Dyslexia is a very common condition: it’s perhaps the single most common learning disability in the United States. With at least 10% of the population diagnosed as dyslexic and a further estimated 10% as yet untested, most people are likely to know someone who has the condition.
When the person that we know is a member of our own family, it can often hit us hard. After all, dyslexia is an invisible condition, with no outward indicators. While defined as a learning disability, it has no bearing on intelligence or future success. Astronomer and scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, British millionaires Richard Branson and Theo Paphitis, renowned physicist Albert Einstein, and noted artists Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, and Steven Spielberg are, or were, dyslexic.
While it’s all well and good to point at these luminaries and note that their dyslexia has never held them back, it is only natural to be concerned when your own child is diagnosed with the condition. It is part of the parental instinct to want to do whatever is in your power to help them, but you need to know the best way to do it.
Here are some useful things you can do if your child has dyslexia:
The more you know about a subject, the better prepared you are to deal with it. Learn as much as you can about dyslexia, from reputable sources. Having a better understanding of dyslexia and how it exhibits itself makes it easier for you to assist someone who has the condition. More importantly, realising that there is so much you can actually do for your child is incredibly empowering. In the early days following diagnosis, it’s easy to feel lost and full of dread for what the future might bring for your child. A little research, a little knowledge, and a whole lot of patience can go a long way to easing those fears.
Reading is a key skill and being dyslexic does not preclude people from reading. True, it can make it more difficult to understand the text, but understanding the concepts is a different matter. The physical act of reading is the hurdle here: things like imagery, language, subtext, theme, and so on, all exist outside the written world. If your child loves stories, then this can be a strong impetus to work on their reading.
For younger children, repetition is key. When reading to your child, let them see the book – words and pictures alike. Encourage them to follow the flow of words with their finger as you talk. Enunciate the words clearly, so that your child starts to associate them with their written equivalent. Perhaps most importantly of all: put a bit of life into it. If you want your child to grow up thinking that reading is a fun activity and well worth the extra effort involved… well… it’s time to start practicing those silly voices, wild gestures, and dramatic pauses.
As your child gets older, get them to read the things that they are interested in, rather than books you think might be “improving”. Is your child into fantasy films? Let them read The Hobbit. Do they love science fiction? Ray Bradbury’s works are always accessible. Ghosts, witches, and other sinister beings? The Goosebumps series is right there.
Whatever direction you take it, your child needs to know that reading is fun, and they will learn that from you and your approach to it.
Dyslexia, like any disability, is going to play a significant part in your child’s life. However, just like any other disability, there’s no reason to have their condition define their existence. In this way, it’s no different from any one of hundreds of other parenting challenges you will face throughout your life. It requires patience and positivity, as well as a certain determination as a parent. There will be times when your child just doesn’t want to continue with the exercises that have been assigned to them and its important that you are there to act as a warm, loving, but firm hand, guiding them along the way.
Likewise, it’s important that you celebrate their personal successes and not just the ones related to their reading, writing, and arithmetic. If they do well in some other discipline, be sure to praise them for it. Having success in a field that they enjoy can help them to better face the areas of academic life that are more difficult for them.
Utilise new innovations
There are many devices on the market that can help to assist children and adults alike who have dyslexia. These include text-to-speech applications for the phone or computer, which will read out loud whatever is typed (or pasted) into it. Background filters for reading apps on various mobile devices can turn the background of a written page green or yellow, both of which have been shown to improve concentration among dyslexics.
Then there is the ScanMarker, which can do all of this and more, and is not limited to a certain piece of hardware. About the size of a jumbo pen and easily carried in a bag or wallet, the Scanmarker is an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) device that literally reads the page for you and your child. Simply run the Scanmarker across any kind of printed text and it will instantly transform it into digital data. This data can then be used in any number of ways that can assist your child. It can read the piece back to them in real time, in a calm, soothing and, above all, human voice. You can also copy the text into an MS Word document (or other app), where you can adjust the font type and size, as well as play around with background and text colors until you find a combination that your child finds easy to read. It can even translate the work into a foreign language for you, a great bonus for dyslexic children, who often have difficulties learning second languages. The Scanmarker is discreet, powerful, and the ideal tool for helping a dyslexic child.
Helping a child with dyslexia can be a challenge for you and them alike, and there is much to be said for maintaining a positive attitude. Show your child that making mistakes is not the be all and end all. Let them know that we all struggle sometimes and that, by working at the problem with a positive attitude, they will be able to push through it.