Dyslexia is frequently called a hidden disability. Although many, including me, would challenge using the word “disability,” the word “hidden” rings true.
Dyslexia can be invisible to someone who does not know what symptoms to look for. So as parents, we often trust medical or educational personnel to catch dyslexia symptoms and educate us on what needs to be done to help our children. This can be a big mistake.
As a parent of a dyslexic child, I have learned what works and what doesn’t work, and have condensed my experiences into these eight guidelines.
- Trust your instincts. Many parents feel that something is just off with their dyslexic child at an early age, yet they ignore their gut feeling and wait for schools to take charge. Instead, they need to pay attention to this feeling and be proactive in putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
- Test early. Many children are late bloomers and develop academic skills such as reading, writing, and math later than others. If a child is truly dyslexic, then waiting will not be the On the contrary, waiting will actually do harm. It will widen the gap in academic skills, and the child will need to work that much harder to catch up with the rest of the class. No one can recover time lost, and the child cannot afford to lose the gift of time. So why take the chance? There is no harm in testing early. If you have an older child just recently diagnosed, do not be discouraged. Take action immediately.
- Consider family history. Dyslexia runs in families and is often The risk of having dyslexia is significantly higher for children who have a parent, uncle, aunt, or sibling with a history of reading difficulties.
- Don’t rely on the schools for diagnosis. Teachers give their best to their students and try hard to make a difference. But at the end of the day, they are not educational specialists or certified psychologists and are not qualified to make an official diagnosis. And many unfortunately do not even receive dyslexia training in their undergraduate or even graduate programs.
- It’s not about trying harder. Because many dyslexics are bright and their IQ scores are in the gifted range, they have a higher risk of falling through the cracks in the educational system. Trying harder is not the solution. Dyslexics can learn to read and write if they are taught with an evidence-based program that meets their needs.
- Make it fun. If a child is struggling with reading and writing, parents might be inclined to push the child to work harder, expecting that practice will improve skills. Practice does lead to progress, but if the child or the parent ends up in tears, it is not constructive progress. The child will be more willing to learn if the practice is fun and rewarding. Dyslexic children will also need more downtime to recharge their batteries, as the academic environment often drains more energy and requires much more effort from them.
- Academics aren’t everything. There is no doubt that reading and writing are important skills beyond the academic life. Yet, with the variety of assistant technology, these skills are easy to compensate for in today’s life. We need to consider the child as a whole. Children need to build self-esteem by sharpening their strengths. These strengths will set them apart as successful adults in the future. Give them the opportunity to work on these skills and passions whether the arena is sports, the arts, or science.
- Be happy, don’t worry. Having a dyslexic child isn’t always a walk the park, but it isn’t the end of the world either. If we are able to see past the academic life, there are endless opportunities for these bright children, any one of whom may become the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, or Thomas Edison of the future—just a few of the famous dyslexics!
Don’t let dyslexia define who your child is. Never forget the healing power of unconditional and mindful love that is freely shared.
Cigdem Knebel is the founder of Simple Words Books, a parent of a dyslexic child, and author of Sam Is Stuck, a chapter book for young dyslexics. She believes that all children love to read—they just need to find that right book for them.
Her mission is to help young dyslexics, and reluctant and early readers with fluency, comprehension and, most importantly, self-confidence. She accomplishes this by publishing fiction books, and reading and phonics practice resources with the skills of young dyslexics in mind.