When you find out your child has dyslexia, you naturally want to do everything you can to help him. But you might feel pulled in a million different directions.
One of the best ways to get started is to find out as much as you can about the learning disability. When you see just how much you can do for your child, it may ease some of your fears and guide you to make more informed choices. Make sure that these sources for learning are trusted, such as those provided by your psychologist.
Next, you’ll want to work closely with your child’s school to make sure all the right services and resources are in place. There should be a support team helping to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child. This will provide classroom accommodations and extra support to facilitate learning. You may even research summer or weekend reading programs. The earlier you start, the better it will be for your child.
And then there’s the day-to-day stuff -- the many ways you can support not just learning and schoolwork, but also your child’s confidence. It’s tough to struggle at something that seems to come easily to other kids. This is the tricky line you have to walk. You need to be firm about schoolwork and routine, but make sure to show constant love, support, and patience.
Each kid is unique and learns in different ways, so use what you know about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s no perfect recipe, but it usually involves a lot of practice, routine, love, and support. Remember to ask your psychologist about reading programs and strategies to reinforce at home.
Read. A lot. There are all kinds of ways to support your child’s reading. Try some of these ideas:
- Listen to audio books and have your child read along with them.
- Make sure he spends some time reading alone, both quietly and aloud.
- Re-read his favorite books. It may be a little boring for you, but it helps him 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.
And 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.
Make learning playful. It always helps when learning doesn’t feel like work. A few ideas:
- Make up songs, poems, and even dances to help remember things.
- Play word games.
- If your child is younger, use nursery rhymes and play silly rhyming games.
- 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.
- 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-colored 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.
As with many parenting challenges, it’s helpful to 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 he’s not defined by dyslexia, that he’s skilled and smart in many ways.
You can also:
- 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. He should know that it’s not his fault and you’ll work through it together.
- Let your kid do activities he’s good at and enjoys. This can balance the struggles with schoolwork.
- Praise your child’s strength and skills. Don’t let learning struggles be the main focus
- Remind your child that lots of wildly talented people have (or had) dyslexia, from Albert Einstein to Whoopi Goldberg.
- Tell him “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.