Let children know dyslexia doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent and help them find out which reading genre they prefer.
by Ela Lourenco
My eldest daughter, Larissa, read her first words at three and could read wee picture books by the age of four – not a child you would ever expect to be dyslexic, and yet she is. She has a form of dyslexia called auditory processing disorder, which means the message from the ear to the brain is not always received clearly (nothing to do with hearing problems) and that certain tasks require a lot more effort from her than they should.
An avid reader myself, I was saddened greatly when Larissa told me that she loved books but found reading so tiring it made her head ache. Despite only being nine at the time, she managed to explain to me that when she reads a sentence it is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle piece by piece – first, she has to absorb the words and then put them together before then struggling to process them into a picture in her head. We worked together, with the help of an auditory therapist, and managed to find ways to lessen her load.
Larissa did most of the work, telling me what type of books were easier to read and what kind of format worked best for her.
There are many types of dyslexia and, obviously, all children are different but there is much you can do to help your child to regain their confidence with literacy and to make reading a fun activity instead of something they dread. Larissa, 11, is now an avid and confident reader. Here are some things that helped us:
Talk about their dyslexia openly and positively with them. Make sure they know that it is not a “bad” thing, nor does it mean they are any less intelligent – it is merely that their brains work differently. They will have strengths others don’t have. (I recommend The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide.)
Help your child determine what reading genre they enjoy most – nothing seems like hard work when you are enjoying yourself.
Choose books in which the story does not move along too slowly. Too many wordy descriptions and no action can cause a slump in attention.
Opt for books with shorter chapters and vivid imagery – this will help them to stay focused and interested.
Discuss the book with your child. Ask them what they liked about it and what they didn’t like – this will help you narrow down what type of books to choose next.
Font size can be a problem for some children, as can the background colour. Overlays, or an electronic device for reading, can help as you can find the size of print that best suits.