The world has placed such high emphasis on being perfect, that it does not escape any dimensions of who we are. Parenting is not exempted. Consequently, every parent hopes that at the time of giving birth to their child that he/she will be healthy in every way. Not born with any issues, or complications that would impact them throughout life. If this is not the case, they feel overburdened, overwhelmed, different, afraid, frustrated, and really imperfect. But what if these issues/complications are just that different from the norm? And what if it actually shows resilience and strength that most ‘regular’ people do not have?
This article is in support of and to support parents who have children with any type of society labeled ‘abnormality,’ but specifically dyslexia, and are feeling overwhelmed. The book, Raising a Child With Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, by Don M Winn is a MUST read for every parent with a dyslexic child. No, this is not a book review or an advertisement, but it is an extremely insightful book on the topic and truly covers the bases.
Dyslexia is the term used to characterize disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, symbols, but do not affect the general intelligence of the person.
Supporting a Dyslexic Child
Lots of parent finds that their children lose their self-esteem and that they think they are stupid, which they are not. They are merely experiencing some difficulties with the understanding of letter and word sounds. This learning disability becomes a concern when children are not able to read fluently because they do not put words together or rhymes. It shows up when they struggle to spell and write words. This is called dysgraphia. It also shows up in what is called dyscalculia, which is a challenge to understand mathematical concepts, numbers, and arithmetic.
The struggles of the dyslexic child are their inability to recognize and manipulate sounds in language, difficulty decoding new words, or breaking them down into manageable chunks so that they can sound them out. This causes difficulty with numbers, reading, writing, and spelling. Although dyslexia is not something that will ever leave the child, some strategies can be employed to help the child achieve academically.
There are several ways that parents can help to support the dyslexic child. First, it is important to recognize the symptoms (see below) early. Subsequently, parents can provide:
- audiobooks as an alternative to reading,
- text-to-speech apps that can read text out loud for the child, an excellent example is IcanRead
- encourage the use of a digital device for writing such as a computer or tablet,
- provide applications that can make learning fun by decoding into a game (for example, iLearning with Boing, Kindergarten Sight Words, The Winning Formula for Kids, KidECook),
- help children to use a ruler to read on a straight line – this helps with keeping them focused.
Interventions for Dyslexia
How to work with the school to maximize the learning process
With the increased and improve interest that has been placed on education, most learning institutions now facilitate special education (Special Ed) teachers for this type of condition. Parents should avail themselves of this and have the discussion for the child to be enrolled with such teachers who better understands the need of the child. These special educators are equipped to training the child in letter sounds, phoneme awareness, linking letters, and phonemes through writing and reading skills from texts at the appropriate level to reinforce emergent skills. According to Martinelli (2020), “as parents, you can ask the school district to perform an evaluation and share the results with you.”
Creating a safe space for the child to manage the emotions fallout of the dyslexic struggle
The effect of having dyslexia may evoke a range of emotions such as embarrassment, frustration, worry, anger, low self-esteem, and feeling stupid, etc. However, parents, school, and peers should help to create a safe space of love so the child neither ‘own’ these fallouts, nor feel that something is wrong with him/her. It is important to have (people) who believe in and are supportive of the child building confidence and renewing his/her mindset (Nessy Learning, 2017).
How to develop vital personal qualities
In addition to helping the child to cope with the learning disorder, teach him/her strategies to face life. The natural instinct is to be fearful of the tease, mocking, ridicule, and feelings of being ‘different.’ “Do not allow your child to be defined by his diagnosis” (The International Dyslexia Association, 2010). Instead, “inspire courage, determination, joy, and perseverance.”
Symptoms That Warrant a Professional Diagnosis
The earlier parents can identify that the child is having some challenges in the learning process, the better it is to take actions and prevent deteriorating outcomes later.
- Start talking later than other children their age
- Pronunciation difficulties with some common words
- Unable to use the right vocabulary
- Challenges with rhyming words (for example, Jack & Jill)
- Difficulties with learning numbers, the alphabets and calendar days, months.
- Challenges with following directions or doing routine tasks
- Persist in using baby talk
- Not interested in playing games with language sounds
- Challenges in connecting letters and sounds
- Difficulty readying especially out loud
- Reading and writing are slow and labour intensive
- Make spelling errors
- Mispronounce words or names
- Mix up words
- Reverse words and numbers (for example, ‘b’ for ‘d’ ‘6’ for ‘9’)
- Inversion of words (for example, ‘W for ‘M’)
- Transpose letters and number symbols (for example, ‘left’ for ‘felt’)
- Substitute words (for example, ‘home’ for ‘house’)
- A slow recollection of the facts
- Unable to recognize phonemes (Martinelli, 2020).
- Unable to break spoken words into a syllabus
- Still unable to connect sounds and letters
- Refuse to read because it is hard
- Still struggle with phonemes
- Confuse words that sound alike (for example, the ocean for motion)
- Speaks with a lot of stopping and use ‘small’ words
- Cannot memorize names, dates, numbers
- Have difficulties with function words
When we talk about the symptoms of dyslexia, one or two are not cause for alarm, but when many symptoms become consistent, then parents should seek professional assistance.
5 Ways to Help Parents & Child Cope With Dyslexia
Since dyslexia is a lifelong disorder, coping with it is concerning for both the child and parents. Yet, one of the things that parents should take comfort in is the fact that having dyslexia “is not a reflection of the child’s intelligence” (Martinelli, 2020). Research shows that they are smart and capable.
Parents can help themselves and the child through dyslexia by:
- Being patient with themselves – ‘breathing’ through the moments of the child’s emotional fallout and then teaching the child to be patient with himself/herself too.
- Encourage the child to join activities that he/she loves to help boost confidence, and parents should do the same.
- Acknowledging and celebrate their own efforts and resilience even as they acknowledge the efforts of the child. Parents should express pride in the child’s attempts to do the hard reading, spelling, etc. and then pat themselves on the back too.
- Recognizing their own strengths, as well as the strength of the child and any progress or achievements made.
- Staying positive and affirm themselves for the great job that they are doing and encourage the child to do positive self-talk so that he/she is not hard on himself/herself.
Parenting a child with dyslexia is not to be seen as overwhelming and daunting, but rather a clear and present demonstration of your inner strength. When all is said and done, you know your child, it is a good idea to trust your instinct. “Look for the gifts in your child – his dyslexia is a ‘weakness’ in a sea of strengths” (The International Dyslexia Association).