My amazing girl is dyslexic. We have learned to not only be ok with this but to thrive with it. However, there are some difficulties that come with dyslexia that people don’t always talk about. I am going to share some of those with you as well as a tip or two as to how we are trying to overcome these difficulties that dyslexic children struggle with. Dyslexia is not the end of your world. It’s just a change in perspective.
Common struggles with Dyslexia
Dyslexic Children Struggle with Rote Memorization
Rote memorization is a huge struggle for children with dyslexia. You can read more about this in an article on Bright Solutions. For my daughter, this has impacted Math and Spelling. However, it also used to show up in things like her Awana group. She was expected to memorize Bible verses every week and recite them for her teachers. This was a very large struggle for her. In order to move past this, we have tried a few things.
- Use songs in learning. R loves music and some things can be learned easier if she is using music to learn them.
- Get moving. Instead of just memorizing the information, R will put together her own motions to go with whatever she is needing to memorize. Acting it out seems to help her to retain the information longer.
- Find creative ways to work through it with them. R is in acting now and she works hard to memorize scripts but working through the scene with me multiple times. For her, the repetition of hearing it, doing it, and seeing it, work to help her retain more.
But you can read!
Many times my child will hear, “but you can read!”Yes, she can. What they don’t see is that it has taken years of hard work to get her to this point. There is often the misconception that because a child is dyslexic they cannot read at all. Dyslexics are able to read. It just takes a lot more time and work for them to get to a point where they can read well. R is now 8 years old and devours a chapter book a day. It wasn’t always that way though.
- Read what they are interested in. If your child is interested in horses, grab books about horses. If they love legos, grab a book about that. You are more likely to get a child to read something they are interested in anyway.
- Be consistent. When R was younger we spent the entire summer reading 1 page a day of the Richard Scarry books. At first, she hated it. However, with practice every single day she learned to read better and by the end of the summer was reading a few pages a day. It’s ok to take it slow and keep it simple.
- Have a read-aloud time. Sometimes children with dyslexia look like they can read. In reality, they have either memorized the book or the word. For situations like this, it helps to do read aloud time with your child. It will help you to see where there are learning gaps. Do not have them read aloud a lot. This could really frustrate a child with dyslexia. Instead, start small and be consistent.
Dyslexic Children Struggle with Skipping Words When Reading
One of the things that used to drive me crazy is when R would skip words completely when reading. It was like she didn’t see some of the helper words that were part of the sentence. Then she would get frustrated when the sentence didn’t make sense to her later on.
- Use a pointer. Either let your child use their finger or use a pointing stick to make them touch each word as they read. This simple step will cause them to slow down and actually see each word instead of moving on.
- Cover words. You can also cover the parts of the sentence your child isn’t reading yet so they have to work on one word at a time. This will help to reinforce the words while teaching your child to read in order.
- Correct where you need to. I know many parents who will let their dyslexic child make a mistake because of their dyslexia. Don’t. Your child will only learn it the wrong way if you let them. Slow down and have your child find the missing word.
- Ask comprehension questions. Did leaving out a certain word change the flow of the reading? Did it change the meaning of the sentence? Show your child that. There is a kind way to do it though. Make sure that you are asking if a sentence makes sense or if they should go back and read it again to make sure. Eventually, your child will start to pick up these problems on their own and correct the mistake.
Getting Easily Overwhelmed
When R was younger she would see books with a lot of small words and no pictures and she would get shut down. Even though she was completely able to read it, it looked hard and she was scared. For a child with dyslexia, a huge page of words can seem like an impossible task. Most children will shut down at the sight of a page full of words.
- Cover everything but the sentence you are on. We like to use a sheet of paper and cover everything we aren’t reading at that moment. This simplifies the reading and helps your child to focus on the task at hand.
- Large Print Books or a Kindle Large print books put fewer words on the page. This can relieve some of the stress. You can also use a reader like the Kindle where you can make the font larger. Seeing fewer words on the page can make it easier.
- Give breaks as a reward, not as a cop-out. It can be easy for both of you to get overwhelmed when working on a new concept. Sometimes a break from the work can make a great reward. Instead of letting your child stop because they are overwhelmed, set a goal and let the break be the reward when it is achieved. For example: Read the next two sentences and you can have a five-minute break to cool down.
Dyslexic Children Struggle with Guessing Words
This one used to drive me crazy! Whenever R didn’t know a word, she wouldn’t sound it out. Instead, she would just guess the word. It didn’t matter if it was completely different from what the word was and didn’t fit the sentence she would just plug it in and keep trucking along. This habit can be very bad if it is not corrected.
- Correct, correct, correct. Don’t let your child slide on word guessing. Have them read aloud to you and make sure they are saying each word correctly. If they do not, ask them if that word makes sense there. Instead of pointing out the problem, see if they can see the error.
- Sound it out. Make them sound it out. Even if the word is one they have read a hundred times, having them sound it out will make them practice learning the word and learning how to handle a word they have never encountered. It will also help you to see if there are any learning gaps with certain phonemes.
Separating out Background Noise
Dyslexic children can have problems filtering out background noise. R really struggled with this because she has a loud little brother who loves to play. It would drive her crazy and she would shut down telling me that she couldn’t possibly work with “all the noise.”
- Find a quiet environment. For R this meant taking her schoolwork to her room. She was able to work alone where it was quiet without me constantly shushing her brother.
- Find a noise alternative. My daughter uses a Kindle Fire kids on the IheartRadio channel with headphones. Her music is acceptable background noise for her and she is more willing to work with it in the background. Find the option that will work for your child and you may see an increase in learning.
Dyslexic Children Struggle with Reading Comprehension
When R was younger it was hard for her to remember the sentence she just read. It didn’t matter if she read it ten times. When she moved on to the new sentence, she was finished with what came before it. This made it very hard to give her the ability to learn independently. It also left me frustrated because I was investing more time into teaching the material.
- Find another way to teach it. Does your child need to read the information? It may be better to let them listen to an audiobook. Leave reading time for reading time and teaching time for teaching time.
- Play to their interests. Your child will be more likely to remember something if it is about something they enjoy. For R, that means we read a lot about big cats, tornadoes, and princesses. This simple shift in reading helped her to enjoy it and remember better.