Families can provide support for a child with dyslexia by helping them with assistive technology, reading with them, and educating themselves about dyslexia.
When parents and caregivers of children with dyslexia understand the disability, it becomes easier to provide proper support and appropriately advocate for their children. In addition to developing a deeper understanding, families can use these tips to help their children develop as readers and writers.
What You Can Do at Home
There are many things that parents or caregivers can do at home that will support their children’s literacy learning, whether or not they have dyslexia:
- Spend time reading together, alternating who reads (caregiver or child).
- Talk about the books you are reading and make predictions.
- Read books that your children are interested in, re-reading their favorites often.
- Designate time in their schedule for homework.
- Have a study area at home that is free of distractions.
When a child is identified as having characteristics of dyslexia, or dyslexia is highly suspected, there are some additional things parents and caregivers can do to provide extra support:
- Utilize audiobooks for learning new content and have children read along with them. Audiobooks should not replace the reading required for intervention to build students’ skills, but audiobooks can be used when reading is required for content learning and as a way to expose students to different examples of how language can be used.
- Play games that involve words and letters.
- Use assistive technology (see below) to make completing schoolwork a more efficient and productive experience.
- Have a system for organizing school-related tasks and a reward system when your children stay on task.
- Help your children understand what dyslexia is in a way that makes sense to them.
- Praise your children’s strengths and celebrate successes.
Assistive technology includes devices, software, or equipment purposefully chosen to help children with reading disabilities complete academic and everyday tasks. Assistive technology facilitates students’ full participation in academic instruction and allows them to demonstrate their learning in equitable ways.
- The Iowa Reading Research Center offers in-person or virtual assistive technology consultation appointments for families of children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.
- Assistive technology can be very helpful for those with dyslexia who are trying to keep up with learning content or completing homework assignments. Common features of assistive technology include speech-to-text, reading text aloud, annotation tools, text simplification, and more.
- Many schools offer assistive technology services. It is best to check with your local personnel if you feel that your child would benefit from using assistive technology in school.
- It is very important that children with dyslexia get the proper intervention and services. Assistive technology can play a crucial role in this process. Area Education Agencies (as they are called in Iowa) or similar regional education agencies in other states may be helpful partners in advocating for children’s use of assistive technology in school. These agencies typically have a technology specialist who can help in contacting and working with your school personnel. See the Iowa Reading Research Center’s handout on working with schools and Area Education Agencies.
Some children who are diagnosed with dyslexia also may experience related learning disabilities. These are some learning disabilities that are commonly co-occurring with dyslexia.
- Dyscalculia: A learning disability that causes difficulty in mathematical calculations.
- Dysgraphia: A learning disability that causes difficulty in producing legible letters and words, or coherent written sentences and paragraphs.
- Dysnomia: A learning disability that causes difficulty in recalling words.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): This is not a learning disability but can compound the learning disabilities that an individual already has.
Iowa Department of Education Dyslexia Guidance and Resources
On its dyslexia webpage, the Iowa Department of Education provides dyslexia guidance and resources, including:
- details on ways in which schools are required to engage with families of children "identified as persistently at risk in reading"
- local sources of support for families
- guidance for educators that may also be of interest to caregivers on required screenings, instruction and intervention, disability-related services, and more