Helping Your Child Overcome Dyslexia
School can be extremely challenging if your child has dyslexia. Risks include academic failure, disinterest in school, peer bullying, exhaustion from schoolwork and low self-esteem. Teachers may misinterpret dyslexia as low intelligence, inattention, laziness or oppositional behavior. As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious and guilty that your child is not keeping pace in school. Fortunately, there are effective ways to address dyslexia that minimize the impact on your child. With appropriate support, your child can develop reading skills, confidence and self-advocacy skills. Here are some activities that can help to address dyslexia:
- Psychological Testing Evaluating your child early helps to clarify a diagnosis, determine appropriate interventions and detail practical accommodations. A licensed psychologist should evaluate intelligence, reading, phonological processing, other academic skills, attention, memory and emotional functioning. Abbreviated evaluations are often too negative and may lead to misdiagnosis, whereas comprehensive psychological testing can highlight your child’s strengths and put areas of need into perspective. Be sure to select a psychologist who will attend a school meeting to explain the results of psychological testing.
- School-Based Services Public and private schools have different requirements for documenting disabilities and meeting your child’s educational needs, but a formal plan can help to guide teachers in working with your child. A written plan should clarify the areas of need, set specific goals, determine needed interventions and evaluate progress over time. There are different types of dyslexia that require varying approaches; however, most children respond well to systematic, multisensory, phonics-based approaches, such as Lindamood-Bell or Slingerland. Private supplemental tutoring may be needed as well.
- Emotional Support A child with dyslexia needs ample encouragement, praise and compassion. It takes hard work and determination for a dyslexic child to learn to read, and it is important to focus on strengths and effort. To encourage your child’s efforts, tell them about famous people with dyslexia who are successful in a variety of careers (e.g., music, art, mathematics and science). Do not tolerate teachers or other adults who are insensitive to their dyslexia; instead, you must educate such individuals about your child’s emotional and learning needs. A licensed psychologist can help with this process by explaining the emotional impact of dyslexia on children.
- Homework Support Most children need support to stay focused and motivated with homework, and a child with dyslexia is likely to need even more support. Reductions in homework may be needed if the reading load is not reasonable. It is important to sit with your child, work through problems together and communicate frequently with your child’s teacher about the impact of dyslexia on homework.
- Reading at Home Dyslexic children often avoid reading, so it is important to nurture a love of books. Reading to your child each evening is an easy way to emphasize the importance and joy of reading. Keep books and magazines in your child’s room, the living room and your car. Audio books also work well for many kids. The goal is to find books that your child will love so they are motivated to learn to read.
- Legal Rights Parents should not try to become special education lawyers, but it is helpful to know that your child has legal rights to an appropriate education. Dyslexic children have the right to appropriate interventions and reasonable accommodations that meet their individual needs.
- Resources There are numerous resources that can help dyslexic children. I recommend the 2005 Sally Shaywitz book Overcoming Dyslexia. I also recommend contacting the Learning Disabilities Association of America, www.ldanatl.org.