How to Help Your Child with Dyslexia at Home
Just got a dyslexia diagnosis for your child? Here are 10 ways you can help your child with dyslexia at home today.
So you just got a dyslexia diagnosis. Now you’re probably wondering, “What can parents do to help a child with dyslexia?”
You can do a lot!
I know the post-evaluation paperwork has a ton of suggestions about finding a tutor and getting an IEP or a 504 plan.
But what are some real practical things you can do to help your child with dyslexia at home?
As one dyslexia mom to another, I totally get it.
You want to help your child so badly. You want to jump in and start making progress now.
So here are some concrete steps for things you can do today to help your dyslexic child.
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10 Ways to Help Your Child with Dyslexia at Home
As a parent to a child of a child with dyslexia, these are ten simple tasks and strategies you can do to help your child:
- Post routine charts
- Use visual timers
- Give clear, concise directions
- Employ multi-sensory learning
- Teach emotional regulation
- Develop phonological awareness
- Play games for phonemic awareness
- Foster their interest and strengths
- Read aloud to your child
- Tell your child about their diagnosis
Dyslexia at Home
You might think – dyslexia is just difficulty with reading, so outside of homework time, how it is going to impact us at home?
It’s important to understand that dyslexia is a neurobiological, language-based disability. It impacts a child’s ability to use all language – listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
And it tends to impact executive functioning – the cognitive skills we use to plan, monitor, and execute tasks and situations all day long.
For example, working memory can be hard for a lot of dyslexic children. It’s the ability to keep a bunch of different information in the brain at once. I like to think of it as having a bunch of browser tabs open.
Having working memory difficulty will impact a child’s ability to do many tasks at home. So these strategies are geared toward helping your child now with all the areas dyslexia influences day-to-day functioning.
1. Post Routine Charts
Children with dyslexia have difficulty with sequencing events and keeping the information in their working memory. In order to help a child with dyslexia retain information, they are going to need to get things onto paper and out of their head.
Furthermore, dyslexia and ADHD co-occur. About 30% of children with dyslexia will also be diagnosed with ADHD.
So make sure your child with dyslexia has solid routines. This helps them learn how to sequence events in their daily life. This practice will help them generalize this skill to school and academic tasks.
Try using routine charts for kids. This helps dyslexics even more.
It provides a visual and reduces the demands of language. Plus these charts use picture cue which can eliminate the need for decoding words.
So post routine charts for common routines like getting ready for school
2. Use Visual Timers
Along with routines, another way you can help your dyslexic child at home is to use timers. Timers will help your dyslexic child stay on task. We use the Time-Timer at home.
Timers also make time concrete for dyslexic children. Ten minutes can seem like forever but if you give your child a visual representation of the time, then it becomes more tangible.
Using a visual timer will also help reduce anxiety over how long to work on school work. You can say to your child, “We’re going to work on sound flashcards for just five minutes.”
When your child sees what that means, you’ll get more cooperation and less pushback from your child.
This is important as dyslexia and anxiety are like to co-occur. There are self-esteem issues that make dyslexic children more anxious.
So anything you can do to reduce stress and anxiety will help your dyslexic child.
3. Give clear, concise instructions
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. One of the most important ways to help your dyslexic child is at home is to watch your words.
To help a child with dyslexia, don’t make him or her process any more language than absolutely necessary. Think about when giving an instruction.
For example, you might say, “Hurry up. we’re late. Get your shoes and backpack. We need to go now.”
This is way too many words for a dyslexic child to process when you are crunched for time. Instead say, “Shoes and backpack.”
Now at other times, you’ll want to have language-rich conversations with your dyslexic child. For many of them, this is one way they flourish. But during times of stress or when giving instructions, be brief and to the point.
4. Multisensory Learning
If you have a dyslexic child, you need to explore multi-sensory learning. It helps them retain information better by giving the brain more ways to make connections through using many senses at once.
Multi-sensory learning includes:
- visual: seeing
- auditory: hearing
- tactile or kinesthetic: touching or feeling something
So when choosing a reading intervention program for your child to make sure it is multisensory. You’re going to want to see an emphasis on connecting a tactile experience with hearing and seeing something.
- Related: Dyslexia Spelling Worksheets
When you do math homework with your child, give them manipulatives to touch as they work through problems. To practice handwriting, dump some sprinkles or sand in a shallow tray for your child to write letters in.
When teaching your child a new routine at home like doing the dishes, make that multisensory too:
- visual: you write the steps for your child or use pictures
- auditory: you talk through the steps concisely
- kinesthetic: your child does each step
When you teach your child anything at home, try to find a way to include as many senses as you can.
