Helping parents who feel confused/disillusioned by their child’s dyslexia

So many disillusioned and disheartened parents allow their fears to seem so real and so likely, that they almost seem paralysed when starting to plan for helping their child overcome dyslexia.  Here are some of the things we hear regularly from parents, and some helpful responses.

Parent: I feel like such a failure as a parent because I can’t help my child with dyslexia.
Response: Of course you do!  Every parent thinks they are not doing enough to help their own child.  Dyslexia creates another area for you to feel like you are not being helpful enough.  It’s not your fault that your child has dyslexia and you can feel proud that you are looking for ways to help your child overcome dyslexia.  Often parents blame themselves thinking, ‘I should have looked into dyslexia years ago.’  Well, it’s great that you have now found out that dyslexia is holding your child back because it means you can do something about it.  Most parents who are reading this are, in my opinion, fantastic parents with great intentions and have every chance of helping their dyslexic child succeed.

Parent: I try to help my child with dyslexia read, but they won’t help themselves.
Response: This is really common and it frustrates plenty of other parents as much as it frustrates you.  Has your child given up on themselves or on reading?  Often kids with dyslexia just seem to want to give up and hide from anything to do with schoolwork because it feels painful to face what they are struggling with.  Also, consider using appropriate rewards and consequences to persuade your child with dyslexia to make good choices.  Most importantly, don’t let your own emotions of frustration or anger get in the way – it makes it harder for your child because they need you to be supportive and loving (and sometimes firm, but kind).

Parent: When my dyslexic child tries to write, they just stare at a blank page and can’t get started.
Response: That’s really common.  This is fairly simple to solve…start with having your child speak out their ideas while you (the parent) write down dot points of what your child is saying.  Then give your child the dot points and let them do their writing and I think you’ll be surprised.

Parent: My child’s teacher won’t listen when I ask for more help for my dyslexic son/daughter.
Response: You can calmly educate the teacher about what your child needs are and then make specific requests for what you believe your child needs.  If your child’s teacher is unresponsive or unhelpful, then calmly talk to the school principal.  Be persistent and be polite.  Persevere because your dyslexic child deserves to have you be an effective advocate.

Parent: My dyslexic child fights with me about doing homework.
Response: That’s okay.  After chatting with thousands of parents, I’m convinced that most children with dyslexia fight with their parents about their homework.  Create a homework routine and then enforce that with rewards and consequences.  If your son or daughter doesn’t do their homework, it may be a good idea to contact their teacher by phone or email and explain that you will fully support the teacher if they choose to put consequences on your child.  Also, make sure your child with dyslexia has the support and help they need to do their homework – but don’t do their homework for them.  Do not allow dyslexia to become an excuse for failing to do homework.

Parent: I think my dyslexic child is just lazy.
Response: I hear that a lot.  I also see a lot of those same dyslexic kids flourishing and working very hard once they have achievable tasks and once they have the right support in place.  Most dyslexic kids are not actually lazy, they just feel stuck and don’t know how to do the work.  Also, keep in mind that a lot of children with dyslexia are exhausted from the effort of trying to get their work done, and because of this, they often have trouble concentrating for long periods of time.

Parent: My child had an eye test with an optometrist, but they didn’t say anything about dyslexia.
Response: That is quite common.  An optometrist is there to diagnose whether or not your child needs glasses, not whether or not your child has dyslexia.

Parent: What are the links between dyslexia and dyscalculia?
Response: Parents who take dyslexia seriously often do enough research to explore other things like dyscalculia.  I believe dyscalculia is significantly over-diagnosed. I’m not an expert in dyscalculia, and I have regularly seen kids with dyscalculia flourish in maths once they had a bit of support.  For each of these kids it would appear that the diagnoses of dyscalculia was not accurate.  As a parent, it is useful to explore the possibility of dyscalculia, but do not assume your child has dyscalculia simply because they have dyslexia.