Happily, there are many ways to support your child with dyslexia, say Louise van der Valk and Patricia Reed, Heads of Learning Support at Alleyn’s School and Alleyn’s Junior School.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that often runs in families, and which primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Nowadays, there are many strategies available to support children with the condition.
Liaise with your child’s school
If you are concerned that your child may have dyslexia, your first port of call should be their class teacher, to discuss your concerns and receive their advice. They may well refer your child to the school’s SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator or similar) to investigate further and to assess whether specific support may be required.
Whilst intervention may begin in Reception for children who seem to struggle to acquire basic literacy and reading skills, a school also has to allow for the varying pace of the acquisition of literacy skills. This may mean that a formal diagnosis may not be immediately forthcoming; your child’s school should be able to tell you more about their processes and timelines.
Once dyslexia is confirmed, a SENCO can provide ongoing support and access to dyslexia resources, and can advise on specialist services that may be helpful, such as extra help to improve a child’s phonological skills (how they break down words). A good school librarian will also be able to signpost age or reading level appropriate books.
Keep reading enjoyable and explore different tools
Many dyslexia organisations, including those mentioned in this article, signpost reading resources. The Dyslexia Action site features the ‘Dive In’ guide which recommends specific titles by age group. Barrington Stokes (barringtonstoke.co.uk) is a specialist publisher which helpfully lists books by both actual age and reading age.
To keep reading accessible and enjoyable, it may help your child to select books that have shorter chapters and larger text, but which are age-appropriate in terms of content. For instance, they may like to try non-fiction books about a topic or person(s) of interest to them.
Reading rulers and coloured page overlays can have a very positive supportive effect (black and white can be ‘dazzling’ for some people with dyslexia). Using a device such as a Kindle can also be helpful, as they allow the reader to adjust text size and spacing, and to change the background colour. Audiobooks can also help to encourage enjoyment of a story, and children may like to follow the physical book while reading.
Children with dyslexia may experience visual stress that can make reading even more difficult, so it is important to have regular sight tests undertaken by an experienced optometrist.
Support your child’s holistic well-being
Enjoying activities together as a family, reading and talking will all help to improve a child’s vocabulary. Balance in life is important, so structure at home, set times for homework and plenty of rest will all contribute to well-being and the ability to manage dyslexia. Encourage your child’s particular abilities; this will help to build their confidence and self-esteem for all areas of life.
Dyslexia Action: dyslexiaaction.org.uk
British Dyslexia Association: bdadyslexia.org.uk