When parents read about the warning signs of dyslexia and see it in their children, or they hear from the teacher that their child’s early literacy skills are below where they should be, the next question is often, “What I am supposed to do about this? I don’t know how to teach him to read.” There are things that you, as a parent, can do to help support your struggling child with learning how to read.

The first step is to see what information the school has that may help determine where your child’s struggles are. Another consideration is to have a full psychoeducational evaluation done with your child. That is, a specialist, such as a school psychologist or clinical psychologist, can individually test your child’s ability and academic skills to see if there is a deficit in one or more areas of reading. The school-based or private evaluation can help determine which reading skills are breaking down for your child so that you can be sure that the school is providing instruction in the area that your child is having difficulty with. 

Once the school or private specialist determines which areas of reading need more work, know that there are research-based programs and methods to use with struggling readers and children with dyslexia. Typically a teacher or tutor that is specially trained in using a multisensory, structured language approach will benefit your child the most. Multisensory means that the method uses several senses (hearing, seeing, and touching) in order to more effectively integrate the information into your child’s long-term memory. Structured means that the instruction is presented in a logical order and taught very explicitly or deliberately. There also needs to be a lot of repetition and immediate, corrective feedback from the instructor when the child makes a mistake.

Many effective reading programs are based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. A few examples of such programs are Benchmark Word Detectives, Project Read and the Wilson Reading System. These programs can be delivered at school in small groups or one-on-one with a tutor. Whatever the program, parents should ask the instructor for information about the effectiveness of the method for students with dyslexia before accepting the instruction for their child.

As she gets older, supportive instruction needs to continue as her skills develop and the curriculum becomes more demanding. Parents may also want to ask the school for supportive accommodations for dyslexia, such as tests read aloud, extended time, or help with taking notes. 

Dyslexia is a life-long condition. With proper help, your child can learn how to read and write well, but developing these skills takes a lot of time and hard work on your and your child’s part. The good news is that there are a number of research-based strategies and interventions that can help your child develop effective reading and writing skills. If you need more help in determining what is right for your child, Springer School and Center can help. You can call the Center at 871-6080 ext. 402 for a consultation at your convenience.

Blogger Stephanie Dunne, Ed.S., is the Center Director at Springer School and Center. Prior to coming to Springer, Stephanie practiced as a school psychologist in public and private schools for ten years. If you have questions, please contact Stephanie at sdunne@springer-ld.org.

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