A Parent's Guide to Help a Dyslexic Child

9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help a Child with Dyslexia: A Parent’s Guide

When I first found out my daughter was Dyslexic,  I felt overwhelmed. . .  I started to research. . .  I felt overwhelmed. . .  I searched for the best way I could support her. . .  I felt overwhelmed.  You don’t have to feel overwhelmed!

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1.  Read These Two Books:

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any LevelBy Dr. Sally Shaywitz

Dr. Shaywitz is a neuroscientist and a professor of pediatrics at Yale.  She is also the codirector of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain The Dyslexia Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain By Brock L. Eide M.D. M. A. and Fernette F. Eide M. D.

Both of the coauthors are international authorities on dyslexia and learning differences.  They have founded Dyslexic Advantage, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  Their mission, as stated on their website, is to revolutionize the way dyslexia is regarded.

Today, Dyslexic Advantage (DA) is breaking the cycle of negativity in school systems and workplaces by revolutionizing how dyslexic people are understood, educated, and employed. We’re replacing the old and outmoded deficit-centered paradigm with a new and more productive strengths-centered paradigm that puts abilities rather than weaknesses at the heart of what it means to be dyslexic.

I can’t emphasize this enough!  Your starting point should be here.  Both books are available with an Audible version through Amazon. The Dyslexic Advantage website is a wealth of information and a wonderful community that I highly recommend you join!

2. Teach Your Child How Their Brain Works Differently

A dyslexic brain does not have a defect.  It processes information differently which causes certain challenges and but also renders certain strengths that are less common in nondyslexic brains.

The route in which information takes from one part of the brain to the other differs in a dyslexic brain.  The main route (or express highway) is blocked and the information has to take a different, bumpier, more scenic route along the back roads.  This causes a delay in time that a dyslexic brain can process information.

ProfessorGarfield.org (formerly Sparktop.org) is a great resource for helping kids with dyslexia understand how their brains work. It also provides a Teacher Resource Center.

3. Find and Foster a Talent or Special Interest

One of the most important goals is to preserve your child’s self-esteem.  It is important for your child to have an area in his/her life that she excels in and is highly enjoyable. Although learning to overcome challenges in the classroom is a major part of their lives, time should be set aside to explore, grow, and refine skills in a talent or hobby.

 

4.  Be a Relentless Advocate

As stated on the Dyslexic Advantage website,

50 million Americans, including 10 million school-aged children, are dyslexic and they comprise 80% of students in special education classrooms. In a recent nationwide survey conducted by Dyslexic Advantage, over half of parents were told by a principal or teacher that dyslexia is not recognized by their school system. The Secretary of Education recently confirmed that there is no dyslexia-specific curriculum or plan for these students, which has serious consequences for these children because they think and learn differently than other non-dyslexic students and require methods of instruction that are suited to their way of learning and thinking.

I am fortunate that my daughter’s school has a designated Dyslexia teacher that pulls each child out of class each day (during a time there is no new material being presented in the child’s classroom) in order to teach them using the Lindamood-Bell program.

Even if your child’s school offers a robust Dyslexia intervention program, educate yourself on the accommodations you should expect the regular classroom teachers to implement.  Many educators, just like the general public, are either misinformed or not informed at all.  The myths about what Dyslexia is are very prevalent.  In fact, I am willing to bet that before your child was diagnosed, you too were only aware of these myths.  I know that was very true for myself!  Education is empowerment-so to be an empowered advocate for your child, first educate yourself!

Another good resource is to familiarize yourself with the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

 

5. Explore and Try Different Tools That Have Been Developed for Dyslexia

Each child with Dyslexia is their own unique person and as such has their own unique brain design.  Over the years different tools have been developed as aids for Dyslexia students, i.e – whisper phones, colored transparencies, special fonts, and software to aid the Dyslexic student in learning.  Not all tools are effective for all children with Dyslexia, but it is certainly worth trying some of them.  Any support you can discover and attain for your child will create a more positive life experience/environment for them.

