Strategies for Parents and Their Child with Reading Disabilities
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Children with dyslexia and reading disabilities may receive extra services at school, but there are ways parents can help at home as well.
When a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, he may be eligible for special services or accommodations at school. He may receive extra reading instruction or help with spelling. Parents can also help children with dyslexia at home in a number of ways.
Children with dyslexia often confuse “left” and “right” or “behind” and “in front of.” There are some simple strategies that parents can institute in their home to help a child learn directions. For example, you can create a small cardboard window to help your child read from left to right and only one line at a time. Other strategies include:
- Have your child wear a wristband or a wristwatch to help him immediately know his left hand from his right hand.
- Use lined paper and help the child begin at the margin and write to the left.
Reading is essential to success in school but children with dyslexia often read slowly, lacking fluency. Reading together every day is important. As children get older, parents can read for a portion of the time and let the child read for the balance of reading time. Find books that are challenging and interesting, yet do not introduce too many new words to help develop independent reading. Other ways parents can encourage and support reading skills include:
- Use a tinted cellophane paper over the page to cut down on the stark differences in the black and white print.
- Create a window from cardboard to help the child read only one line at a time.
- Shorten the time your child reads or break reading into several small segments rather than reading for a longer period of time.
- Help your child to create a visual image of what he is reading to help with comprehension. When young, have him draw a picture of the story. As he gets older, have him describe what he is reading.
- Institute rhyming games in everyday tasks.
- Point out new words and take the time to pronounce them.
- Sing songs that emphasize rhyming.
Homework time is often a struggle as children with dyslexia may take longer to complete tasks and they often become easily frustrated. Work closely with your child’s teacher to develop ways to help your child learn from their homework and to communicate problems and progress on a regular basis. Some additional points are:
- Talk with your child’s teacher about the length of time homework should take. Based on this discussion, set a time limit for homework.
- Have graph paper available at home to help him line up math problems.
- Be accepting of what your child can accomplish at homework. Do not require perfection.
Dyslexia can impact many parts of a child’s life, not just school work. Learn about dyslexia and discuss what you have found with your child. Let them know that many successful people have dyslexia and that living with a learning disability does not mean they will be a failure. Other things to keep in mind:
- Use your child’s strengths as a basis for learning. If your child learns best through listening, rather than reading, find books on tape he can follow along with so that he can hear the words as well as see them.
- Accept your child’s limitations but do not allow them to use these as an excuse for failure.
- Multi-sensory learning helps many children with dyslexia learn. Use interactive ways to teach new skills.
These tips provide some practical ways to help a child with dyslexia succeed, however, a positive attitude and showing your child unconditional love is most important. Let him know he is accepted for who he is.
- “Helping Children Overcome Reading Disabilities”, 1992, Carl Smith, Roger Sensenbaugh, ERIC, US Department of Education
- “About Dyslexia and Reading Problems”, 2007, The Child Development Institute
- “Dyslexia – Helping Your Child”, 2006, WebMD