As an academic language therapist, I have the pleasure of working with dyslexic students in grades K-12. I write this article with those students in mind. I will be the first to say that I am not an expert in the field of dyslexia. I leave that to the medical doctors and psychologists who know more about brain functioning and test development than I do. Instead, I write from the trenches. Daily, I see which children succeed and which ones do not, and I am convinced that a parent’s response and reaction to a child’s dyslexia diagnosis is a major factor in whether or not that child will succeed in school. Listed below are things I have seen parents of successful dyslexic children do as well as suggestions that I have given the parents with whom I work. This list is only a beginning and is aimed at elementary age children, but if your child is dyslexic, perhaps it will give you some ideas on ways you can help your child master school goals.
1) Don’t panic if a diagnosis is given.
If your child has received a dyslexia diagnosis, you undoubtedly already know about his or her reading problems, and you probably have a good idea what dyslexia is. You know that remembering letter sounds, decoding words, reading fluently, and spelling correctly are probably struggles for your child. You may see other characteristics of dyslexia as well. Approaching the problem with a clear plan of attack is your best bet. Being dyslexic does not mean one is “dumb”. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
2) Communicate with the teacher…often.
It is best for your child if you and the teacher are on the same team. You need to know what is required by the school. Often, when I see one of my students neglecting an assignment or needing extra practice on a specific skill, I email his or her parent with a request for attention at home. In other words, we team-up and often get results. If your child’s teacher has email, keeping on top of things is much easier for you. Ask the teacher for specific things you can do at home to address skills your child is lacking. Then, do them.
3) If attention is a problem, address it.
Sometimes dyslexia and attention problems go hand-in-hand rather like the chicken and the egg. If your child cannot focus, the best intervention in the world will do little good, and your child may just be wasting his time and falling farther behind. A medical doctor can diagnose an attention problem and can be a great resource for ways to address this problem.
4) Teach your child time management.
To a dyslexic child who may often work more slowly than other children, time is his best friend…and also his worst enemy. Time management is one of the most important things a parent can teach. Several of my students keep a calendar on the refrigerator door where it is highly visible and plan ahead for assignments rather than waiting until the last minute.
5) Be prepared to do homework every weeknight and often on weekends.
A young dyslexic student will need your help each evening to organize and check assignments. I am aware of parents who left their youngster to write his spelling words, and the child wrote every one of them – incorrectly. Several of the moms I work with say that they cook supper while their student works at the table. However, more technical homework may need a quiet place with a parent working alongside.
Read directions, math problems, and passages to your child when needed. If your child is lagging behind in reading, you do not want that problem to interfere with his learning in the other subjects such as math, science, or social studies. Another suggestion is to keep flash cards, spelling lists, and assignments which require memorization in the car. Use driving time to drill and practice.
A dyslexic child can be successful in school, but hard work and diligence is necessary. Generally, I see that it gets easier as the student gets older, but at a young age, a dyslexic child needs a great deal of parental support and patience.