When my youngest daughter was learning to read, I told her over and over to "Try Harder." I could not imagine why it was taking us years to teach her letter names and sounds. I could not fathom why she could not rhyme or read "learn to read" books. So we told her to focus and Try Harder.
During one painful homework session, she started crying and turned to me and said "Why does everyone say to try harder? Don't you know I am trying my best? I am trying my best and still can't get this stuff that everyone in my class says is easy! Mom, I must be stupid." My heart broke. I thought of the hundreds of times I had said to her "Try Harder." But she was trying her best and it still wasn't enough.
She was eventually diagnosed with Dyslexia. It was a relief to put a name to the problem. It was a relief to know there were experts out there prepared to help. She was also diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder. I asked the doctors what that was, and they said a "pre-depression state." I call it - "She's smart enough to know she's different." That Adjustment Disorder stuck in my caw more than the Dyslexia. I felt I had some part in that with all my "Try Harder's."
We are nearing three years post diagnosis and while she's made huge improvements, homework time is still a struggle. I had to find something new to say to get her through this. I've developed a few new techniques. We say "Where there is a will, there is a way." If she is struggling to comprehend something, we try another way. Thank goodness for Kahn Academy!
We say "time and patience." Then we remind her of skill that was hard for her to master, but that she accomplished with "time and patience." In the book, The Dyslexia Advantage, written by doctors who run a school for Dyslexic children they refer to the learning time root difference. If it takes a kid without Dyslexia 4 hours to learn something, it will take a kid with Dyslexia the "root" times more. So 4 hours times the root of 4 to acquire that skill. If it take an average kid 10 hours to learn something, it will take a child with Dyslexia 31 hours to learn.
Another idea we have adapted from The Dyslexic Advantage is to embrace her differences. When she cannot think of the right word for a sentence, or writes a paragraph that switches perspective too often, we tell her this is just an example of how her brain thinks differently than most peoples. And while we need to learn to write sentences and paragraphs that others can read and understand, some day this inter-related thinking just might make her a successful business person like Richard Branson.
She usually replies to that one with a "Ok, Mom, If you say so, but I still don't see how Dyslexia is going to make me a Billionaire!" Maybe not the response I was going for, but it's a heck of a lot better than, "I must be stupid."