Seeing your child grappling with dyslexia can be quite disturbing. But as a parent, there’s plenty you can do to give them a firm footing. The important thing to remember is that people with dyslexia are not any less intelligent than others. They can, in fact, work successfully in any field whether it’s medicine, art, law, or science. All your child needs is support and specialized education to improve writing and reading skills. And the earlier you start these interventions the better.1
Signs like delay in speaking, trouble with pronunciation, problems learning rhymes or rhyming words, and difficulty repeating a story in the correct sequence can all be early indications of this condition.
The most defining characteristic of dyslexia is that the child struggles to read and spell. They may have trouble recognizing different sounds in words and linking those sounds to letters.2 When your child starts primary school, you may notice confusion between certain letters like “b” and “d” or “w” and “m” while writing. They may also write words backward, say, writing “tip” instead of “pit,” or have trouble with grammar.
If your child seems to have some of these symptoms, professionals like educational psychologists and speech pathologists can evaluate various aspects like memory, literacy skills, vocabulary, psycholinguistic processing, and intellectual ability to arrive at a diagnosis. The following steps can then be put in place.
Provide Special Educational Support
Many educational interventions can be used to help children with dyslexia. A focus on “phonological skills” – the ability to recognize and process sounds in words – is usually recommended. These programs are typically taught in a very structured manner and involve regular practice and repetition of what’s taught.
A multisensory teaching approach is also generally adopted where the child uses more than one sense to learn. For instance, a child will be shown the letter “A,” taught to say what it sounds like, and write it in the air at the same time. It can also be helpful if the specialists who teach these courses work in tandem with your child’s teacher at school.
A structured literary educational program may have several elements like:
Phonology involves studying the sound structure of words. The smallest unit of sound in a word is known as a phoneme and an important part of this is the ability to split words into the sounds they’re made up of.
Split words up into phonemes, pronounce them clearly, and make your child repeat after you. For instance, even a small word like “cap” is made of three phonemes – /k/, /ă/, and /p/.
After developing an awareness of phonemes, children are taught to map phonemes to printed letters or symbols. This needs to happen in two directions – visual to auditory, which is required for reading, and auditory to visual, which is required for spelling. The combining of sounds and letters to make words also needs attention.3
Write down a letter on a whiteboard and state the relationship between the sound and the spelling while pointing to the spelling. For instance, the letter “s” represents the sound s as seen in the word “sock.” Enunciate the sound sssss clearly and ask the child to repeat it.
Morphology involves understanding how words are formed and their structure. This can include the study of roots, suffixes, and prefixes.
Split a word up to help your child understand how it is formed. For instance, the word “instructor” is made up of the root “struct” meaning “to build”, the suffix “or” meaning “one who” and the prefix “in” meaning “into”. Therefore, an “instructor” is someone who builds knowledge in their students. Now try another word like “deconstruct” which has the same root.
Syntax And Semantics
Syntax is concerned with the rules governing the function and sequence of words. This includes aspects like grammar and sentence variation. Semantics, on the other hand, is concerned with the meaning of words.4 5
Try and relate the meaning of a word to other words. When your child learns a word, also teach them synonyms and antonyms of that word. Explain concepts such as homophones and homonyms. For instance, explain a homonym such as “left” with “The people left” and “Left is the opposite of right.”
Inculcate A Love Of Reading
Simple things like reading to your child can help develop an abiding love for books. But make sure that your reading sessions don’t dissolve into a chore involving curriculum reading. Pick a topic that your child is interested in, whether that’s dinosaurs or stories about wizards. Also, discuss what you’re reading and provide a relaxed environment to keep them hooked. It’s also a good idea to let your child read alone. This will help foster fluency and independence.
Remember That Repetition Can Help
Repeating a lesson or text can help your child learn. It might get tedious reading the same storybook over and over again but this can help familiarize your child with text and improve their understanding.
