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How to Talk to Your Child About Dyslexia

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

By The Joy of Learning

You’ve watched your child struggle in school. You’ve wiped their tears because their school work seems painstaking. Then, thankfully, you get a diagnosis. It’s Dyslexia. What’s next?

It’s time to dig into the following questions: How can I explain dyslexia to my child? Are there resources available to help me explain the diagnosis?

Before talking to your child, be sure you understand dyslexia. Margie Gillis is a board member of The Dyslexia Society of Connecticut. Margie explains Dyslexia well in this brief video.

If you’re looking for more in-depth information, this is an accepted and current working definition.

Dyslexia is included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) as a specific learning disability (SLD). Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and impacts reading, including decoding and reading fluency (i.e., accurate and/or fluent word recognition) and spelling. It results from a significant deficit in phonological processing (i.e., a persistent difficulty in the awareness of and ability to manipulate the individual sounds of spoken language) and is often unexpected and inconsistent with a student’s other abilities despite the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Typically, students with dyslexia have strengths in areas such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, problem solving, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and social communication (e.g., conversation). Early identification and appropriate instruction targeting the underlying phonological processing deficits that characterize dyslexia may minimize its educational impact.

-CSDE Working Definition of SLD/Dyslexia

Now that you have a better understanding of dyslexia, you’re ready to chat with your child.

Carving out uninterrupted time is important. Keep the conversation light-hearted and encouraging. Talk about dyslexia in a positive way. You might start by saying, “I have great news to share. The school/doctor has figured out why learning to read has been so difficult. Now we will know how the teachers should teach to make reading easier.”

You’ll also want to lead with an age appropriate definition of dyslexia. For example, dyslexia can be explained as a learning difference. It simply means, you have a different learning style. You learn best by seeing, hearing and touching. When teachers teach using ALL THREE of these activities, you will learn to read.

Next, let them know they are not alone. Emphasize that there is nothing wrong with your child. They just learn differently than the way their teachers have been teaching. Share information about people they might know that have dyslexia. Do they have a relative, or friend with dyslexia? There are many famous people that have gone on to accomplish great things. Among the many dyslexia success stories are Thomas Edison, Stephen Spielberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Schwab.

Reading books together is another way to tackle the dyslexia discussion. Below are couple of recommendations and links for a plethora of choices.

The Fantastic Elastic Brain, by JoAnne Deak, Ph.D.

It will be fun to read about how the brain works. This is an amazing picture book with kid friendly pictures and language.

It’s Called Dyslexia, by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

This is another recommended read. Amazon’s review says it all. “This is one of several titles in Barron's Live and Learn series for younger children. They are books that take a child's point of view, especially if the child suffers from some physical challenge or lack self-confidence in going about everyday activities. These attractively illustrated picture storybooks encourage kids never to be afraid of a challenge. Following each story are four pages of suggested activities that relate to the book's theme. A final two-page section offers advice to parents. The child in this story knows the alphabet, but she sometimes has trouble putting all the letters together to read words. No matter how hard she tries, she often mixes up the letters or writes them backwards. She's unhappy until her teacher explains that she has dyslexia, and that she can be helped to read and write correctly.”

Older students will enjoy the books found at this link.

Believe it or not, most people are happy to hear there is a name for their struggle. They are equally grateful to know they are not the only ones with the challenge. Kids, adolescents and adults all like knowing there is nothing wrong with them. It’s the method of instruction that has been wrong for their learning style.

In closing, I remind you to stay positive. Your child can and will learn. The International Dyslexia Association sums it up nicely.

"Having a child diagnosed with dyslexia can be a traumatic experience. While dyslexia can make reading more difficult, with the right instruction, almost all individuals with dyslexia can learn to read. Dyslexia is a neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain. There is no cure for dyslexia and individuals with this condition must learn coping strategies. Research indicates that dyslexia has no relationship to intelligence. Individuals with dyslexia are neither more nor less intelligent than the general population. But some say the way individuals with dyslexia think can actually be an asset in achieving success."

**This infographic from IDA is great too. It reminds us of all the positives that having dyslexia can bring. Is Dyslexia a Gift? Infographic

Need help with your child's reading?

The Joy of Learning provides engaging, 1-on-1, evidence based instruction in reading, writing, and math, for students with diverse learning styles, taught by highly qualified learning specialists. We teach in person in the Boulder, Denver, and SF Bay area, and virtually at any location. Interested to Learn More? Book a Free Consultation Here.

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