You’ve just learned that your child has just been diagnosed with dyslexia. What should your next steps be? If you have received the news from the psychologist who has worked with your child, you may be aware of some of the next steps as to how to get your child the support that he/she needs. The following may also be a handy guide as you begin navigating this journey with your child:
- Find out more about what dyslexia is.
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that affects the reading skills of an individual. It is a lifelong condition that is also likely to impact other areas of learning such as reading comprehension, spelling, and writing. Sometimes, the language skills of the individual will also be affected. It is not a vision related problem.
Children with dyslexia have underlying difficulties with phonological awareness, which involves skills such as identifying individual sounds in words, blending sounds to form words, and matching letter sounds to letters. This can then lead to difficulties with reading and spelling unfamiliar words which can lead to poor performance in school.
For some children, dyslexia may also co-occur with other types of learning difficulties such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Other specific learning difficulties may also include dyscalculia and dysgraphia.
- Discuss with your child’s school about the diagnosis and accommodations.
As your child spends much of his day in school, it may be helpful for teachers to know about and understand your child’s needs, strengths, and challenges. Letting the teachers know about your child’s diagnosis would also mean that accommodations and support can be put in place.
Find an opportunity to update your child’s form teacher about the diagnosis and what your child needs. Share with the teachers any accommodations that may be helpful and discuss how that can be put in place. For example, your child might benefit from bringing back unfinished class assignments to complete at home or having more time to complete class assignments/tests.
- Learn about the types of support available.
In general, support for dyslexia focuses on improving a child’s phonological awareness – such as learning to recognise and work with the units of sounds that make up words (e.g. knowing that “cat” is made up of three individual sounds – /c/ /a/ /t/). Programmes targeted to support dyslexic learners typically focus on improving your child’s reading, writing, and spelling skills. Many of these programmes created are based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.
The DAS Main Literacy Programme is one such programme that provides literacy intervention for dyslexic children from Primary 1 to Secondary 5. Trained specialists providing one-to-one support for dyslexia may also be an option. Local primary schools also have the School-based Dyslexia Remediation (SDR) programme, where Primary 3 and 4 pupils with dyslexia receive support in an after-school programme. You may wish to discuss with professionals who have worked with your child regarding which option to take.
- Learn about what you can do at home to help your child.
There are many fun activities that you can do to encourage and improve your child’s reading and writing skills. One of the key things that will benefit your child is to increase the amount of exposure your child has to print. Books, magazines, food labels, road signs, banners, you name it! Encourage your child to look out for words in their environment and get them to read it out to you. This will also be a good way to increase your child’s vocabulary.
Use multisensory methods to help guide your child in their reading and writing. Try to incorporate sight, hearing, movement, and touch when teaching your child. Skywriting, which involves tracing letters in the air for motor memory is a technique that can be used to help your child learn the spelling of words.
Another activity that can be incorporated into your child’s daily routine is to have a short reading session before bedtime. Alternatively, make it into a family bonding activity where everyone sits together to read something of their choice (e.g. books, newspapers, magazines, mail). This will send a message to everyone that reading is a necessary skill. For younger children who have difficulties reading independently, do paired reading where you read aloud together with your child.
To get your child to practise their writing skills, encourage them to write notes or make cards to family and friends on special occasions. You can also write notes to your child with words of encouragement or something that your child can be proud of (e.g. “Thank you for doing such a great job in cleaning up”) to make reading fun and personal.
- Understand the impact of dyslexia and talk to your child about their dyslexia.
Dyslexia doesn’t just affect your child’s reading and writing skills. It can also affect their self-esteem, their motivation towards learning, and how others view them. Imagine always falling behind your classmates despite having put in a lot of effort in your work! Or having your classmates make fun of your difficulties in reading/spelling words that are considered simple. This can cause much stress and anxiety in a child which can have long lasting effects.
Consider sitting down and chatting with your child about their dyslexia. Help them understand what dyslexia means and how their performance in some areas (e.g. reading, writing) will be affected. Let them know how the school and you will be able to support them. Teach them what they can say to their peers (e.g. “I just learn in a different way”) when this issue is brought up in school. It is also important to let them know that they are still able to do what other children can do and that they can be just as successful in life.
Find out more about how DAS can help here.
Rex House Learning Centre, DAS
Learn more about Pearllyn!