Updated: Sep 9, 2022
For years you have noticed that something was not quite right. Your beautiful baby, who is as bright as can be, has struggled to learn the names of letters. Although this child can build unique sculptures from legos and talk for hours to you about dinosaurs you've never heard of, reading the most straightforward picture book is a struggle. Maybe your little one runs away from any activities that look like they may involve reading but can draw up a storm. Again, something is not quite right.
So, you send your child off to school thinking that you need a proper teacher. After all, you are not a kindergarten teacher. You don't have any idea how to teach a child to read. Maybe you are doing something wrong. But after a few months go by, there are no changes. Perhaps there is even a letter or two sent home about behavior or attention issues. Yet, even the teacher is baffled. Enter the internet. You read a few of the signs of dyslexia, and much of it describes your child. You find your way to a neuropsychologist and make an appointment.
The results come back, and your child is diagnosed with dyslexia. Along with a smattering of other things that start with "dys" and maybe some attention deficit disorder. Now what?
Just breathe. This moment can be terrifying. What will the future hold for my child? Can dyslexia be cured? Will they ever learn to read? Rest assured that there are many very successful people out there with dyslexia. Currently, there is no cure for dyslexia, but your child can learn to read and write with the proper instruction. So, what is this "right intervention"? People with dyslexia need explicit phonological and language structure instruction. There are many tutors and many programs out there that can work well for your child. The key is finding the right fit - both tutor and program. Hopefully, the person who diagnosed your child has also provided some advice on what to do to remediate it.
Most people go one of two ways. Hire a private tutor or learn to tutor your own child. The choice depends on a few factors. How much time do you have to devote to teaching your child and learning a new program? Does the English language fascinate or frustrate you? Do you have the patience to sit for 15 minutes while your child sounds out a three-letter word? It's harder than you may think. Will tutoring your child negatively impact your relationship? Some children feel like they are disappointing the parent that is tutoring them and it causes more stress. In this case, tutoring your child yourself may not be a good idea because it could negatively affect the parent-child relationship and hinder progress. I chose to learn how to tutor my own child. At the time, we had just moved for my husband's job and I was not working yet. I figured I was in it for the long haul with dyslexia due to my son's diagnosis, so why not? I was lucky to find a program I could do over the summer so my professor husband could watch our young children while I learned, and of course, I had a built-in practicum student in my 7-year-old son. Once I got started I realized that this was something I loved doing and was really good at, and I eventually opened my own tutoring business.
Can't the school help? Well, that depends. Some schools are well trained and well equipped to teach children with dyslexia. Perhaps the school has invested in literacy education and solid methods of instruction, and the school is working with you to put in accommodations to help your child succeed. You are so lucky! Many schools do not know where to even start with dyslexia. Most teachers receive very little, if any, instruction in dyslexia and how to remediate it. If you do not live in a dyslexia-friendly area and are looking to move, do your research. Get on a Facebook dyslexia parent group like your local chapter of Decoding Dyslexia, and see which districts are set up well to help. If you are in a district that is not knowledgeable about dyslexia, prepare for battle. Become an educator of the school system. Let them know what dyslexia is, how to fix it, and why it matters. Become a dyslexia activist. And while you await change, look into tutoring.
What makes a good tutor? Training, compassion, and personality. You want to ensure your tutor is certified, not just trained, in their program. Training programs vary. Some are only a weekend, and others involve hundreds of hours of study and a supervised practicum. Ask about their experience and get referrals from other parents. You also want someone who is consistently available. Like many aspects of learning, consistent practice is key. Make sure you and your tutor are able to work out a plan for consistent meetings every week, and you are both committed to excellent attendance. Compassion is key with children who have dyslexia. They struggle a lot with reading and some have been bullied. A tutor with compassion and understanding is absolutely necessary. This is someone your child has to trust and your tutor should help your child feel safe enough to make mistakes. Personality goes hand in hand with compassion, but you also want to make sure your tutor gets along well with your child. The relationship between tutor and student is different than a student and a classroom teacher. Tutors are more like coaches and need to be encouraging and focused. They can and should build your child's self-esteem and confidence.
Whatever you do, always encourage your student's strengths. So many people come to see their dyslexia as the thing that makes them strong, compassionate, and hard-working. One day you will look back at the struggle and realize that it was all worth it.
What are you doing to help your child address their dyslexia? Comment below.