Helping your child with dyslexia can be a challenge, particularly if you’re never been confident in your own reading and writing skills. But you don’t have to be an expert to help work on certain skills or strengthen your child’s self-esteem.
Keep in mind that kids (and families) are all different, so not all options will work for you. Don’t panic if the first strategies you try aren’t effective. You may need to try several approaches to find what works best for your child. Here are some things you can try at home:
• Read out loud every day. If your child is very young, read picture books together. For a grade-schooler or middle-schooler, snuggle up with a copy of Harry Potter. For a teenager, consider reading magazine or newspaper articles or maybe a recipe. Billboards, store-discount signs and instruction manuals are also fair game. 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 sports or pop stars. Look for good books that are at your child’s reading level. Kids with dyslexia and other reading issues are more likely to power through a book if the topic is of great interest to them.
• Use audiobooks. Check your local library to see if you can borrow audio recordings of books. You can also access them online. Some stores sell books for younger kids that come with 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 she’s hearing to the words she’s seeing.
• Look for apps and other high-tech help. Word processors and spell-check can help kids who have trouble with reading and spelling. Voice-recognition software can help older students tackle writing assignments by letting them dictate their ideas instead of having to type them. There are also lots of apps and online games that can help your child build reading skills.
• Observe and take notes. Watching your child more closely and taking notes on her behavior may reveal patterns and triggers that you can begin to work around. Your notes will also come in handy if you want to talk to teachers, doctors or anyone else you enlist to help your child.
• Focus on effort, not outcome. Praise your child for trying hard, and emphasize that everyone makes mistakes—you included! Help your child understand how important it is to keep practicing, and give hugs, high-fives or other rewards for making even the smallest bits of progress. Your encouragement will help your child stay motivated.
• See what it feels like. Use Through Your Child’s Eyes to experience what it’s like to have dyslexia. Sometimes simply acknowledging that you understand what your child is going through can boost her confidence enough to try different strategies and stick with them long enough to see which ones are the most helpful.
• Make your home reader-friendly. Try to stock every room (including the bathroom!) with at least a few books or magazines your child might be interested in reading. 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. Look for other creative ways to encourage reading and writing at home.
• Boost confidence. Use hobbies and afterschool activities to help improve your child’s self-esteem and increase resilience.