Helping your dyslexic child at school and at home

If you child has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia you may be wondering what the next step is? What should their school be doing to support them further? How can you help them at home?

There are so many questions and today fortunately dyslexia is a highly recognised learning disability with a multitude of support and resources available.

Initially it’s sensible to make an appointment with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (also known as the SENCO) at your child’s school. He or she should create an Individual Education Plan in line with the Code of Practice (2002) outlining what steps their school will take to provide appropriate support for your son or daughter.  You should also agree regular meetings together to monitor and review your child’s progress; forging a good relationship with the SENCO pays dividends for the future.

Preparing for Exams

As for exams, adjustments can be put in place to mitigate dyslexic difficulties and create a more level playing field. Additional time is usual (+25%) and other arrangements should be accommodated when recommended by an appropriate qualified professional, such as  using a computer rather than having to write, if it means your child feels more confident with the help of the spell checker and provides more legible copy.

Once you have the school on-side the next challenge can be getting your child to school. Some can feel ‘labelled’ and as a result suddenly refuse to attend school for fear of being bullied or looking stupid. Supporting them at home and providing them resources which explain dyslexia and how to beat it. Plus contacting your local Dyslexia Association, which is on-hand to provide further advice means that someone outside the family can provide impartial advice.

Support at Home

It’s not just support for them you may be looking for more information too, a series of fantastic books which I have found to be very useful and supportive at home is, Beat Dyslexia by Celia Stone and also Toe-to-Toe.

When you are at home, remember you are not alone. We know that reading, writing and memory skills are key areas which dyslexic children struggle with, yet a wide variety of dyslexia resourcesexist which you can both turn to improve their ability:

Daily reading is essential. Lots of practice is required for kids with dyslexia to develop and master literacy skills;

- Phonics resources have been proven to help dyslexic children develop their reading levels, helping by putting sounds with combinations of letters. Available in a choice of books, cards or audio resources, Stile dyslexia is a book recommended by Dyslexia Action.

- Coloured overlays are available in differing sizes and colours, a tried and tested simple tool that aims of to help dyslexic children focus on the area they are reading.

- Depending on the age of the child, reading them a bedtime story, from a book slightly more difficult than they can read themselves, can help them to learn new vocabulary, generate ideas and be an enjoyable, bonding experience for you both.

Tackling Writing

Writing can be the hardest task for your child to perform, presenting difficulties with spelling, sentence punctuation and handwriting. Teaching your child to use the computer for work as they get older and showing them how to use a spell checker is a great way to overcome poor writing and boasts their confidence when presenting work to teachers and others.

When it comes to homework, you should take time to review the homework requirements with them beforehand, ensuring they understand what is asked of them. Chunking the homework and providing breaks can also help overcome any excuses usually brought on by frustration at being unable to complete the work.

Of course instruction and guidance is vital, but giving your child lots of praise as they strive to do well and when they complete tasks is vital, but you must be specific about what they have done well.

Dyslexia may be defined as learning disability, but with the right level of support and encouragement your child can excel. You only have to look at some of the highly accomplished and well known personalities of past and present, such as Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise and Muhammad Ali, to see that dyslexia does not have to hold anyone back.

Carlo Rossi is a special needs teacher and writes about LDA dyslexia resources covering everything from teaching books to STILE products. He is also interested in sensory equipment and creative development.