[Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of a four-part series on dyslexia. Links to the other parts are included in the blog.]
Last week, in Part 2 of this series, we discussed how dyslexia is diagnosed and the number of different possible interventions that exist within the school system to help dyslexic students. Today, we’re going to tackle the third part of the process: how you, as parents, can intervene to help your own children become successful readers and learners despite their dyslexia diagnosis.
Helping a child with dyslexia can be a challenge, particularly if you feel your own reading and writing skills are not the best. You don’t have to be an expert, though, to help your child work on his reading skills or strengthen his self-esteem, but first you should learn all that you can about the disorder. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to lend a helping hand.
Keep in mind that children are all individuals, so what works for one child might not work for another. You may need to try several approaches before you hit on what works best. Here are some things you can try at home:
- Read out loud every day, and have your child follow along. If your child is very young, you can read picture books together. Ask him questions about what you’ve read to see if he understands the material. You can even have him tell you a story based on some of the pictures. For a grade-schooler or middle-schooler, try to discover what types of material they like and read books in those genres. Switch back-and-forth between who is reading and who is listening. For a teenager, reading magazine or newspaper articles will be appropriate for their intellectual level. Hearing you read can let your child focus on understanding the material and expanding his overall knowledge base. Do it every chance you can get.
- Tap into your child’s interests. Provide a variety of reading materials, such as comic books, mystery stories, recipes, and articles on public figures. Look for good books that are at your child’s reading level. Kids with dyslexia and other reading issues are more likely to work their way through a book if the topic interests them.
- Use audiobooks. Public libraries usually have audio recordings of books. You can also access them online. Some stores sell books for younger kids that also have a recording of the story on a CD that prompts them when it’s time to turn the page. Listening to a book while looking at the words can help your child learn to connect the sounds he’s hearing to the words he’s seeing. Text-to-speech programs can provide the same experience. The AceReader program, for one, comes with the feature built-in to the desktop version.
- Look for apps and other high-tech help. Word processing programs with a spell-check feature can help kids who have trouble with reading and spelling. Voice recognition software can help older students who struggle with writing and spelling by letting them dictate their ideas instead of having to type them. Many apps and online games are also available to help your child build reading skills. AceReader is not a “how to read” program, but it can help with fluency for students at the higher levels.
- Observe and take notes. Watch your child closely, and take notes on his behavior. This can reveal patterns and triggers that will lead to solutions. These notes can also be helpful when you talk to teachers, doctors, or other specialists you engage to help your child.
- Focus on effort, not outcome. Praise your child for the effort he makes as he works to master new skills. Emphasize that everyone makes mistakes – including you – and help him understand the importance of ongoing practice. Set benchmarks and reward your child when he reaches them. Your encouragement will help your child stay motivated.
- Make your home reader-friendly. Try to stock every room (including the bathroom!) with at least a few books or magazines that might interest your child. Take a book when you go out for pizza or on a trip, and read it to your family so you can all discuss it. Also, lead by example – seeing you reading will make them more motivated to work on their own.
- Boost confidence. Use hobbies and after-school activities to help improve your child’s self-esteem and increase resilience. Build on your child’s strengths.
Dyslexia can present challenges for your child and for you, but with the proper support, almost everyone with dyslexia can become accurate readers. Wherever you are in the process, make sure to:
- Connect with other parents. Remember that you’re not alone. Parent advocates  can be a great source of information and support.
- Get behaviorial advice. Talk with doctors and psychologists to help address issues that may affect children with dyslexia, including trouble with time management, anxiety and fear, frustration, and low self-esteem.
- Build a support plan. Plan what you need to do to ensure your child has every possible means of help to overcome his dyslexia, and forge ahead. Refer back to the plan whenever you hit a snag to see what else you can do.
There is a lot you can do as a parent to help your dyslexic child – just don’t feel you have to do everything at the same time. In fact, trying many strategies at the same time may make it difficult to figure out which ones are working. And do your best to stay positive. Your love and support can make all the difference in your child’s life.
 “Parent Center Listing.” Parentcenternetwork.org. Parent Center Network. Web. http://www.parentcenternetwork.org/parentcenterlisting.html
To read Part 1 of this series, click here.