- Concerned about writing? Read Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
5. Teach emotional regulation skills
Children with dyslexia struggle with emotional regulation skills more than their neurotypical peers. As school becomes more challenging for them, they tend to struggle with self-esteem issues as well.
So it’s important to help develop their emotional regulation as soon as possible. This can be as simple as starting with displaying a kids’ emotion chart and having more family conversations around emotions.
Since your dyslexic child is more likely to experience frustration, it’s important to have a plan in place for how they will manage those feelings. Have a discussion about how to use calming strategies when they start feeling slight frustration.
You might need to teach your child to ask for a break prior to feeling overwhelmed. You don’t want them to give you so you need to help your child dyslexia learn how to return to a challenging task.
6. Develop phonological awareness
One of the biggest indicators of dyslexia is a weakness in phonological awareness. Simply, dyslexics tend to have a hard time hearing the sounds in language.
Often words in sentences are just a string of language. They don’t have an understanding that the sounds can be combined in different ways to make different words.
So if your dyslexic child can’t hear and understand the sounds, then they can’t connect those sounds to letters on a page to decode when you teach your child to read. But you can work on phonological awareness with your child.
Developing phonological awareness includes:
- Counting words in a sentence spoken aloud.
- Break a word spoken aloud into syllables.
- Identifying rhyming words when they are spoken aloud.
- Naming the first sounds in sentences with alliteration.
- Blending an onset and rime when heard aloud.
The good news is it’s pretty easy to practice phonological awareness through playing simple word games you can do while you’re waiting in line or in the car. For more information, check out the Parent’s Guide to Phonological Awareness.
7. Teach your child phonemic awareness
Phonemic awareness is a part of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, isolate, and manipulate sounds in a single word.
But for most dyslexic children you really need to start with the less complex phonological awareness skills. This means helping them hear words, syllables, rhymes, and blend onset and rime prior to individual sounds.
Once your child is ready, help your child develop their phonemic awareness skills.
You can also word on word mapping or phoneme-grapheme mapping with your child. This is a systematic way of connecting sounds to letters by going from hearing speech sounds to writing letters.
8. Foster their interest and strengths
Children with dyslexia are often gifted in other areas. So while your child might struggle to read and write, she might be a skilled swimmer.
I’ve noticed these strengths in my dyslexic child and tutor students:
- Ability to tell detailed stories about things that interest them
- Extraordinary drawing skills
- Organizing and visualizing data effortlessly
I like to point out to families that Yale’s dyslexia research is conducted at the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. There is a theory that since children with dyslexia have less-developed language regions of the brain, other brain areas like problem-solving and conceptualizing develop more than their neurotypical peers. This is how dyslexia helps make people more creative than neurotypical people.
So to help a child with dyslexia, you need to teach them about their gifts and how they can leverage them.
9. Read aloud to your child
One of the biggest challenges with dyslexia is that children read less often. This means that they read less frequently and they read for shorter amounts of time. They also read texts that are below grade level.
As a result, they have less access to knowledge and vocabulary. Fortunately, you can mitigate this by reading aloud to your child.
Read books that are above their grade level that give them information about history, science, geography, and government. Read biographies about important leaders or books like How Things Work to introduce engineering. Expose them to vocabulary that is advanced.
One of the most important things you need to do is make sure your child has access to information and vocabulary.
10. Tell your child about their diagnosis
If you haven’t already, tell your child about their diagnosis. Hiding it perpetuates that dyslexia is bad.
Having a learning disability is not bad. It can make some things challenging but there is nothing inherently wrong with learning in a different way. So it’s important to tell them.
If you believe your child doesn’t need to know because they will feel labeled…
They already know they are different.
They already know they are struggling compared to their peers. They are aware that the teacher helps them more.
Children are very intuitive about learning and social differences. They know who learns very easily and who has a harder time.
Telling your child about their diagnosis reduces their self-esteem issues. You can tell them their trouble with reading and writing has to do with their brain, not their character or work ethic.
If you’re wondering what to say, we just said, “Hey you know all those tests you did with Dr. Simon-Thomas? She found out your brain learns reading and writing differently. It’s called dyslexia. That’s why spelling has been so hard. Now Dad and I know what we need to do to help make it easier for you.”
You can help your dyslexic child at home
The main thing you need to do is believe in yourself. Your child will take their lead from you. So if you project your own confidence and growth mindset in your ability to help your dyslexic child at home, they’ll be more likely to believe in themselves too.
What else do you need to help your dyslexic child at home?