Manage your dyslexic child with authenticity
Deep down, we all have a good sense of our capabilities and limits. And so, when you tell your dyslexic child, sure you can read that or hear the |b| in “bed” and your child cannot, what is she to think? Is it scarier that I can’t read this and Mom thinks I should be able to – or that Mom doesn’t seem to know I am struggling?
At some point, a parent’s gentle encouragement turns into misdirection, causing more self-doubt.
And so, if your child is a struggling reader or has been given a dyslexia diagnosis, a change of parenting approach might be merited. Instead of sitting across the table, tutoring your child, consider moving around the table, being empathetic, sitting beside your child, validating their difficulty.
Dyslexia is a difficulty with reading that reaches a certain threshold. It’s on a continuum of reading competence with children who get off to a slow start. It’s the same phonemic awareness and/or attentiveness issues, just more so.
One thing dyslexia is not is a gift. If you are 8 years of age and are really struggling to get reading, while your friends are finding it easy, that’s no fun. Not only does it mean you are stuck, needing to learn that skill before “learn to read” becomes “read to learn.” It also has impacts on self-esteem, your attitude to learning. Yes, managing dyslexia helps children be more creative – finding workarounds – and resilient. But it’s not a battle that most 8 year olds would take on voluntarily.
And so as a parent, your #1 priority should be dyslexia treatments, like Fast ForWord by Gemm Learning, that can significantly reduce symptoms of dyslexia and help a child move towards reading proficiency. This is possible, we see it all the time in our dyslexic children. The brain is plastic and can work through the language processing impediments that cause dyslexia.
Beyond that, your role as parent is coach and #1 supporter of your dyslexic child. And that starts by keeping it real with your child.
Your Child’s Personal Experience with Dyslexia
An important starting point to managing your dyslexic child is understanding what your child might be going through.
A Google search will bring up a number of videos like this one that try explain what your child is seeing when trying to read.
At the heart of the issue for dyslexic children is that they do not process words accurately and so their word memory (used to match to text) is flawed. And so when a dyslexic child looks at text, there will be a few memorized words she recognizes, but also a lot of words they do not recognize. That turns the page into a puzzle rather than lines of text that should be read in line, the same way those words would be listened to.
Keeping It Real With Your Child
The first step here as the parent of a dyslexic child is to get yourself educated. Learn the symptoms of dyslexia, the causes and the tools that are available. And if you are getting outside help from the school or an outside professionals or an intervention like Gemm Learning, make sure you are on the same page, meaning that the description of what is going on, what the plan is and what lies ahead.
From there, be sure not to inadvertently dismiss your child’s struggles by being overly positive or overly encouraging. It is not easy and your child needs to know you understand that.
When it comes to explaining to your child what going on, here are two ideas.
“Why you struggle.” Reading is a miraculous feat that requires a number of skills to work perfectly. Many children learn all of these skills quite quickly, you have one or two skills that are taking a bit longer to learn. And so I can imagine, reading is really difficult when so many words look strange on the page. In most cases, the skills that is lagging is the ability to hear every sound inside a word, phonemic awareness.
“How you will improve.” Sports analogies work well. The best way to learn the skills that aren’t quite working is with practice. You know that if were to practice shooting baskets every day, you would get better. The same applies to your brain. It can learn any new skill with the right kind of practice.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
Once you have shared these ideas with your child, you then need to eat your cooking. Stay strong and empathetic, and keep with the plan.
Stay strong. Do not get talked into the idea you might be a bad parent because your is struggling, or that your child is lazy because she avoids reading. And focus on helping your child overcoming the skill gaps that are holding your child back.
Stick to plan. This is about being patient Always have your child working on exercises or activities that have a chance of removing the causes of dyslexia. And in the meantime, try to help your child maintain a positive connection to reading by not providing texts that are defeating.
Dyslexia is not a life sentence. Managing your dyslexic child is a multi-tiered role. Seek interventions to deal with the underlying causes, and keep it real with your child. Knowing you understand and are on the case will help your child immeasurably.