyslexia makes it hard to match letters to sounds, whether they’re an individual letter or in combinations. It’s usually diagnosed when kids start formal reading, sometime in kindergarten or first grade, but it’s not a vision problem.
Here are some common characteristics according to my source atHealthline.com:
1. Difficulty learning common nursery rhymes or songs
2. Trouble recognizing rhyming patterns, like ‘cat’ and ‘bat’
3. Mispronouncing common words
4. Difficulty recognizing their own name
5. Reading slowly
6. Avoiding reading out loud in any situation
7. Pausing often while speaking
8. Using vague language
9. Confusing similar-sounding words or images
Here are some suggestions from Healthline.com. They’re common sense ideas that I can summarize for you. If you’d like to read their full article, this link will take you there: How to Help a Child with Dyslexia at Home: Ideas, Resources (healthline.com)
1. Read together every day. It builds a relationship, and that’s always a good thing. Please do it in a way that fits your child. Sometimes I read a page, then one of my kids would read. If they didn’t know a word, I’d give them the first sound, wait a second, then give them the word. Other kids, I’d let them read as long as they wanted.
2. Focus on sight words. I used the Dolch Words, the 200 most common words in books. Think words like: is, been, the, are, or could to name a few. If your child is in kindergarten, they’re already bringing words like this home every night.
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I used to say repeat to remember, and remember to repeat. It works with math flash cards and sight words. It also works with the leveled readers that teachers send home. Each time your child reads them, they get faster and more confident.
4. Create a nurturing place to study. Think comfy, and also being patient with your child. Sometimes it helps to think of times when something was difficult for you. What did you need to succeed? Try those same kinds of things with your child, age appropriate of course.
5. Create a learning calendar and use it too keep track of progress or tasks to do. It’s great because kids can see their own growth, like how many words a minute they’re reading then, and now. If your child gets stuck, work together to get past the obstacle.
6. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. I didn’t know that kids with dyslexia are more at risk for sleep disorders. I could tell when my 2nd graders weren’t getting enough sleep. When that happened, they didn’t do as well. I have sleep problems myself so I do these things as much as possible.
- establish a bedtime. Try to keep it at the same time, even on weekends.
- create an environment for sleep, like a dark room or a nightlight. Whatever your child needs.
- limit social media and electronics before bedtime. They stimulate you when it’s time to wind down.
- develop a sleep routine that you do every night before bed (a snack, brush teeth, read a book). Whatever fits your family.
Kids ages 5-13 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Teenagers aged 13-18 need 8 to10 hours.
7. Praise success and effort. You can do no more than your best. Your child can’t either. Remember, they already know they’re behind. Noticing those tries and successes builds confidence. Princess Beatrice said pushing back against dyslexia built her problem-solving skills and confidence. It can do that for your child too.
8. Use mnemonic devices. (new-mon-ic) They’re tricks to help you remember something.
- turn information into a song. I did. It helped my kids remember things like weather and landforms.
- letter or word imagery. Example – make b’s look like beds and d’s like dogs. For letter sounds like ow, I had ow as in cow, and ow as tow.
- acronyms like ROY G BIV. My second graders used that to remember the colors of the rainbow . . . red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
9. Find a tutor, especially over summer vacation. When I met my new 2nd graders, I could tell which ones read over vacation – they took off right away. The kids who didn’t took a few weeks to brush up on their skills.
- Princess Beatrice's ongoing difficulty with 'muddled' thoughts swirling in her head (msn.com)
- Watch Princess Beatrice Open Up About Her Dyslexia in Rare Interview (townandcountrymag.com)
- Princess Beatrice: The Gift of Dyslexia - Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage
- How to Help a Child with Dyslexia at Home: Ideas, Resources (healthline.com)
By Archives New Zealand from New Zealand - Image from Christmas card issued by H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II (1988), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122834578
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When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!