Social-Emotional Concerns & the Dyslexic Student

By Aimee E. Rodenroth | Originally published in Equity & Access

Picture this: You have a student identified with dyslexia in your class or school who is very bright, smart, and quick with oral responses. In fact, if everything was presented orally, he would be at the top of his class in academics. However, he is unable to read, spell, or write on his current grade level. Grades are abysmal and slowly he starts to disrupt the class. At first, it may be in small ways, like talking to students around him. It may evolve into disruptive episodes and manifests itself in aggressive behaviors like screaming, yelling, or even throwing items, reducing any activity that involves pencil or paper into a completely explosive experience.

Sound familiar?

As the teacher or administrator, you may become frustrated and confused. You may wonder if this is common in other dyslexic students. Well, read on! We will review areas of social-emotional concerns that could co-occur with students identified with dyslexia, as well as ways to support your student at school.

SEL, Family Life, and Dyslexia

Individuals identified with dyslexia are at an increased risk of negative outcomes in emotional, social, educational, and even later, in their occupational areas. The behavioral and emotional characteristics associated with dyslexia vary and range in scope because dyslexia is a spectrum disorder that differs in degree in both the severity of impairment (from mild to severe) and the individual’s response to the impairment. According to Jan Hasbrouck, a well-known author, researcher, and leader in the area of dyslexia, adolescents and adults with dyslexia have reported some degree of anger, stress, embarrassment, shame, aggression, guilt, isolation, insecurity, anxiety, low motivation, low self-esteem, and related social problems at one time or another. According to  a recent study, adolescents with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, have also been found to be at twice the risk of emotional distress, and this can cause long-lasting stress on a person’s life.

Dyslexia can disrupt a student’s school environment. This can be due to additional educational support that may be needed to educate the dyslexic student, or to the degree of difficulty the dyslexic student experiences during school hours, this could also be due to long marathon homework sessions the dyslexic student could endure to keep up with homework/classwork assignments and the frustration subsequently that occurs. Ultimately, the student comes to school, less prepared for the school day than his peers.

Many teachers and administrators who work with dyslexic students may experience a great deal of guilt; guilt for having wrongly assumed the student was not trying hard enough, guilt regarding not recognizing or acting upon the dyslexia identification soon enough, and guilt over not understanding how to accommodate/address the student’s educational and emotional needs. 

How To Support the Dyslexic Student:

There are ways you can support your students identified with dyslexia in their social emotional outcomes.

    • Be transparent to the student regarding their identification. Explain to them what dyslexia is. Explain that it doesn’t change the good traits about them and the things that make them special and unique.
    • Be sure that an appropriate dyslexia intervention is being used. Discuss instructional options with the school counselor, classroom teacher, or dyslexia specialist.
    • Provide the student with opportunities to display strengths in other areas. Encourage an athletic child to join a sports team, encourage the artistic student to take art, music or acting lessons. Whatever their strengths may be, continue to grow and cultivate that area for a self-esteem boost.
    • Demonstrate ways to self-advocate. This is especially helpful as the student grows older and may need additional accommodations/modifications. Teach the student identified with dyslexia that it is ok to ask for help from their other teachers and peers. As they grow older, make sure they can attend their 504/ARD meetings to help them navigate further school success.
    • Read books with characters who have dyslexia. Many titles are available through audio book resources. Some great books to share are:
  • Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. If you are the teacher or the administrator reading this article, you want to help and are sympathetic to their needs. You are the person the student will open up to first. Listen to their concerns with open ears and an open heart. Help the student identified with dyslexia to work through their anxieties by creating conversations.

Key Take-Aways

  • Dyslexia can disrupt the classroom setting and possibly manifest itself in anxiety, depression, guilt, and low motivation in the identified student.
  • Teachers and administrators can help the student identified with dyslexia by keeping the lines of communication open and making sure the best educational support possible is being provided. Advocacy between the teacher and student in the educational setting is key for creating a successful learning environment.

Reading, spelling, and writing are a lifelong journey for all

Students with dyslexia are usually just as eager to start school as their peers but they can become deeply discouraged as they begin to struggle academically while their classmates excel. Dyslexia can be identified and remediated with effective instruction, by a highly-trained instructor. However, outside of effective instruction, students with dyslexia can develop on-going bouts of anxiety, depression, doubt, or self-worth, and the nature and degree of these bouts can vary from student to student. Open communication with the educator and the administrator regarding the student are crucial to ongoing success and ultimately can help boost self-worth.


Aimee Rodenroth is the Subject Matter Expert on Dyslexia for Amplio. She has 30 years’ experience in public education in Texas, 27 of those years were spent in some form of dyslexia education. She received her CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) certification in 2006 from LEAD, and later obtained her QI (Qualified Instructor) certification in 2018 from Southern Methodist University. Aimee is trained in multiple dyslexia curricula.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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