Be Your Child’s Advocate
Schools and teachers have a large number of children to look after and your child could get lost in the crowd. So, you need to be your child’s champion and communicate what your child needs to the school. In order to do this, understand the areas that your child has a problem with and how best they learn. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of professionals who know which teaching methods, strategies, or interventions will be most useful.
Also, familiarize yourself with scoring systems and teaching methods used at your child’s school. You will also need to understand the special education law in your state.6
Work With The School
Going to that parent–teacher meeting can be daunting, particularly when your child has difficulties at school. But getting involved with your child’s school can help immensely. Try sharing strategies and tools that work for your child. You might find that teachers take to these or suggest helpful alternatives. Sharing your child’s struggles and strengths can also be useful to a teacher. And don’t forget to be appreciative of the teacher who goes the extra mile. Getting involved in the school community and volunteering can also help you build strong relationships with school personnel.7
Encourage And Support
Children who are dyslexic understandably face challenges and their self-confidence often takes a hit. As a parent, you can play an important role here. Encourage your child to participate in activities where they can be successful. This can help build resilience and confidence. For instance, if your child is skilled at painting or sports, participating in these activities consistently can help build their sense of self-worth.8
Use Technology To Your Advantage
Technology can offer many benefits to children with dyslexia. Your child may, in fact, be more comfortable working with computers than books. For instance, word processing programs that check spelling and auto correct can help identify and correct their mistakes. Many programs also translate text to speech and vice versa. This too can help as children with dyslexia tend to have better verbal skills than writing skills. Educational software programs which are interactive and engaging can also provide an interesting and easier way of learning.9
Make The Classroom More Friendly For Dyslexic Children
Around 5 to 10% of people in the United States are estimated to be dyslexic. So if you’re a teacher, you might very well be in charge of a child who has this condition.10 And making certain adjustments and modifications in your teaching methods can make a big difference to a child with dyslexia.
Provide Explicit, Structured Instructions And Information
Children with dyslexia learn better when an instruction is explicit and structured. Adopt a more structured approach – break up information that you’re going to teach into appropriate sub-headings and give it to your student in advance. Then, demonstrate the skill required of the student, guide them while they practice, offer feedback, allow them to practice independently, monitor practice work, and review regularly.
Simplify Instructional Material
Many schools might not be properly prepared to teach dyslexic children and you’ll need to modify or adapt course material. Here are some steps to put in place:
Highlight Important Bits
Written material that is presented in paragraphs can contain a lot of information and overwhelm some children. Try highlighting significant parts or clarifying the material. Sometimes rewriting directions can be helpful.
Presenting difficult or new information in small portions sequentially can be useful in helping children learn. This is especially so for children who need explicit instruction.
Use Audiovisual Aids
Combine visual information with verbal information when you teach. Dyslexic children might also be able to learn better via audio or video recording and it can be helpful to record lessons or instructions so that they can play them back. And when written instructions are given, make sure students can read and understand them. It might also make sense to allow some students to take oral tests instead of written ones.
Allow For Extra Practice
Some students with learning difficulties may need additional practice to master content or skills. You might need to supplement your usual material with additional worksheets, instructional games, computer software programs, or partner the child with peers who can help out.11
|↑1||Dyslexia. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑2||Dyslexia. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Working on Sound – Symbol Relationships. Reading Seed.|
|↑4||Dyslexia and Reading Instruction. Special Education Support Service.|
|↑5||Effective Reading Instruction. International Dyslexia Association.|
|↑6||Advocating for Your Child. University of Michigan.|
|↑7||15 Ways to Build Bridges with School Staff. University of Michigan.|
|↑8||Find their Gifts through Strengths and Interests. University of Michigan.|
|↑9||Dyslexia – Management. National Health Service.|
|↑10||Dyslexia In the Classroom. International Dyslexia Association.|
|↑11||Dyslexia In the Classroom. International Dyslexia Association.|