Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dyslexia Help: What Dyslexia Parents Can Do

Dyslexia Help: The Early Years (ages 1-5) - How Parents Can Help:
- Reading to your child:
Helps develop vocabulary, attention and listening comprehension. If possible read to your child on a daily basis. Vocabulary knowledge is helped not just by hearing words but by listening to parents read and eventually their own reading experiences. Having your child sit down and listen to you while a story is read greatly helps to develop attention span and listening concentration. Listening comprehension (understanding and remembering what somebody has told you) is also developed. As children get older (aged 4-5) they should start reading with you, initially just by reading one or two familiar words and then gradually engaging the child more and more in a shared reading experience (eg alternating sentences). Eventually (by around the age of 5-6) they should be taking over more of the reading experience.

- Playing "sound" games:
Promotes early phonological awareness (speech/sound awareness) and therefore helps children to break down words into their constituent speech sounds. Children with dyslexia struggle to hear, manipulate and be aware of the speech sounds in words. Examples of games to play might include: I Spy, how many words do you know beginning with "s"?, rhyming etc. Lots of sound based games (perhaps accompanied by pictures) help to draw a child's attention to the sounds within words which will make reading much easier.

- Teach letter sounds from early on:
Help children to know the individual sounds that go with each letter of the alphabet. When children link their awareness of sounds in words with their awareness of sounds in letters they form a connection between sounds and letters. This is what phonic learning is all about and once children can do that they will forge ahead.

Dyslexia Help: The Middle Years (ages 5-7 and beyond) - How Parents Can Help:
- Reading:
Keep reading to your child and have him/her read to you. Plenty of daily reading practice is very important. Ten minutes every day is sufficient (especially for a child with a reading problem). Use reading materials that they find interesting, enjoyable and that are not too difficult where, they are capable of reading most of the words correctly rather than needing help all the time. Reading gives the opportunity to practice decoding words and sounding out words. It also helps expand word specific reading vocabulary and with older children builds up speed and fluency.

- Keyword Spellings:
There are 100 words that we use a lot, known as high frequency words - very common place words. They make up about half the words that we read and spell. By getting a child familiar with these high frequency keyword spellings the spelling error rate will be greatly reduced. Irregular words (such as "the", "was", and "when") will have to be learnt as whole units. Learning these keyword spellings and practicing reading them (using flashcards and within context) and practicing writing keywords will significantly help spelling.

- Teach word identification strategies:
These can be used to supplement the decoding skills and decoding strategies that dyslexics often struggle with. Alternative reading strategies such as context cues and position of words in sentences can be used. Help the child use the story content and the context of a word as well as the words positioning in a sentence (combined with decoding skills) to come up with the right word.

- Reading Comprehension:
Whenever you are reading with your child it is important to ensure that they are understanding and remembering what they are reading. Ask questions about passage content or ask him/her to tell the story back to you.

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