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5 Expert-backed Tips on How to Help a Dyslexic Child Read

Despite being so smart, your child cannot understand simple phonics. Teacher complaints that your child is lazy and careless in studies. No matter how hard you try, your child’s reading level remains far behind his age mates. Can you relate to these statements?

This is exactly how parenting feels when you have a child who has dyslexia or reading difficulties. There is no need to feel depressed or devastated because almost 12% parents around you are facing the same challenges.

Since 1877, when Adolf Kussamaul talked dyslexia for the first time, lot of research has been done on dyslexia. And many time-tested approaches have been developed to help struggling readers.

This article is a compilation of most effective methods for children with dyslexia. Few well known approaches for teaching reading to dyslexic child include:

  • Skill training through task analysis,
  • Modifications to training materials,
  • Cued or facilitated reading and
  • Virtual games.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the terminology. Stay with this article and you’ll get to understand these methods. Strategies have been discussed in a hands-on and easy to understand way. Let’s explore.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a reading disability. Children with dyslexia find it difficult to relate the graphemes or letters with the phonemes or the sounds of those letters.  

With the passage of time many children gradually develop reading skills but might still struggle in areas of fluency and comprehension.

An important thing to remember is that reading problems arising out of visual problems, hearing problems or intellectual impairment are not accounted for under the diagnosis of dyslexia.

Causes of Dyslexia

According to different studies children born to parents having dyslexia are ten times more likely to have difficulties in reading and spelling acquisition. This indicates that dyslexia has a genetic basis.

Another important cause identified by experts is different brain wiring. Research on brain imaging indicates that the brains of children with dyslexia are wired differently. Thus, they respond differently to reading activities.

Symptoms of dyslexia

Few common symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Delayed speech
  • Difficulty in recognizing the beginning sounds of words
  • Challenges in learning phonics
  • Difficulties in remembering the shapes of letters
  • Difficulty in remembering the sequence of letters in a word
  • Difficulty in remembering the sequence of events or commands
  • Confusion in identifying left and right.
  • Difficulty in learning new vocabulary
  • Difficulty in copying work from the board
  • Reading level far behind age mates

How to Help a Child with Dyslexia Read?

Most of the time the reading challenges are noticed once the child enters school. Or is introduced to reading tasks by parents. That is why mostly the coping strategies focus on children in early grades.

Try to read each strategy thoroughly, so you get familiar with the logic behind that method. This will enable you to improvise and expand the activities according to the needs of your child.

1.    Multisensory Learning

Children learn a concept faster and code it well if its presented to them in a multisensory way. To be more specific, if a child can read, draw, hear, feel and may be play a jumping game about a given concept.

The child will absorb it more readily and easily. And will be able to link it with his previous memory. This will make information retrieval easy.   

According to Dr. Nelson Dorta, multisensory learning experiences facilitate the reading acquisition for children with dyslexia.  Following are few easy to follow multisensory activities that you can do with your kid at home:

Writing on a Sand tray

Put sand in a tray. For creating more interest, you can use colored sand. Now help the child in writing the letters on the sand with the fingers and also say its sound aloud. Children with dyslexia specially confuse letters like b & d, p & q, f & t, m & w and numbers like 6 &9. So, specially focus on these letters.

Sand paper letters

Getting to feel sand paper letters with fingers can help in making a mental image of the letter.

Writing in air

An advance activity can be writing the letters in the air. You can also use Lago, clay, shaving foam and glitter glue to write the letters.

Jumping alphabet game

You can write alphabets on papers and paste it on floor. Siblings can be involved in this activity to make it a fun. Every child gets three turns and has to jump on the said alphabet.

Telling the beginning sound game

Put different objects in a bag. Take items out, one at a time. And child tells its beginning sound and also names the alphabet it starts with. This game is especially helpful in learning the names and sounds of letters. 

Remember   Different children have different learning preferences. Some are auditory or visual learners. While some learn better with physical or kinesthetic activities. Try to discover your child’s preferred learning style when designing multisensory learning activities.

2.    Cued or Facilitated Reading

Reading is such a hassle for a child with dyslexia. He has to:

  • remember the shape of a symbol (called alphabet),
  • learn its sound (which sometimes changes with its position in the word) and also
  • has to remember the sequence of alphabets in a word.

Color Coding

In order to make reading less challenging, you can help the child by giving some cues. These cues can be different colored flash cards.

At a later stage you can use different colored markers for consonants and vowels. This color coding helps in reading rhyming words and also in reproducing the word in correct sequence.

Alphabet Stories

Another interesting activity can be associating stories with the alphabets. For example, “b” started running late from the starting line while “d” was looking behind to encourage him. This story will help the child in remembering the graphemes.

Drawing Cues

For early readers drawing cues can be very helpful. For example, you can draw wings on the sides of word “wings” or you can draw a cat around word “cat”.  

3.    Task Analysis

Learning of each concept or activity follows a logical sequence. You cannot learn to read stories right away. Rather you have to follow, more or less, the following sequence:

  1. learning phonics,
  2. rhyming words,
  3. two-word phrases,
  4. sentences and
  5. then paragraphs.

What is Task Analysis?

Task analysis is all about following logical sequence of learning. Task analysis means to divide a complex activity into smaller parts and then practice each step one by one.

The rationale behind this approach is that learning can be made easy by dividing an activity into smaller and more manageable parts. Once one step is learned, you move to the other and gradually learn the whole activity.

How to Use Task Analysis?

Mostly task analysis is used to teach manual skills but can also be used successfully to teach mental skills. Following steps are included in skill training:

  • Task analysis of the complex activity
  • Practice of activities one by one
  • Frequent assessments to measure the performance
  • Re-teaching and more practice

4.    Use Educational Games

There are many educational games available online. According to Dr. Michael Ryan virtual environment or computer interface gives a secure feeling to persons with neurodiversity.

Why Use Online Educational Games?

Online learning experience is both multisensory and predictable. This is why children with dyslexia tend to give a good response to online learning games.

Sites for Online Educational Games

There are many online educational platforms. There you can access academic games according to grade level of your child. Following are some interesting sites for online academic games and resources.

  • ABCYa.com
  • Sheppard Software
  • Funbrain
  • turtlediary.com

 

5.    Make Reading Fun

Reading challenges faced by the child with dyslexia can be very upsetting. Many children experience psychological pressure. They tend to face emotional problems if not managed well. Therefore, do not make reading a burden or pressure for your child with dyslexia.

Create a reading routine

Create a routine of reading together in the evening. Let your child chose books of his choice in the beginning. Try to informally discuss the shapes of alphabets while you read through.

Select colorful books

Try to select colorful books with pictures. Encourage the child to explain the pictures and relate those to the content of the book.

Discuss stories

Children with dyslexia also face challenges in remembering the sequence of events and words. Encourage the child to discuss events explained in the story book.

Select books with less text

In the beginning select books with minimum text on a page. It will help in minimizing distractions. Gradually increase the difficulty level of books.

Conclusion

Try to understand the learning preferences of your child with dyslexia. Be creative in designing reading activities and try to make reading fun. Do try to create your own reading games and share your experiences with us.

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