Parenting a child with Dyslexia: How parent/caregivers can support

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that affects 10% of the population, and it can run in families.  It can be mild, moderate, or severe.  It does not mean they are less intelligent that peers, they just process and learn in a different way.  Dyslexia is a reading, spelling and writing difficulty.  Individual with dyslexia also seem to have short memory processing affecting the ability to process and remember information.

Dyslexia is not an illness, therefore cannot be treated with medicine, but it is something a child has for life.  However, with the right approach to learning the challenges associated with dyslexia can be overcome and the individual achieve full potential including academic excellence.

How Parent/caregivers can help

Assessment 

Parent should seek early assessment when struggle in learning is suspected.  The child may show signs by refusing to go to school, hating anything to do with reading and becomes stressed when doing homework, seems to forget things easily, difficulty dressing up. Early assessment leads to early intervention. 

The right intervention is given at the right time when learning difficulty is identified early. Most importantly the long term negative effect can be avoided and or prevented. Dyslexia has hidden long term costs if not identified early.  The child may feel frustrated or embarrassed if asked to do things that are difficulty for him. The sooner intervention is taken the better for the Parent/caregiver, the teachers and mostly for the child.

Helping the child understand her learning difficulties.  

Parent/caregivers should explain to their child about their learning disorder as early as possible.   This can give the child the tools they need to manage their dyslexia both academically and emotionally. The child becomes individual advocate.  The get the courage to talk for themselves and train others about dyslexia

Love unconditionally

No two individuals are the same.  Parent/caregivers should avoid comparing their children even with other siblings.  It is important to note that children with dyslexia will need the parent to be very intentional in showing love so that they may know that their academic achievement does not determine a parents love. 

Advocate for the child

Children with hidden learning difficulties like dyslexia experience unfair competition and comparison from peers.  Parents should learn as much as possible about their child’s learning needs for them to be able to represent and advocate for the him.  Family and friends are mostly the sources of competition when it comes to academic performance, this may cause stigma to the child. The child may feel alienated from friends. Due to the great pressure teachers have for grades from the education system they tend to neglect any child who seem to drag the mean score down.  Parents need to be there to talk for your child.

Emotional Support

Children with dyslexia experience many emotional challenges.  Parents need to develop a helpful support system by being firm, patient, and positive. It can also be helpful to find and develop other strength and give the child time to do things besides schoolwork. 

Also, remember that you set the tone.  Your child’s dyslexia may be challenging for you, but your own positive attitude will be mirrored.

Celebrate success

The successes should not be limited to academic performance. Every little thing a child achieves should be celebrated.  Parents/caregivers should be openminded and be intentional in rewarding any achievement. Let him/her do activities that they are good at and enjoys. This can balance the struggles with schoolwork. Praise the strengths and skills.  Do not let learning struggles be the focus.

Change perception

Once a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, or any learning difficulty, the caregiver should change expectation.  There is a lot of hype about successful people with dyslexia, but also there many untold stories of people with dyslexia who dropped out of school, are in crime, rehabilitation centres, in police cells, behaviour problems, and even committed suicide because they were not understood.  Parents who are open minded are able to support their children without rigid expectation.

Provide a nurturing space 

Provide a comfortable, supportive, and non-judgemental atmosphere is most helpful for learning.  This also involves practicing patience as all children learn at their own pace. This way, the child will learn in a way that works best for him.

WHAT TO DO AT HOME

Read together

Read with your child every day.  This will promote closeness and bonding which will support your child’s ability to learn over time. It will also help the child create a sense of security in learning while encouraging their own independent reading.

Display Your Childs Work

When you place your children’s artwork, painting or drawing up to a board in your home you are giving the message that you value their work and efforts. Children love to see their artwork displayed. It motivates them to keep putting effort into their ventures, especially if their parents have acknowledged them.

Encourage Open-Air Play: 

The best place to play and learn freely is outdoors. To develop their gross motor skills, children should be climbing, running, rolling, skipping, hopping, pushing, pulling, and hanging every day.  

 

Involving Your Children in What You Are doing: 

Most of us prefer to quickly do chores as we distract our children with TV so that we can quickly finish the chores. Most learning happens on the daily happenings of life. 

They are many ways we can involve them by:

 Matching and sorting skills (e.g. socks), Number concepts (counting coins, knowing the different kinds money etc.), Fine and gross motor skills (e.g. closing buttons or folding sheets) Improved vocabulary and language (chatting while sorting), Visual perception (different sizes, colours, patterns, etc.), Sensory stimulation (different textures and fabrics), Learning about responsibility (through chores), Bonding by spending time together.

 

Prepared by

Phyllis W. Munyi

Founder and Managing Director

Dyslexia Organisation, Kenya

 

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