Remove the fear
It is important for the parent to talk to their child and explain as simply as they can what they have learned about dyslexia. To talk about it in positive terms and to remove the fear and depression that often sets in when a child is given that label. Often dyslexic children experience feelings of alienation amongst their peers in class and it is essential that their home provides them with a safe haven where the family at least understands and can give support. It must be a place where they can talk freely without criticism and without ridicule. A place where they can express their feelings and emotions and be given guidance.
Even though reading may be an issue, the process of reading with their child should be made a special time. This is a time when parent and child can bond and share experiences based around the book that is being read. To begin with it may well be that the parent has to do all the reading, with the child looking on.
This is still a very valuable experience because the story can be talked about. The child can be encouraged to give his or her interpretation of what has just been read. Words can be focused on and their meaning discussed.
Even though the child has not been contributing to the actual reading, the words will have been looked at and that will have made some impression on the brain. The fact that their meanings have been discussed will help build up a basic vocabulary.
Reading should become a time of enjoyment, a time of excitement, wanting to hear the next chapter or find out how the story ends. It is an opportunity to join a library and maybe find specific authors that appeal, especially those authors who have written great series of books.
If a dyslexic child is getting some appropriate tuition and their literacy skills are improving, there will come a time when the reading experience can be in the form of ‘paired’ reading. This is where both parent and child contribute, maybe alternating the pages, or maybe the parent just filling in for every word that the child can’t yet read. It is still important to converse about the story and to encourage the child to talk about their feelings surrounding what has just been read.
Eventually when the child is competent enough to read out loud independently the parent may just sit and listen or may oversee the whole reading just to check the accuracy. Parents that can carry all this out may be rewarded with their child eventually associating reading with so much pleasure that they develop a lifelong love affair with books and the written word.
One parent has told me of walking past her daughter’s bedroom door late at night and seeing the light coming from her room. She would call out “It’s time you were asleep now”, and the reply would come back “Not ’til I get to the end of this chapter. If I don’t, I’ll lie awake wondering about it, so I may as well just read it”. She was a great success story, barely able to read anything at the age of 7 years old. Now she reads great volumes one after the other and never goes away anywhere without filling her kindle.
Support and encouragement
Aside from helping their child with reading, a parent can be supportive in many other ways, assisting them with the homework that piles in every night, for instance. It is important that the parent doesn’t actually ‘do’ the homework, rather encourage the child to tackle it as best they can, but still working independently.
Organisational skills may be something that needs demonstration until the child learns to do things automatically. Being organised takes away much of the stress surrounding going to school, and being organised within the lessons and during homework allows for clear thinking and creates more time for leisure.
Perhaps one of the most important things a parent can do for their dyslexic child however, is to make sure that the school is giving them the right sort of support and teaching, and if that is not happening, making sure that they seek out the best form of private tuition from a specialist teacher. It really does make an enormous difference to the future potential of the child.