Parenting your child with dyslexia can be challenging. This is because it is not a learning difficulty that you can control in the home environment. Treatment of dyslexia requires specialist remedial intervention and support. There are however several things that you can do in the home environment to help your child:
Read to and with your child
Even though your child might be struggling with reading, it is important that they are read to and supported to practice their reading as much as possible. Reading is also about language and comprehension development and it is therefore important that your child has an opportunity to access as much information as possible. This does not mean that you must put too much pressure on your child. Here are some practical things that you can do with them:
• Listen to audio books and have your child read along with them.
• Make sure they spend some time reading alone, both quietly and aloud.
• Re-read their favourite books. It may be a little boring for you, but it will help them learn.
• Take turns reading books aloud together.
• Talk about the stories you read together and ask questions like, “What do you think happens next?”
• Use schoolbooks, but you can also branch out into graphic novels and comic books, too. Reading things your child is interested in or excited about can be motivating.
• Don’t forget that you need to read on your own, too. You’ll act as a role model and show that reading can be enjoyable. While your child reads quietly, you can do the same.
When your child is having fun, it is often easier for them to grasp concepts. If your child is struggling, take the time to think outside the box and come up with different ways to learn things. Some examples include:
• Make up songs, poems, and even dances to help your child remember things.
• Play word games.
• If your child is younger, use nursery rhymes and play silly rhyming games.
• Take learning outside and explore your environment.
Help your child with their schoolwork
If your child has dyslexia, it is likely that they will need support and assistance within their school environment. It is your job as a parent to advocate for your child and to provide them with the resources that they need to overcoming their learning challenges. Examples of things you can do to support your child include:
• Work closely with your child’s school. You may need to push to get the services your child needs. Make sure to work with the school to set up an IEP that spells out your child’s needs and helps you track progress.
• Speak to your child’s school about implementing concessions and accommodations to help your child overcome their barriers to learning.
• Use technology. With tablets, smartphones, and computers, you’ll have a lot of helpful tools as your child gets older.
• Online dictionaries, spell-check, and text-to-speech software can make a big difference in your child’s progress, as long as the assignment allows for their use.
• Keep schoolwork organized. Staying organized is hard when you have dyslexia. Help your child break big tasks into smaller chunks. Then, work together on a system to keep track of schoolwork. For example, you might use different-coloured folders for class notes versus homework, or a giant calendar to keep track of due dates. For older kids, reminders and alarms on smartphones, tablets, and computers can play a role, too.
Provide your child with emotional support
Many children with dyslexia tend to feel anxious about their difficulties and challenges. They often feel very frustrated as despite their best efforts they are unable to achieve what they expect of themselves. It is important to ensure that your child’s emotional well-being is monitored. Examples of ways that you can provide your child with emotional support include:
• Be firm, patient, and positive. You also want to give your child time to do things besides schoolwork. If it’s all work, all the time, it’ll wear both of you down. Plus, you want your child to see that they’re not defined by dyslexia, that they’re skilled and smart in many ways.
• Celebrate successes. Take a day at the end of a project or after a big test to have fun together.
• Don’t expect perfection. A lot of times, close enough is a huge success.
• Help your child understand what dyslexia is. They should know that it’s not their fault and you’ll work through it together.
• Let your child do activities they are good at and enjoy. This can balance the struggles with schoolwork.
• Praise your child’s strength and skills.
• Remind your child that lots of wildly talented people have (or had) dyslexia, from Albert Einstein to Whoopi Goldberg.
• Tell them “I love you” often.
• Also, remember that you set the tone. Your child’s dyslexia may be challenging for you, but your own positive attitude will catch on. You can show that you make mistakes and struggle, but you also push through.