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Supporting a Dyslexic Child

Having a diagnosis of dyslexia can be enormously helpful. It begins to explain why children are not settling in school, or frustrated in their results, or behaving badly. But now how do you help them?

The reality is that 1 in 5 people are dyslexic and as such we would expect our schools to know how to ensure that the challenges of a dyslexic child do not become barriers to them achieving their potential in every lesson – WRONG! This stuff we have to find out ourselves.

Firstly, build self esteem. It is probably a relief but also terrifying to be told that you have a “condition”. There maybe anxiety, anger issues, low mood, headaches, tummy aches or any number of symptoms rolled together in having to go to school and experience the threat of being asked to read aloud to the class or answer the question on the board that you can’t see or read. So addressing some of those symptoms with acupuncture or maybe talking therapies to build self esteem and calm down the bodies’ heightened response to stress.

The other practical things to do are:

Take your child to the opticians and ask to see a dyslexia specialist. They will check their vision but also use coloured filters with each eye to improve the clarity and stability of the letters. You could (like my daughter) end up with a pair of glasses with one orange lens and one blue lens. She looks fabulous in them. If your child doesn’t want glasses, you can experiment with having things printed on different coloured paper to see what helps or coloured Perspex overlays.

The next thing is to establish what difficulties your child has. They may find this really difficult to articulate so you may want to go slowly. Older children may be better at this. Perhaps once you have the glasses, then ask about reading. So, can they see an interactive white board? Or can they see on the white board? Note this down – you will need to take it to the teacher concerned or the Senco.

If in secondary school, you may want to try assistive learning – using a computer. If school agrees, then you can buy a Google chrome book or a windows based laptop and then teachers can send their power points to your child and they can then annotate and they can easily submit their work this way. This reduces the amount of time spent writing notes as they can often type much more quickly and also their computer will spell check for them.

If there is a specific reading lesson, then reader pens can be helpful. School may have one for your child to try. They just need earphones to plug in. This is the type of assistive technology that exam boards often allow for dyslexia so it is worth trying out now. On a day to day basis, try audio books to keep them hearing a diversity of vocabulary and expression without having to read the written page.

Screening for dyslexia is now quite common and your school may do that for you, but if not, you may want to find a specialist to formally assess your child. There are specific scales that they use which will determine how long it takes to process and recall memorised information or to read. This will start to demonstrate to school how long it takes them compared to others. If in secondary school, there will be an opportunity to have your child included in an external assessment of their challenges to examinations with results in the completion of a Form 8.

Often children with dyslexia are creative and can be strong in this area. They may be great at sport, cooking, making things, art, entertains or musically talented. Watch out for these and encourage these strengths.

Lastly, encourage and nurture their self esteem. On a daily basis (unless at a school for dyslexic children) they will come across time driven tasks or be asked to learn things by rote or write lots of different points in an essay whilst the teacher is talking. All this can be tough for any child but can be exhausting for someone with dyslexia. So give them love, praise and let them share their frustrations. And build their confidence. They will find their strengths and be wonderfully creative people.