Not enough is being done about dyslexia. According to the International Dyslexia Association, up to 15-20% of Americans may struggle with dyslexia, and yet in most areas around the country, there are no resources available to help combat the challenge. When we noticed our son was falling behind in 1st grade, we took him to a school psychologist to be tested and were told he is quite bright, just really “lazy” when it came to reading. We put him in a private school and during the first year they gave up on him, wanted to hold him back, and perpetuated the idea that our son was simply too lazy to be taught to read. We tried everything we could think of. It wasn’t until our son was ending 3rd grade and we paid for a private psychologist to test him that we finally learned he is dyslexic!
My son’s experience is not unique. Over the years, I have learned that dyslexics are often labeled as “lazy” or “stupid.” 80% of people associate dyslexia with some form of retardation, yet this is not true. Knowledge about the realities of dyslexia just isn’t mainstream. Why isn’t more being done?
Here is something else to think about. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas, 48% of the prison population is dyslexic. The prevalence of dyslexia in prisoners is more than twice that of the general population. At the same time, a 2007 survey done by NY Times revealed that about 1/3 of surveyed business owners identified as dyslexic. So the first question is, as a parent, on what end of the prisoner to successful business person spectrum do you want your kid to fall? When a child only hears from their parents, teachers, and fellow students that they are lazy or need to be held back, that will have a long-term impact on a child’s confidence. It is essential to catch dyslexia early and ensure the child is getting what they need to deal with the condition early on before they start to think the worst about themselves.
The next question we have to ask ourselves is, as a society can we afford to continue to ignore the needs of dyslexics? Some of the greatest minds and most successful people that have ever lived were dyslexic. Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, Ted Turner, Cisco CEO John Chambers, Henry Ford, William Hewlett from Hewlett-Packard, are all dyslexic. It is also believed that Steve Jobs of Apple computers and even Leonardo Da Vinci were dyslexic. Most of these people attribute their successes to the unique and creative perspective of their dyslexic mind. Given what these people have accomplished, what other valuable resources have we missed out on by not correctly educating this segment of our population?
Since the schools are not doing enough, it falls on parents to help their children overcome the challenges of dyslexia. The good news is, there is hope! We as parents can help our children beat dyslexia. Below are a couple of tips I have learned while working with my son:
1. Don’t get frustrated. I remember reading with my son and becoming so frustrated when he would forget how to read a simple word like “and” when I had just gone over it with him not 15 seconds earlier. Looking back on that time before we knew he is dyslexic, I wish I had handled that better. Learning to read is a big step, and for a person with dyslexia, it is a huge challenge. Don’t get frustrated, and if you just can’t handle the frustration, get someone else to read with your child. That added pressure doesn’t help, so be patient!
2. Get professional help. Dyslexics can be taught to read, they just need a different approach than what is used at school. Learn about the Orton-Gillingham method. It has worked wonders for my son! Take advantage of online tutoring resources from organizations like Lexican.org. You are going to have to invest some money in your child to beat dyslexia, but there is probably nothing more important you can invest in for your child than helping them learn to read competently.
3. Help your child develop a love for reading, by reading to them. Half of the challenge of overcoming dyslexia, once the child has mastered the Orton-Gillingham method, is finding the motivation to keep practicing. Showing a child the wonder of books by reading to them is the best way to help them find that motivation!
4. Get an IEP from the school they attend. An IEP notifies the teacher and the school about the special needs of your child. Sometimes certain concessions can be made, like giving your child more time to take a test, or sitting him/her in the front of the room. Just be sure to not lull yourself into believing the IEP alone is enough. An IEP is not a substitute for professional help, you need to do both. In addition, keep tabs on your child’s development, make sure they aren’t falling further behind. Don’t wait until progress reports come out - stay in constant communication with the school and the teacher to be able to adapt quickly to any needs.
5. Have your child read out loud to you at least 15 minutes every day. Don’t overwork them, 15 minutes is usually enough, but follow along with what they are reading, correct any errors, and remember to BE PATIENT.
6. Sign up for Audible or Reading Ally. These are companies that have recorded readings of books to purchase. Audible uses actors to read the books and are usually more interesting to listen to, but you pay by the book. Reading Ally is cheaper. You pay for an annual subscription and can listen to as many books as you want during that year. Reading Ally shows you the words on a computer or tablet screen and highlights them as they are being read so your child can follow along. Both are powerful tools for dyslexics. Even though my son is now able to read well, he still loves to listen to books that are read to him and these services allow him to listen for much more time than we as parents have available!
7. Inspire your child. Know that they can accomplish great things. Help them be proud to be dyslexic. Like I said above, some of the most successful people and greatest minds to ever walk this planet were dyslexic. Inspire your child to embrace the creativity and unique perspective of the dyslexic mind!
Helping a child overcome any learning difference is a challenge, but I promise you as a father who has already gone through the storm and is now looking back, you can win this fight! I am proud of my son’s achievements, and I am fully confident that he will lead a productive and successful life. Society and public education may have missed the boat, but we as parents still have the power to help our children succeed!