Navigating Dyslexia: A Guide for Parents

Dyslexia affects millions of children, and for parents of children with dyslexia, we understand the unique challenges your kids face in their academic journey. Studies have shown that children with dyslexia are happy and well-adjusted early on. However,  emotional hurdles can emerge when early reading instruction doesn’t yield the expected results, leading to frustration, anxiety, and diminished self-esteem. 

As parents, your role is crucial in helping your child navigate these challenges, fostering resilience, and teaching them the art of self-advocacy. Here are some valuable tips to guide you on this journey.

The Power of Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is a vital tool in helping children with dyslexia build confidence, resilience, and emotional strength. Here’s how parents can encourage self-advocacy.

Tips For Parents

1. Create Open Communication: 
Ensure your child feels safe and comfortable expressing their feelings and experiences to you without fear of judgment.

2. Encourage Communication with Teachers: 
Encourage your child to communicate their challenges and needs confidently to their teachers. This step includes ensuring you and your child are up to date with their rights to accommodations in school and that necessary arrangements are met.

Tips to Guide Children Facing Teasing

1. Teach Assertiveness: 
Practice with your child on how to respond to teasing calmly and assertively. Teach them to articulate that receiving accommodations like audible instructions, more time on tests, and extra clarifications on tests/assignments isn’t cheating but a necessity.

This may sound like: 

“Everyone has different ways of learning, just like some people are better at sports, art, or music. These tools help me do my best, just like you might need something different for your challenges. It’s not okay to blame me or tease me.” 

2. Promote Help-Seeking:
 Encourage your child to ask for help when needed, and teach them to advocate for themselves respectfully yet assertively. Role-play various scenarios to boost their confidence.

This may sound like: 

“It's not okay to treat me this way. If it continues, I’ll need to ask someone to help.” 

3. Foster Peer Support: 
Help your child connect with peers who share similar experiences. Peer support and shared experiences can be empowering.

Reframing Language for Parents

Reframing negative thought patterns is a powerful way to support your child.

1. Explain Dyslexia: 
Provide a simple explanation of dyslexia and why your child faces challenges. Eliminate misconceptions like "dumb."

This may sound like: 

Child negative thought: 

"I can’t do anything right because I have dyslexia." 

Parent positive reframing: 

"You have dyslexia, which means your brain processes letters and words differently. It has absolutely nothing to do with your intelligence or your abilities. Many talented people who've achieved great things have dyslexia. Steven Spielberg, one of the most popular film directors, has dyslexia. Jamie Oliver, a world-renowned chef, has dyslexia, yet he wrote many popular cookbooks and owns a famous restaurant. You, too, can do extraordinary things. It’s just about finding the right strategies for you."

2. Reward Effort, Not Outcome: 
Praise your child’s effort rather than focusing solely on outcomes. Emphasize the importance of their determination and courage by trying hard and making progress. Why is praising effort so important? Research shows that fostering a growth mindset leads to persistence at difficult tasks (think perseverance and “grit”), initiative taking, and longer-term positive outcomes. Praising effort reinforces that your child can create abilities and talents for themselves through practice and sticking with a task.

This may sound like: 

Child negative thought: 

"No matter how hard I try, I always get bad grades. I'm just not smart." 

Parent positive reframing: 

"Remember that how smart you are is not determined by your grades. What’s important is the effort you’re putting in to learn. You are showing great courage and determination by trying hard, and we are proud of your progress, no matter your grades."

3. Embrace Imperfection: 
Remind your child that perfection isn’t necessary, and nobody is perfect. Set realistic goals and celebrate small successes.

This may sound like: 

Child negative thought: 

"I have to be perfect at everything I do, or there's no point in trying." 

Parent positive reframing: 

"You don’t have to be perfect; no one is. What matters is that we try our best. Let’s work together to set more realistic goals that you can reach step by step”. Parent Reminder: Celebrate successes along the way.

Encourage Reading in a Fun Way

Reading challenges can be discouraging, but parents can foster a love for reading despite dyslexia.

1. Lead By Example: 
Your actions and behavior speak volumes. Let your child see you reading for pleasure, demonstrating that reading can be enjoyable. Also, a child is never too old to listen to you read if they're interested in the topic!   

2. Avoid Pushing Too Hard: 
Avoid pushing your child to read excessively, as it can lead to more avoidance. Give them space to choose when they're ready.

3. Include Alternative Formats: 
Include audiobooks, graphic novels, or other mediums, in addition to traditional books, that could be more accessible for your child. Digital programs like Sharpen Reading offer fun and engaging reading activities personalized around your child’s development, building their confidence and love for reading in as little as 30 minutes a day. 

As parents, your primary goal is to nurture resilience, self-confidence, and a positive self-view in your child. These qualities will help your child navigate challenges more effectively and develop a lifelong love of reading. Dyslexia doesn’t define your child's intelligence or abilities; it's a different way of processing information. By creating a supportive environment and promoting self-advocacy, you're helping your child build the tools they need to succeed and thrive.

Free Sharpen Parent Guide

Download our free parent guide to learn more about how the Sharpen family of products can work to support your child’s reading journey every step of the way.
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