7 Ways to help dyslexic children succeed
1. Full discloser is the order of the day
It has been my experience that children want straight answers to what is happening with them and why. Educate yourself on dyslexia, and then share what you have learned with the child. If a child is left to his or her own devices to figure out what is wrong, the chances are what he or she comes up with will be worse than what is actually happening (i.e. 'I'm just stupid' or 'my brain is broken'). Educate yourself and your child to demystify the situation.
2. Reinforce strengths
The average child spends a tremendous amount of time mastering how to read and write. If a child has learning challenges, this time can become associated with struggle and defeat. It is critical that you find alternative ways for this child to experience success. Be attentive and aware; seek out the child's strengths and magnify them. Keep in mind that a child may look to you as a barometer of their overall worth. Remember that a child's strength may not always be a traditional strength like sports. It may be more unique, such as Lego construction or being a good friend to others.
3. Reading is hard work-- at least make it interesting
Dyslexic children might not like the reading process but they can really like the content. Finding passages that relate to the child's interests can make the experience more enjoyable. For example: If a child has an affinity for All Terrain Vehicles (ATV's) then take pages from ATV magazines and watch the motivation levels rise.
4. Provide current role models
Everyone has seen the black and white picture of Albert Einstein with his hair standing on end that has been associated with dyslexia. I feel it is harder for children today to draw self-confidence from someone who died in the 1950's, even though he is a great role model. Give them modern-day dyslexic role models: Orlando Bloom, Jackie Chan, McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, and don't forget some ladies too: Selma Hayek, Jewel, Whoopi Goldberg. Keeping it current can keep it real for children.
5. Assistive technology
Buying a child with dyslexia a computer is not giving them assistive technology. Adding Dragon Naturally Speaking or Kurzweil 3000 and working with them until they master using the voice recognition software is a step in the right direction. Let's face it. For dyslexics, the ability to have your computer read an email aloud and transcribe your response is an assistive technology home run. I'm not saying to stop trying to teach your child to read. A good balance of hard work and help can ensure better productivity in school and life.
6. Multi-sensory approach to learning at school or home
There are schools which I refer to in The Power of Dyslexic Thinking as 'pockets of greatness.' These are schools around the country that use a multi-sensory approach to teach children with learning challenges. If you cannot afford to send a child to schools such as Churchill Center & School in Missouri or Currey Ingram Academy in Tennessee then maybe you can find local tutors trained in the same methods that these schools use. Some of these methods include the Orton-Gillingham, Slingerland Approach or Wilson Reading System. Look online for local tutor-locating search engines.
7. Provide accommodations
Early intervention provides the greatest chance of success in reading fluency. Remember that preserving a child's self esteem intact is the most important factor in his or her surviving and thriving in the classroom and life. For this, I offer the accommodation list I used myself: Oral test-taking, classroom note-takers, people reading written assignments onto a recorder, audio books and un-timed test-taking. Focus on what it will take for a child to learn in his or her class tomorrow and you both will live to read another day.
In service to children,
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