Dyslexia in children: 11 ways to help a child to read
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a condition characterized by a child's inability to read properly. For example, to distinguish letter sounds and to decode letter sounds into separate words. You can diagnose dyslexia in your child by taking a dyslexia test at about 6-7 years of age. By this age, the majority of children should have formed reading abilities.
What are the symptoms of dyslexia?
Dyslexia, first of all, is a language disorder. A dyslexic child will have a hard time forming sentences, talking to parents and peers, learning grammar rules. Very often children with dyslexia are gaining an ability to form long sentences by 9-10 years of age or even older.
It is very hard for a child with dyslexia to understand and to follow grammar rules. They tend to use short phrases instead – like: “Go for a walk”, “Have breakfast” or “Have shower”. At preschool, a child with dyslexia will have difficulty communicating with others as they often forget their peers’ names. They will try to avoid any reading activities, as it requires a huge effort from them.
Often they avoid communicating with others as it causes them a great deal of anxiety. When asked even a simple question a child with dyslexia might have a hard time answering. Often, when they are anxious, they tend to forget words and are very slow responding.
A child with dyslexia is unable to read and communicate appropriately to his/her age. To understand what is “age appropriate” you need to know at what age a child should be able to read. Moreover, they have difficulties learning alphabet letters and simple one-syllable words.
Meanwhile, sometimes children have difficulties learning reading due to the wrong way or/and time of when they are taught. Therefore, the other important question is when should you start teaching your child reading as teaching too early or too late might negatively affect your child’s reading abilities.
Does dyslexia cause personal trauma?
Dyslexia will cause a big trauma to a child, as he/she would sense that they are different from others. It is important to explain to a child that dyslexia is not a disease. Instead, it makes him/her special and unique. Dyslexia often runs in families. That's why you can always use examples of the relatives who had dyslexia. This way you can prove that dyslexia did not stop them from being amazing in something other than reading.
Unfortunately, a child with dyslexia is not able to speak or read fluently. Therefore he/she spends more time thinking, reasoning, listening. Children with dyslexia tend to be more artistic. Evidently, they have the ability to reason better and think faster than others. Often they are good at mathematics and exact sciences. They usually have a larger listening vocabulary than other children.
Maybe children with dyslexia will not end up being great readers but it doesn’t mean they will not be great at other things!
Is dyslexia a learning disability?
Even though an ability to read is important it is wrong to identify dyslexia with a learning disability of any sort.
Albert Einstein once mentioned that he thought that children with dyslexia are great thinkers and can become geniuses. What’s more, Albert Einstein’s biography states that he had dyslexia himself. And he only started to talk at the age of 4 years and to read at the age of 9 (!) years.
The list of geniuses with dyslexia is long – Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and so on. What about today? Celebrities like Jennifer Anniston, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, Jaime Oliver, Salma Hayek – all have dyslexia and this list goes on.
Take this dyslexia test for children, it's prepared by early childhood professionals and is based on symptoms of dyslexia. It helps to assess if your child has language disorders. Whatever your result will be – don’t take it as a verdict, rather take it as an opportunity to reveal your child’s true talents and passions.
Dyslexia test and assessment
Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions. In the end, count how many “Yes” answers do you have.
- Your child has a limited vocabulary, often making errors in building sentences. Your child uses small 2-3 words combinations rather than long sentences.
- Has difficulty participating in joint activities with other children.
- He/she has difficulties following directions and instructions from parents or teachers.
- Your child doesn’t speak very frequently.
- Your child has difficulty remembering songs and poems.
- He/she has a hard time communicating with his peers – often not being able to understand them.
- Your child doesn’t have many friends; he/she seems too much into “their own world”.
- During sorting and recognizing activities (sorting objects by color, shape, texture) your child has difficulty in identifying objects; therefore, is not successful in these activities.
- While talking, he/she talks about immediate events rather than about future or past events.
- Because of difficulty communicating, your child might look isolated. Often preferring to be by themselves and play alone, alternatively to playing with other children.
If you have more than 7 “Yes” answers you might want to reach out to speech therapy professionals. Here is a list of things you can start doing yourself if you feel your child has symptoms of dyslexia.
It is important to know how to help a child with dyslexia to improve his/her language skills. Because being able to communicate properly will allow him/her to be more outgoing and feel comfortable around other children and adults.
11 ways to help a child with dyslexia to start reading
- Keep involving your child in reading activities which are fascinating and interesting. Try to gain your child’s interests with something eye-catching (puppet activities will do wonders in this case).
- Whenever possible try to maintain physical contact with your child - hug and comfort him/her – it is very important! As children with dyslexia are not able to communicate well through the language it’s crucial for them to feel accepted and loved through physical contact.
- Enthusiasm is contagious! It spreads very quick as well! Make sure your child can see how fascinated you are about the object you are presenting to him/her. It can be the "I spy" game, or nursery rhymes, or fun fingerplays, choose your favorite from the best children's reading games!
- When talking to your child try to establish eye contact with him/her. Bend to their eye-level making sure there are no interruptions in between.
- Try to follow your child’s interests. For example, if elevators fascinate him/her, get a book or find a story about elevators. Discuss the subject afterward, ask them questions, let them think and come to their own conclusions.
- A great way of interacting with a child with dyslexia is “My turn, your turn” interactions. This is an interaction, where you take quick turns to share opinions. It will grab your child’s attention and keep the activity entertaining.
- Be attentive with your child - listen to what he/she has to say. Copy their statements (words, short phrases), verbalize them and speak them out. Try to make connections between these phrases. For instance – if your child says – “eat a banana” - discuss various things they can eat, show them what you have in the fridge. Let them choose what are other fruits and vegetables they can eat. Be entertaining!
- It is important to involve different senses in the reading process through different textures and various materials. For instance, when teaching names of fruits and vegetables let your child touch (sense) them or at least use pictures of fruits and vegetables. Introducing your child to different textures and fabrics is very important, therefore various activities with a flannel board and felt crafts will be very helpful.
- Use picture books. Tell a story from a picture book to your child. Let him/her explore different pictures, human expressions, and sequence of events. After you are done, close the book and ask him/her to tell you what the book was about. This activity will ignite your child's cognitive and visual abilities, which are an important part of language development. Use photo books. Go to the park and take some pictures of your whole family. Afterward, print the pictures and put them in the album. Review them with your child, tell him/her a story about that day and see how much they can add to it!
- Follow 14 steps to teach a child to read as it is one of the most wholesome reading programs for kids available. It is based on scientific facts, Early Childhood research, preschool observations and includes every area of a child's development.
- Be patient, loving and caring. A child with speech problems often feels lonely. Because dyslexia in children often results in them not being able to maintain appropriate social relationships. That's often caused by their inability to communicate properly. Therefore emotional development in children with dyslexia needs to be monitored and supervised.
Be your child’s “backbone” - someone who will always understand, support and love him/her and always be there for them. Maybe that made from one little boy named Albert Einstein (who could not read till 9 years old) a world-famous genius. Whose innovative research and discoveries we are still using till this day!
- Harlan J. D., Rivkin M. S. (2012). Science Experiences for the Early Childhood Years: An Integrated Affective Approach (10th Edition). Upper Sadly River, NJ: Pearson.
- Essa E. (2008). What to do when. Practical Guidance Strategies for Challenging Behaviours in the Preschool (6th Edition). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.