How to help a dyslexic child at home: ideas, resources

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Dyslexia is a specific learning disability. This means that it affects the abilities a person uses to learn, such as reading and writing. In particular, dyslexia makes it difficult to match letters with the sounds of individual letters and letter combinations. It is not a vision problem.

According Shawna Newman, MDpsychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, about 10 to 15% of children suffer from dyslexia. She adds that the disease is common and undiagnosed, so the rates are likely even higher.

Usually, dyslexia is diagnosed when formal reading instruction begins. This usually happens in first grade, around age 6.

Since dyslexia is not a disease, there is no cure. But it is possible to manage the condition with strategies that can be used throughout life.

If you have a child with dyslexia, you can play a major role in managing their condition. Here’s how you can help a child with dyslexia when they’re out of school.

There are several things you can do to help your child with dyslexia at home.

Read together

Read with your child every day. The activity will foster closeness and bonding, which will support your child’s ability to learn over time.

“This shared experience in learning encourages development and growth in tandem with improving reading skills,” says Newman. It will also help children create a sense of safety in learning while encouraging their own independent reading, she adds.

Focus on sight words

Sight words are words frequently used in writing and books. They are called sight words because recognizing them by sight is essential for developing reading skills.

Examples include:

For children with dyslexia, sight words can be difficult to recognize. But since the words appear so often, it is important for them to learn these words.

As Newman explains, children can use sight words as building blocks to improve their reading fluency. That’s why it’s essential to add sight words to your children’s learning program.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Rehearsing and reviewing skills can help a child with dyslexia. This is often done in the form of repeat play.

According DL online, repeated reading is a technique for children who have difficulty reading. This involves reading the same passage multiple times to improve reading fluency.

In a study 2016, repeated reading increased reading fluency in children with reading disabilities. Likewise, a study 2021 found that repeated reading with music has a positive effect.

Create a stimulating space to study

“Providing a comfortable, supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere is very helpful for learning, especially for children with learning disabilities,” says Newman. This includes those with dyslexia.

For parents and caregivers, it also means having patience, as all children learn at their own pace, says Newman. By doing so, you will create an environment that allows your child to learn in the way that suits them best.

Create a calendar to help them track progress or tasks

Visual tools, like a calendar, are a great option for tracking a child’s progress and tasks. According to Newman, this can help put improvements and challenges into context. This can ultimately help them engage in their own learning.

“Using a calendar provides visual cues, which can inform the child about how to reflect on the process of their own learning,” says Newman. This can be done by displaying learning-related tasks and activities on the calendar.

As Newman notes, when small learning achievements are expressed visually on a timeline, it can provide encouragement and celebration. Likewise, when difficulties are presented visually, it can help a child better understand what they need to work on.

Make sure they get enough sleep

“Sleep is vital [factor] for healthy development and learning,” says Newman. However, “children with dyslexia are at a higher risk for sleep disturbances.” Examples include sleep latency or sleep apnea.

But according to Newman, poor sleep can negatively affect learning processes. It is therefore important to ensure that they get enough rest.

This can be done by:

  • set a sleep schedule
  • create an ideal environment for sleep
  • limit social media and electronics before bed
  • develop a sleep routine

The ideal length of sleep depends on the age of the child. According to Newman, children between the ages of 5 and 13 should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Teens aged 13 to 18 need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

Praise their success and efforts

As Newman explains, reading difficulties caused by dyslexia can negatively affect a child’s confidence. For example, “a child’s sense of not measuring up to his or her peers [and being able] behaving as expected can be disheartening,” she says.

On the other hand, encouragement and praise can have a positive effect on your child’s learning. So instead of focusing on their struggles, call out their successes and efforts whenever possible. Celebrate their accomplishments, no matter how small.

By emphasizing the positives, you can encourage your child to keep moving forward. It will also build your child’s confidence in their own learning.

Use mnemonic devices

A mnemonic device is a technique that helps you remember information. It is also called a memory aid.

Examples include:

  • spell words as songs
  • pictures of letters or words (like a letter “d” that looks like a dog)
  • acronyms
  • rhymes

According to a research report 2017, mnemonic devices can improve memory in children with dyslexia. It can also improve problem-solving skills and reasoning. Using mnemonic devices at home can help improve their learning progress.

Find a tutor

During your child’s summer vacation, consider finding a guardian. According to International Dyslexia Associationit can help them catch up on some skills and prepare for the next school year.

If possible, select a guardian who will communicate with your child’s teachers. This will ensure that they focus on your child’s specific needs.

There are several reading programs for children with dyslexia. Some of the most successful include:

  • Orton-Gillingham approach: The Orton–Gillingham approach is a widely used approach created specifically for people with dyslexia.
  • Wilson Reading System: The Wilson reading system includes a curriculum for children (kindergarten to grade three) and one for grades four and up.
  • Lexia-Herman method: The Lexia–Herman method has programs for early reading, primary reading and older students.

Symptoms of dyslexia are different for everyone. It also depends on age.

However, there are common characteristics. These include:

  • difficulty learning nursery rhymes or common children’s songs
  • difficulty recognizing rhyming patterns, such as “cat” and “bat”
  • mispronounce common words
  • difficulty recognizing own name
  • read slowly
  • avoid reading aloud in any situation
  • stop often while speaking
  • use vague language
  • confusing similar-sounding words or names

If you notice that your child is having difficulty learning, see their pediatrician. They can do a preliminary examination.

Depending on your child’s symptoms, their pediatrician may refer you to the following experts:

  • child psychiatrist
  • psychologist or school counselor
  • Oral language pathologist

These mental health professionals can perform an assessment and diagnose learning disabilities.

Diagnosing dyslexia involves several steps.

Typically, your child will likely be screened for hearing and vision problems first. If they don’t have hearing or vision problems, you’ll need to see a mental health expert.

A mental health expert can use various tests to diagnose dyslexia. These are designed to assess certain skills, such as:

  • oral language
  • reading
  • spelling
  • writing

Your specialist will choose the most appropriate tests for your child’s symptoms.

First of all, it is important for a dyslexic child to know his condition. This will help them understand why they have difficulty reading, which can be stimulating and relieving. Explain that their minds just work in a different way.

During these discussions, be positive. Focus on their accomplishments so far, rather than their learning delays. Let them know that there are people who care about you and are ready to help you.

It is also important to avoid treating reading difficulties as ‘abnormal’ or ‘bad’. Instead, Newman says to “focus on the fun, information, and independence that reading and learning brings.”

Also, if you are the parent or caregiver and you have also experienced reading difficulties, let your child know. As Newman explains, gently communicating your own reading challenges can help kids see they’re not alone.

Dyslexia is often diagnosed in early childhood when learning to read begins. With proper support and management of the condition, it is possible for a child with dyslexia to thrive.

Caregivers can provide support by creating a nurturing space for learning and tracking progress on a schedule.

Other techniques include reading together, repetition, mnemonic devices, praise, and focusing on sight words. It is also helpful for children with dyslexia to get enough sleep and work with a tutor.

If you think your child has dyslexia, see a mental health professional. They can assess your child and help guide your child’s learning journey.

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