It’s estimated that around 1 in 10 people in the UK suffer from dyslexia. Contrary to popular belief, this learning difficulty doesn’t only affect reading and writing skills. It can also impact a range of intellectual and social abilities, such as motor co-ordination, calculation skills or personal organisation. Although dyslexia may create learning challenges, recent research has shown how it can also be a cognitive strength. Dyslexic people can have excellent memories for stories, they are often avid puzzle solvers, and they’re also recognised for thinking outside of the box.
Dyslexia causes people to process information differently. If this is not recognised and addressed, learning in the classroom can be difficult – knocking a child’s confidence and hindering academic progress. There are lots of effective teaching strategies which can be used to overcome this! Here we’re sharing ten tips from our toolbox on how parents can support children with dyslexia, so that learning is fun and accessible.
Strategies to support learning
1. Encourage their critical thinking:
Motivate your child to be curious by asking questions. Some good questions to ask about reading could be: ‘what has happened so far?’, ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’ or ‘if you were that character, would you have done anything differently in that situation?’ This encourages children to process what they’re learning at a deeper level and make connections by vocalising their thoughts. Explaining a plot, concept, or idea, to someone else, is an easy way to check that your child fully understands.
2. Help them plan:
Help your child to create a weekly study plan for managing their homework, and then give them space to work independently. At the end of each week, review the plan together and check what was completed. Be sure to praise them for what was done well and identify any specific areas for improvement!
3. Make use of technology:
Some apps like Dyslexia Quest, Omoguru or Special Words are fantastic options to support your child’s learning. Interactive apps like these, help to gamify work and make it more enjoyable.
Although not super techy, reading focus cards (can be bought cheaply online or are easy to make at home) are a solution for struggling readers of all ages. They help the reader to focus on individual words and text lines, guiding them efficiently from left to right.
4. Introduce fun reading activities:
Encourage your child to choose their own books based on the topics they’re interested in, take them to bookstores, and help them to build a personal little library. You can help to bring some excitement into reading and creative writing by recreating scenes (- think a Harry Potter wizard tournament or Percy Jackson underworld!), using silly voices, or dressing in character. Letting them explore creatively can help to bring the fun back into literacy.
Teacher tip – If there are any unknown words, encourage your child to highlight them and make a glossary together. Mrs Wordsmith flashcards can also be a useful physical aid in helping children to develop a wide vocabulary.
5. Break the material into bits:
The Pomodoro technique (helpful for children with and without dyslexia!) breaks time and material it into chunks to make it more manageable. Breaking work time into 20 minute chunks, separated by 10 minute breaks, and putting this on a timer in view, can make all the difference when it comes to tackling homework and revision. At the end of two pomodoros, ask them to catch you up on what they’ve learned, to commit new information to memory.
If left unaddressed, dyslexia can impact a child’s confidence, resulting in frustration and low self-esteem. Emotional support is as important as supporting their academic journey. Helping them develop the necessary tools and resilience to accept – and celebrate! – the way in which they learn, will help them to manage any difficulties in school or life.
1. Make sure they understand what dyslexia is:
Demystifying their learning disorder, and making them aware of how their brain functions, will help them to better understand themselves. Discuss their challenges but also the positive factors that come with it.
2. Use positive language:
Affirmations can go a long way. In some cases, your child can feel inadequate and develop insecurities that stream from the challenges they face at school. Make sure you let them know you are proud of them and praise their achievements.
3. Acknowledge their effort and the difficulty of the task:
Telling your child something like: ‘I know this has been very difficult, but well done on trying so hard!’ can be a real boost for their self-esteem.
4. Don’t ignore their insecurities or misbehaviour:
There is probably a reason for your child’s disappointment or anger. Ask them how they are feeling, let them express themselves, and try to come up with a solution. For instance, if a child throws a tantrum in the middle of their reading homework, it is probably out of frustration. You can try something like: ‘I know this is really difficult, why don’t we take a break and do a different activity and then we can come back to this when you feel better?’
5. Allow them to develop their creativity and the things they are good at:
Making sure they have enough stimulation from activities they enjoy is very important. Sports, pottery, robotics, or drama can be exciting things to try.
To learn more about how to support your children, our recommended reading includes Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz or The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide. You can also fing plenty of information on the British Dyslexia Association, Reading Rockets or Understood websites.
Many successful people – such as Whoopi Goldberg or even Albert Einstein – have struggled with dyslexia. Providing your child with the right resources and support is the key to helping them achieve academic and social success.
Thank you to Grace, one of our experienced dyslexia specialists, for her insight on this blog. As she said, “Just as plants and flowers need certain conditions to grow, some dyslexic individuals need a different approach to learning to enable them to flourish. Individuals with dyslexia have so much to offer to the world. We must believe in their abilities and strengths.”
The Golden Circle has a team of qualified SEND team, including SENCos and literacy specialists. For more information on the SEN support we offer, please get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or using the contact form on our website.