Q. Our daughter Olivia struggled with school last year in the first grade. This year was following the same pattern. Recently, her teacher suggested that we have her tested for a learning disability, and we found out that she has dyslexia. I feel terrible that I did not consider this sooner. There will be a meeting at her school soon where we will learn more about the resources they offer. What else can my husband and I do at home to help her succeed, regain confidence and enjoy school?
A. Dyslexia is one of a number of learning disabilities. It is a neurological and hereditary condition that affects one in five people. Often there are other family members who have dyslexia, although they are not always diagnosed.
In fact, children with dyslexia form the largest group of students receiving special education in schools. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) tells us that dyslexia can show itself in a child’s struggles with “word recognition… poor spelling and decoding abilities” as well as problems with reading comprehension and some aspects of math. If children with dyslexia are not given help, they often fall behind in school. It’s important to help your child get the resources she needs as early as possible, which it sounds like you and your husband are doing.
You asked for additional tips on how to support your daughter. There’s no one learning plan for helping a child with dyslexia. So, try some of these suggestions at home and keep those that work best.
Tips for working with a child with dyslexia:
Learn all that you can about the learning disability. Talk with other parents of children with dyslexia. Join a support group, or start one. Read information from state (ldatx.org) and national (ncld.org) learning disabilities associations. Turn to your state’s special education resources (spedtex.org for Texas). Work with your child’s teacher and the school learning disability specialist.
Read aloud the Hank Zipzer Collection by Lin Oliver and actor Henry Winkler, who struggled with dyslexia. The series features a main character with learning differences. Hank’s character not only normalizes dyslexia, but his entertaining antics and problem-solving can also inspire an interest in reading.
Praise your child often to build her self-esteem. This will give her the confidence to try to succeed even when she is frustrated.
Don’t compare the work of a child with dyslexia to that of a sibling or another child. Kids with dyslexia struggle to succeed and are very sensitive to criticism.
Set routines and have checklists. Pack school bags the night before and have them ready to go with a homework folder in them. Don’t get upset when your child forgets to turn in homework or doesn’t remember the teacher’s verbal instructions. Such actions can be a result of dyslexia.
Experiment with a variety of ways of learning. Check out “The Big Book of Dyslexia: Activities for Kids and Teens.” It includes more than 100 fun and multi-sensory ideas to strengthen your child’s skills.
Support your child by working in collaboration with the school to learn specific strategies that will set her up for success. For example, drawing a picture by a word helps some children to remember it. Discuss with your child what they have read to help them with recall. Or you might read for a short while and take regular breaks. You might ask the school to accept computer-generated homework rather than handwritten. Implement good strategies at home that can carry over to help your child at school.
Thank you for sharing this question as many readers may also have children who are struggling with dyslexia and don’t realize it.