How Parents Can Help

Talking to Your Child About Dyslexia

There is an old saying – “It’s no disgrace to be poor, but it’s mighty inconvenient.” The same could be said of dyslexia. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it can complicate life. While there is no doubt that many people with dyslexia have special talents, and some of the common traits of...

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Accessing Help for your Child

The assessment report for your child should give clear recommendations on useful help and recommendations. The report should also note any supports which your child may be entitled to depending on their level of difficulty. Your child may need to access some or all of the following: Help at home from parents and other family...

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How Parents can help

Parents often ask how best they can help their children once a diagnosis of dyslexia has been given. The following is offered as a result of the experience of many parents over the years:

  • Don’t feel guilty. You did not cause your child to have dyslexia and you could not have prevented it.
  • Don’t blame anyone else – the child, the teacher, the other parent. Dyslexia is a fact of life – accept it and think of positive things you can do.
  • Talk to your child about dyslexia and explain how it may affect the child and what you both can do to overcome it. There are many child-centred videos and books available to assist you with this conversation.
  • Attend a DAI Parents’ Course, talk or conference to learn more about dyslexia and how you can support your child.
  • Read to your child – as often and for as long as possible. The benefits of this are enormous. The child will:
    • develop a larger vocabulary,
    • hear words pronounced properly and punctuation marked,
    • learn to enjoy books,
    • keep up-to-date on books peers are reading,
    • enjoy an activity without pressure.
  • Read with your child. Paired Reading is a wonderful technique which encourages reading for pleasure and meaning.
  • Talk to your child – about this and that, everything and anything, just chat. So much of family life is taken up with organising – getting meals ready, collecting and delivering children from activities, that time for chatting can get lost. Just as adolescents need time to sit and talk with their friends, it is important for them also to have time to chat with parents. If this chatting is not part of the younger child’s life then it certainly will not happen in teenage years. It is very important to keep in touch with how a young person with dyslexia is coping, because dyslexia affects the whole personality, not just schoolwork.
  • Listen to your child. Learn to hear what the child is saying and note what is not being said. Pick up on tone of voice indicating possible worries. Ask open questions, e.g. “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think of that?”
  • Play games together – from “I spy” with your young child, to memory games, draughts, chess, and monopoly. With younger children saying nursery rhymes, tapping out rhythms, singing memory songs (e.g. Old McDonald Had a Farm) are all very useful. Never underestimate the amount of learning a child does simply by being with you and observing. Parents are the most important teachers of their children but not necessarily in formal teaching – the informal teaching is equally effective.
  • This Spelling info sheet includes lots of advice on useful strategies to help learn spelling effectively.
  • For advice on supporting writing see both Written Work - Primary School and Written Work - Secondary School for helpful suggestions and strategies.
  • Make visits and take trips. You do not have to take a child to the museum to provide a learning experience. A walk through a field or by a river, in a shopping centre or round to Granny’s can be just as useful as a formal session. Grandparents are a great source of support to children with dyslexia as they may have more time to chat and to listen or read.
  • Watch TV together and discuss what you see. Ask questions that encourage reflective thinking, such as ‘why do you think they did that’ or ‘what do you predict will happen next’.
  • The Factsheets on Dyslexia at second level including Factsheet 16 – How Parents Can Help focus on tips for helping your child through second level.  


Helping with Homework and Providing Support

  • Help with homework by being close at hand to answer questions and to ensure that the child stays on task. In general, it is best to let the child decide what help s/he needs from you and provide just that amount.
  • Don’t take charge of the homework or feel that you have to teach the child. That is the job of the teacher and while the child will have many teachers s/he will only have one Mum and Dad. That relationship is much too important to risk by getting into a teaching role.
  • Limit homework time for younger children. The class teacher will tell you how long homework should take, and if it is taking much longer than normal then it should be possible to work out an arrangement with the teacher as to how much will be done in any evening. Quality is better than quantity and discussing this with your child’s teacher will ensure that the most important work can be done first.
  • Keep in touch with the school and keep teachers informed of how things are progressing for the child.
  • Keep yourself up-to-date of any developments which might help. A good way to do this is by becoming a member of the Dyslexia Association, or getting involved with your local workshop.
  • Using a computer can be a great help to a student with dyslexia. If possible, encourage your child to learn to touch type. This could be done over the summer months and need not be a chore. See our Technology section for more info.
  • Explore your local library for books which have a higher interest level than reading age. Check out abbreviated versions of classics which are designed for students learning English as a foreign language. Librarians are very willing to help, so do ask.
  • Students with dyslexia find schoolwork more tiring than other children do, so it is important for them not to take on demanding part-time jobs during school term, particularly in exam years.
  • If your second level student has not yet developed good planning and organisational skills, it would be helpful for you to do some timetabling. You can help him/her to map out their week on a wall planner, and keep track of important dates, e.g. when projects and essays are due. You may have to be more pro-active with a student with dyslexia than with your other children.
  • Plan ahead and look to the long term. When a child has dyslexia it may be necessary to think of ways round access to courses and qualifications.  Be aware of the many Post Leaving Certificate courses, and how they can build up to diploma and degree status.  Other parents who have been through the process are often your best source of advice.
  • Finally, enjoy your child and let them know that you love having him or her around. Remember – it may seem like a lot of work when you have a child with dyslexia, but they grow up fast.