October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.
1 out of 5 students has dyslexia, including my eldest daughter (11th grade) and my youngest one (1st grade).
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that makes reading difficult. While dyslexics are slow readers, they are also very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning compacity. While there’s no cure for dyslexia, with the right interventions and accommodations, dyslexics can reach their full potential in school and in life.
I have watched my daughters’ struggles, celebrated their successes, and tirelessly advocated for them in school.
In honor of them and Dyslexia Awareness Month, I’m sharing some of my tips for supporting your dyslexic child.
A word of caution. I’m not an expert in dyslexia. My advice is strictly from the standpoint of a parent. At the end of this post, I’ve listed resources for additional information on dyslexia
Rely on trained professionals for advice on how to best help your dyslexic child rather than just your child’s teachers.
I’ve loved almost all of my children’s teachers, but a few of the early ones gave me some less than stellar advice when it came to dyslexia.
The warning signs were there with my eldest starting in preschool. Couldn’t catch onto rhymes. Hard time learning letters and associating them with sounds. Couldn’t read simple 3 letter words, even if they were repeated on every single page of a story.
Every single parent-teacher conference, from Pre-K through the 2nd grade, I asked the same question. Do you think she has dyslexia?
The answer was always no, followed by a litany of her strengths. She has such a large vocabulary. She’s so mature. What a great imagination. She picks up new concepts so easily.
As it turns out, these strengths in higher-level thinking processes are also warning signs of dyslexia.
We did all of the reading tutoring programs recommended by her school, none of which were aimed at children with dyslexia.
Your child’s teacher may not have training in the warning signs of dyslexia. My daughter’s teachers did not. Even if they do, they cannot make a diagnosis.
The moral of the story is that if you suspect your child has dyslexia, have her evaluated by a trained professional.
If you are in the Dallas area, Scottish Rite Hospital does psychoeducational assessments (the complex assessment of your child’s cognitive or intellectual ability and their educational achievement) for free. If the waitlist is too long, there are also several private diagnosticians who can perform the same assessment.
My eldest daughter was finally properly assessed midway through 2nd grade and we were able to start the interventions needed to get her reading. By the end of the 3rd grade, she was finally a confident reader.
Use audiobooks for books that are above your child’s reading level
Share audiobooks with your dyslexic child that match their intellectual or cognitive level rather than their reading level. Your child still gains valuable reading (comprehension) skills when listening to a book.
My 1st grader is still struggling to get through basic readers at school. But to make sure I’m continuing to challenge her intellectual level, I play audiobooks for her that are far above her reading level. Right now, we are 4 books into the Little House series and will tackle the Narnia series next.
Emotional support also plays an important role in your child’s success
Nothing tugs at your heartstrings more than a little girl’s tears.
When my eldest was in 2nd grade, her school had 55 minutes of D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) time every day.
Great idea, except she couldn’t read anything more complicated than Hop on Pop, and even that was a struggle.
Every day my little girl would select a chapter book popular among her classmates and sit at her desk and pretend to read. Every day had a scheduled reminder that she was behind her classmates and reinforcement in her mind of the (mistaken) belief that she was stupid.
When she finally came clean a few months (and a lot of tears) later, I realized just how important providing emotional support is to help your dyslexic child succeed.
Ways I have helped provide emotional support to my dyslexic children include working with their teachers to avoid potentially embarrassing situations (like spelling bees and reading aloud) and having my children see a counselor to work through their emotions.