How can I help my child with dyslexia to read and write?

We often enjoy the things that we are good at and the same goes for children or young adults who have dyslexia. Reading is a skill that many of us take for granted. It’s greatly encouraged at home and at school, and for some students it’s the sense of escapism that books can provide that help them to relax, develop their imagination and extend their knowledge, vocabulary and understanding of the world.

It’s therefore no wonder that reading is a highly regarded skill, however, for people with dyslexia, reading and writing can seem like a chore. For many parents, this often turns into frustration and a sense of helplessness. Once you add homework into the mix, it becomes even more of a battle between child and parent. As a parent of a child with dyslexia you’ll already understand how living with this learning difficulty can have a significant impact on your child’s overall wellbeing. Children and young adults with dyslexia often compare themselves to their peers which may trigger anxiety and a lack of confidence. Without support, the impact of dyslexia can be detrimental, long-lasting and may extend into the workplace and other aspects of his or her everyday life. Many parents simply want to find the best way to support their child with dyslexia at home. Just as each person is unique, so is everyone’s experience of dyslexia.  It can range from mild to severe and  can co-occur with other learning differences. [1]

Children with dyslexia may require support in a range of different ways and this is where a specialist dyslexia tutor can help by working with you as parent to develop the right plan for your child.

The difference we can make to your child or young adult with dyslexia

You may have already tried various ideas to help your child with their spelling, phonics, reading and writing challenges but in turn hit hurdles along the way which you haven’t been able to overcome. When parents come to us, they often mention that, “I just want to be the best parent I can be – I’m not a specialist teacher and I don’t have the skills and tools to support my child.”

That’s where a personalised tutoring plan developed by a highly experienced specialist tutor could put your child back on the right track.

Linda is one of our specialist qualified dyslexia tutors and has over 30 years’ teaching experience. She has a Postgraduate Certificate in Literacy Difficulties (dyslexia) and has published papers in the British Journal of Disorders of Communication and the British Journal of Educational Studies. She explains her approach to working with students with dyslexia and SEN.

“Children with a diagnosis of Dyslexia, while they have in common a significant difficulty with reading and writing that is not in line with their cognitive ability, do not all learn in the same way, so approaches used are not always the same.”

“The structured teaching of Phonics is central to Literacy teaching, and Early Years and Key Stage 1 classes focus heavily on teaching the skills of decoding (sounding out) and encoding (spelling.) These skills are typically very weak in pupils with Dyslexia, which is why most specialist approaches to teach pupils with literacy difficulties involve very structured, step-by-step phonics programmes.”

“My approach to teaching a child with dyslexia is to make reading and writing a pleasant experience, so that they are motivated to persevere to overcome their barriers with written words. In addition, getting meaning from what they are reading, and making their writing something that others can understand, are always at the heart of teaching Literacy.”

How do I help my child with dyslexia at home?

“As a parent, it is important to reinforce your child’s learning of phonics using activities that are consistent with those used by the specialist tutor. Trying something different might be confusing and counter-productive.

Here are some ideas for activities for parents to make reading and spelling enjoyable, meaningful and successful for children with dyslexia:

For all children struggling with literacy:

Multisensory methods, for example writing with fingers in sand, shaving foam, in condensation on windows or mirrors, on sandpaper, or making huge letter shapes in the air, in snow, tracing letters on peers’ backs, repeating the letter sounds while making their shapes.

–          Read together stories and books, as opposed to individual words or contrived sentences. Even if you, the parent, are doing most of the reading and your child is just contributing by reading the occasional word, they are enjoying the experience of reading, and getting meaning from written words.

–          When your child is reading to you, try not to correct their mistakes. If what they have read does not make sense, give feedback that encourages your child to monitor themselves and self-correct “Do you think that’s right?” “Does that make sense?”

–          Encourage your child to ask you if they don’t know a word, rather than jumping in to prompt.

–          Allow your child time to work out a word, and again don’t be too quick to prompt.

–          Try writing simple instructions for your child to follow, e.g., in a Treasure Hunt, or to make something. This encourages children to judge for themselves whether they have read the instructions correctly. Have them write instructions for someone else to follow.

For children at the very early stages of literacy:

–          When reading a story, have your child find all the examples of a target letter in a page, or paragraph (preferably have them colour/highlight that letter.) Then read through the whole page, stopping at each identified word, and emphasising the target letter sound as you read it.

How do I help my child with dyslexia at home?

–          Play multisensory games to practise recognising letters and their sounds, or simple high-frequency sight words. Games that involve jumping around are often the most effective, as well as the most fun (see blog for specific ideas.)

For older children and those with some literacy skills:

–          Don’t be too concerned about reading accuracy if mistakes don’t change the meaning of the sentence. Pointing out minor errors often leads to more errors being made.

–          When your child comes across an unfamiliar word, it is not always necessary to sound out every letter. If they use context cues, they can often work out what even a multisyllabic word says from the first three or four letters, by thinking what would make sense in that sentence, e.g.  “Mum was ill so she went to the hosp……”

–          Reverse roles – the parent can read to the child but deliberately making mistakes for them to correct you (mistakes should be fairly obvious, though.)

–          With written work, where there are spelling mistakes, give credit for the parts of the word that are spelled correctly, even if it’s just the initial letter. It may be that just a little part of the word is misspelled.

Reading and writing are, of course, central to the school curriculum and key life skills. They are also a source of great pleasure, and the more enjoyment children get from reading and writing tasks, the better their progress.

More about Linda

Linda is one of our qualified highly-qualified SEN teachers with considerable experience as a specialist dyslexia tutor.

“As well as periods spent teaching in schools and special units in London and New York, I have spent twenty years in a South West London borough leading teams advising mainstream schools on meeting the needs of pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Moderate Learning Difficulties and Disabilities, and Downs Syndrome. This role has involved thoroughly identifying the specific needs of individual pupils, and problem-solving in order to meet those needs.

Finding fun and creative ways to overcome barriers to children’s learning is what makes SEN teaching the most stimulating and rewarding job there can be.”

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