How to help a child get along with dyslexia
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but support is available to improve reading and writing skills.
In school, children with dyslexia are likely to:
- Have difficulty sounding out new words;
- Lack fluency compared to other children their age;
- Reverse letters and numbers when reading (read saw as was, for example);
- Find it difficult to take notes and copy down words from the board;
- Struggle with rhyming, associating sounds with letters, and sequencing and ordering sounds;
- Stumble and have difficulty spelling even common words; frequently they will spell them phonetically (hrbr instead of harbour);
- Avoid being called on to read out loud in front of classmates; and
- Become tired or frustrated from reading.
Dr. Matthew Cruger, director of the Learning and Development Centre at the Child Mind Institute suggests these 9 tips on how to help a child with dyslexia.
Praise gives power, criticism kills: A person with dyslexia needs a boost to their self-confidence before they can learn to overcome their difficulties. To re-establish self-confidence provides the opportunity to succeed and give praise for small achievements.
Don’t ask person with dyslexia to read aloud. Words are likely to be misread or skipped, causing embarrassment.
Don’t use the word “lazy”. People with dyslexia have to work harder to produce a smaller amount. They will have difficulty staying focused when reading, writing or listening.
Expect less written work. A person with dyslexia may be verbally bright but struggle to put ideas into writing. Allow more time for reading, listening and understanding.
Prepare a printout of homework and stick it in their book. Provide numbered steps, such as 1. Do this. 2. Do that and more.
Do not ask them to copy text from a board or book.
Give a printout. Suggest they highlight key areas and draw pictures in the margin to represent the most important points.
Accept homework created on a computer. Physical handwriting is torture for most people with dyslexia. Word processors make life much easier.
Discuss an activity to make sure it is understood. Visualising the activity or linking it to a funny action may help someone with dyslexia remember.
Give the opportunity to answer questions orally. Often people with dyslexia can demonstrate their understanding with a spoken answer but are unable to put those ideas in writing.
One of the best ways to support a child with dyslexia – or any child who is struggling – is to encourage those activities they like and feel good at. It can be music, joining a sports team or anything else that helps build their confidence.
To help reinforce that dyslexia is not a marker of intelligence, it can also be helpful to talk about successful people such Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg — who have also been diagnosed with dyslexia.