This is a question that I often see posted by concerned parents who want to know how to help their child. There is a lot of information out there, some of it confusing and some of it quite misleading! Here, I have outlined where you need to start and how you can help your child yourself.
You will need to understand a little about what dyslexia is first. It is a problem that your child has with language.
Language then affects your child’s ability to read and to use language to write (including how to spell). The specific part of language which is a problem is your child’s ability to identify individual speech sounds in words. When they start to read it also then shows up as not knowing how to map those speech sounds onto letters to form the words. The ‘posh’ word for this is phonological awareness (if you want to know but you don’t really need to know this word!).
There are other issues as well such as working memory and slow processing speed but if you are at the start of your journey then just stick with the language issue.
You can learn more about these other issues here later on, when you are ready to learn a bit more about dyslexia.
The first problem you want to tackle is reading because that is the single most important skill that your child needs to master – before anything else.
So rather than try and sort out everything like some headless chicken, just stop and focus on reading. To give your child the most effective help, you need to know whether your child can identify speech sounds in spoken words ie can they tell you what sound ‘table’ starts with, what sound is at the end of sheep and what is in the middle of leaf? Once you know this, you can investigate whether they can sound out regular words such as cat, sheep and longer words such as depend or independent; finally can they read irregular reads such as through and could?
You can go through my reading checklist- download here which will show you whether your child needs help with speech sounds first in spoken words or whether you can hop straight into how those speech sounds map onto letters.
Next, you can choose an appropriate programme which will rectify the problems you have identified.
For example, the Beat Dyslexia Series is good at sorting out speech sounds as well as mapping sounds to letters. Sound Linkage is a good programme for helping your child identify speech sounds including rhyming sounds. Nessy Reading and Spelling is a great programme (although a little more complex for parents to use properly) where you can tackle reading and spelling together (spelling is just the flip side of reading). Both the Beat Dyslexia books and The Nessy programme include sight words to improve reading (sight words are those that don’t conform to any regular speech/letter patterns such as ‘the’).
A very important part of reading for your child, is understanding what they read.Next, check that when your child reads a story, they can recount it to you.
A significant number of children are unable to do this and sometimes they can go through the whole of primary school with no-one realising there is a problem. If this is a problem for your child, you can read more about how to help them here.
Sometimes, people think that their dyslexic child doesn’t have a language problem because they can read well and they think they don’t need to tackle these areas.
I would respectively suggest that their child will have an issue with either speech sounds or mapping sounds to letters; their child has succeeded in reading because they have been able to memorise whole words (some children can do this and find it easy, even when they have dyslexia). If your child has done this, they will come unstuck later on when they are faced with many new words and specialist vocabulary at secondary school. To read well throughout your academic career you need to be able to split words up into their sounds as well as recognise whole words – it is harder to spot the reading issue when a child has memorised a lot of words and appears to read well.
If your child has received the help outlined above already and you are at the point of moving on then spelling is the next obvious skill to tackle.
Spelling is all about: matching speech sounds to letters; learning how to spell words which don’t conform to these regular spelling patterns (known as sight words) and then recognising when a word is spelt correctly. The schools use a method called ‘Look,cover,write,check’ to teach children to spell ,but this method doesn’t work for a lot of dyslexic children. I have written a separate post about other methods which will work for your dyslexic child which you can read here.
You may want to tackle spelling as part of improving writing.
I will tackle writing and how you can help your child improve their writing and spelling within this next week.
Don't skip through the reading intervention, it really is the most important and first thing you must help with.
If you would like more tips and helps to make learning less frustrating for your dyslexic child, then please join my free Facebook Group here.