 

6.  Do Read to Your Child

It is important to continue reading to your child even past the traditional time frame we think it is beneficial to read to our children.  For nondyslexic children, we are accustomed to turning over the task of reading to them as soon as they become fluent readers. But for a dyslexic child, it is very important for them to be exposed to a good model of reading and a higher level of literature than they may be able to attain.  As suggested by Dr. Sally Shaywitz in her book Overcoming Dyslexia, reading a book to your child that is on his/her level and then having he/she read it back to you is a great way to work at home with her/him.  Reading 15-20 minutes a few times a week for just pure enjoyment is a great way to foster a love of reading.  Also having them read books that are on their level and will help them feel success in reading is also very important.  Here is a list of books, provided by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, for different reading levels.

7. Make Sure Your Child’s Teacher Knows Certain Key Information

Your child’s teacher(s), however well meaning, will probably have the same misconceptions about Dyslexia that are prevalent in the general population. See this post about “What the Teacher Should Know About Your Dyslexic Child.”   Having a dyslexic child in their class does add a different dimension to their teaching that can often be seen as a burden. But, it doesn’t mean they have to work harder; just have to work smarter. Many of the techniques and approaches students who have dyslexia will also benefit from in the classroom will also enrich the education of the other students in the classroom.  And you, the parent, can help them gain an authentic understanding of what a dyslexic student needs.   Our general education elementary teachers, especially Kindergarten and First Grade teachers, are often times our first line of defense in detecting and teaching our dyslexic kids.  Providing them with essential research and resources will not only improve the classroom experience for your child but also any other dyslexic students this teacher may have going forward in their teaching career.

8. Educate Family and Friends

Often times your family and friends will only be vaguely familiar with what dyslexia is.  The common myth “they see and write letters and numbers backward” is what most people associate with dyslexia.  As you learn more about dyslexia you will have a desire to make sure others understand dyslexia and most importantly, your child.  Dyslexia comes with high intelligence and some very iconic and successful people have been diagnosed with dyslexia.  Most people are not aware that Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Charles Schwab are among the ranks of the dyslexic.

9. Teach Your Child the Advantages of Dyslexia

Although being dyslexic provides considerable challenges in learning to read and write, there are also several advantages that come also.

The very ways in which their brains are wired differently also means that they excel in particular areas more readily than non -dyslexic people.  “The nature and extent of these abilities vary from person to person.”-Dyslexia Advantage.

From the book, The Dyslexia Advantage, here are some of those areas:

-advanced three dimensional spatial reasoning and mechanical ability

-the ability to perceive relationships like analogies, metaphors, paradoxes, similarities, differences, implications, gaps, and imbalances

-the ability to remember important personal experiences and to understand abstract information in terms of specific examples

-the ability to perceive and take advantage of subtle patterns in complex and constantly shifting systems or data sets

“Many people who are dyslexic are different kinds of thinkers… you learn by listening, you learn by doing, you learn by making…” – Dr. Nicholas Negroponte, Co-Founder of the MIT Media Lab. The MIT Media lab helped create such innovations as GPS, wearable technology, Lego Windstorms, Electronic Ink, Guitar Hero, Robotic Prostheses and so much more.

Some famous people to note that are dyslexic but clearly embody the advantages dyslexia provides: Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, Leonardo da Vinci, Magic Johnson, Nikola Tesla, Kobe Bryant, Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, Anderson Cooper, Lewis Carroll, and Steven Spielberg.

Now that we have identified that my daughter’s brain works differently and have modified how we approach learning, she has truly blossomed.  Being able to embrace her learning differences has allowed her to also embrace her incredible strengths.  Her self-confidence has grown immensely and she is without a doubt a wonderfully sassy, artistic, opinionated, problem-solving, and witty ray of light.

 

What are some of the struggles you face helping your dyslexic child?  Please share below!

 

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A Parent's Guide to Help a Dyslexic Child

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

    1. Great article with so many helpful resources! This road is very overwhelming!

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