Your child just got the diagnosis Dyslexia, now what? Dyslexia seems to be a hot button issue. Some researchers are even starting to say that dyslexia doesn’t really exist because the term is too imprecise. But whether we want to say dyslexia, reading difficulties or poor readers, it does exist. I know. I live with someone who has dyslexia and operates in a second language. And I have worked with many children over the years who have had difficulties in one way or another with reading. If you know me, you know my heart is to not label children, but sometimes these categories help us to get the assistance we need.
What is dyslexia? Let’s just go to the dictionary definition: a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that does not affect general intelligence. Did you see the word “disorders”? It is plural. It means that a child may struggle in a couple of ways that another one doesn’t. There is no set checklist. You can’t just go down the list and say “You got all 10, therefore, you have dyslexia but if you had 9 then you wouldn’t.”
There are many concerns that parents have about their children reading, and worries about the diagnosis dyslexia. I am not going to say “don’t worry about it – it will all work out” because that is just a platitude that doesn’t help. You want to know WHAT you can do. And you want answers to your questions. Now, I might not have them all (ok, I don’t have them all) but I am happy to talk with you about it. If you would like more personalized help please visit my parenting coach page. And here are some of my answers to questions I get asked.
IS DYSLEXIA A DISABILITY?
There are disabilities you cannot see, and some you can. Some disabilities qualify you for financial benefits, some don’t. Where does dyslexia fall? It is a learning disability, which means some educational support when you are in school, but it does not qualify you for disability benefits. You can’t be discriminated against for having dyslexia, so that’s good.
IS DYSLEXIA GENETIC?
Can dyslexia run in families? Yes, it can. I know that you probably don’t want to hear that, but its the truth. Genetics are a funny thing. And you just can’t tell until the child is older and trying to read. For us, our girls have a 50% chance that they could have some level of dyslexia. We don’t know yet as they are not fully ready to read, but from what we see in recognizing their letters and trying to write them, that chance is very small. If they do, it’s ok, we will work with them to get the help they need. It does help that I am a trained teacher, have worked in special education and have specifically worked with children with dyslexia.
CHILD DYSLEXIA DIAGNOSIS TEST
Can you do a test for dyslexia at home? Yes. There are many different tests floating around on the internet that help you to see if your child might have dyslexia. They often are a good place to start to see if your child is having difficulty reading. Of course, it is always best to take these results to a doctor and discuss it with them. If further testing is needed they can recommend a neuropsychologist or educational psychologist for in-depth testing and results. To get you started, below are a couple of great tests:
A self test for home
A free online test
SIGNS OF DYSLEXIA
What are the signs of dyslexia in children? Can I self diagnose? Yes. In young children, you should look for things such as problems remembering letters, colors and numbers, and difficulty remembering songs and nursery rhymes. They might mix up sounds within words, but we do not need to worry excessively about that – all children do it while they are learning to talk.
In school-age children you look for signs of being behind the typical reading level, avoiding tasks that involve reading, difficulty finding the right words, and spending a LONG time on reading and writing tasks.
Of course, it is best to address the issues as soon as possible, but sometimes children are really good at getting by with memorizing things. I went to school with a guy who got to 10th grade before they worked out he couldn’t read. He had coped by listening, doing the minimum and letting people think he was lazy. He was very intelligent – he just struggled to read.
To give you some examples of what dyslexia looks like at different ages, at home, and in school click here.
HOMESCHOOLING WITH DYSLEXIA
Teaching a child with dyslexia is different from your normal, average child. A number of parents wonder if it is best to homeschool a child with dyslexia. I think it comes down to a number of elements: temperament of the child and you, do you want to homeschool, and do you have the time to do it. Not everybody wants to homeschool and, honestly, not everyone should.
There are definite bonuses to being able to homeschool a child who has the diagnosis “dyslexia”,
in that you can take the time that is needed, you can easily read aloud all text, and you can test/assess verbally rather than via written tests. But understand that it will take extra time, because reading aloud takes longer than reading in your head, and written tasks are going to be more laborious.I have worked with a number of students with dyslexia who were homeschooled and I saw what a great environment it was for them as they could take the time they needed without the pressure of HAVING to finish at a certain time to move onto the next task.
The moms were great in that they tried to make sure all the books that had to be read were available as audiobooks, or they read them to their children.
I had the pleasure of helping with reading aloud several times – though when the book is about a mountain man in Tennessee (I think that was it, or maybe it was Alabama) and his dialogue is written in his dialect and you have an Australian reading aloud to an American, you end up with two people giggling and not much reading happening as you try to work out what on earth you are reading.
SCHOOL AND DIAGNOSIS DYSLEXIA
Teaching a child with dyslexia is different from your normal, average child. Most children with dyslexia qualify for a 504 plan (in America) and some even for an IEP (Individualized Education Program). As a parent, it might mean additional work at home but talk to the teachers. Seriously, talk to them and let them know your concerns and ask how you can help your child from their viewpoint. Be an advocate for your child. Learn about assistive technology and how you can use it at home, as well as at school.
DYSLEXIA READING PROGRAMS
There are many programs out there that are aimed at students with dyslexia. The tried and true Orton-Gillingham approach really is one of the best. Finding someone who is trained in teaching this method is wonderful. Click the link to find out more about the Orton-Gillingham approach. But there are also some books out there that will help you, as a parent, at home with this method. Amazon can be a confusing place when looking at options. Which one? Is it effective? Etc. Etc. Start with your child’s teachers or doctor and go from there. In terms of books about dyslexia here are some that I like which are available on Amazon:
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, MD
The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis
Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia by Hannah Braun M.Ed.
Blast Off To Reading!: 50 Orton-Gillingham Based Lessons for Struggling Readers and Those with Dyslexia by Cheryl Orlassino
DYSLEXIA READING AIDS
There are many dyslexia reading tools or aids out there. Here is a list of some that I do highly recommend and have used with children of all ages.
- Audiobooks. You can use Audible or even borrow through your local library system. LearningAlly.com is a great resource for audiobooks.
- Talk to text. Smartphones have this feature and there are computer programs that will do this too. Dragon has been around for a long time and is ahead of the game with talk to text for writing documents. Check out nuance.com for their products.
- Digital recorders. I love this for students who can talk through their ideas and then listen later to transcribe it, type it up, or have someone else do it for them. Hooray for smartphones that have made this easier for us.
- Smart pens like Scanmarker. These pens scan text and capture it as an image. You can also listen to what is being scanned, while it is being scanned.
- Tinted glasses and colored overlays. This one can be a little controversial as people debate whether or not they truly work. I am not one who goes just with anecdotal evidence, but there are studies that show about 20% of children benefit from colored lenses or overlays. There are different colors that can be used as glasses lenses or sheets of colored plastic that you can lay over the page. Different colors work for different children. There is no one color that works best.
With some additional work and assistance, children, and adults, with dyslexia do well. Sure, they may not be the best readers and would just prefer to watch a movie than read a book, but dyslexia should not stop them from learning and doing. If you, or someone you know, has dyslexia and you have something that works well for you, I would love to hear about it. Please drop me a comment below.