Lots of kids have trouble with reading and spelling, but some kids continue to struggle even though they are bright and able to learn. This can be a sign that they have dyslexia or a learning difficulty. Find out more about dyslexia and what you can do to help if your child has dyslexia or a learning difficulty.
What is dyslexia?
The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek language and means difficulty with words. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes it difficult for people to match letters with sounds when reading and spelling, despite having the ability to learn.
Kids with dyslexia may see some letters backwards or upside down, see the text jumping on the page, or have difficulty seeing the difference between letter shapes. But having dyslexia doesn’t mean that they cannot learn – kids with dyslexia just learn in a different way. Individuals with dyslexia can be very intelligent and creative. Some famous people with dyslexia who went on to accomplish outstanding things as adults include the author Lewis Carroll, film director Steven Spielberg, astronomer Galileo Galilei, and entrepreneur Richard Branson.
What are the signs?
Children that have dyslexia or a learning difficulty will often:
- have difficulty learning letter sounds
- read slowly and make lots of mistakes
- have poor spelling
- be reluctant to read.
If you notice some of these behaviours in your child, it could be an indication that they may have dyslexia or a learning difficulty.
What can you do?
If you think your child might have dyslexia or a learning difficulty, here are some things you can do to help:
Talk to their teacher
If you’re worried that your child is having trouble with reading and spelling, talk to their teacher. They will be able to tell you if they have noticed the same issues with your child’s learning and can make sure your child is getting the support they need at school. The school may do an assessment with your child to identify any learning difficulties and provide some extra support in the classroom. If your child would benefit from support or adjustments in the classroom, this is something that could also be arranged in consultation with your school.
Talk to your doctor
Sometimes learning difficulties can be caused by underlying hearing or vision problems. Arrange for a check-up with your GP to test your child’s sight and hearing. They may also be able to refer you to a specialist for a learning difficulty assessment if it is not able to be done through the school (although there will likely be a cost involved for a private assessment).
Engage their senses!
For kids with reading difficulties like dyslexia, the use of sight, hearing, movement and touch can be helpful for learning. Try this activity using sight, touch and sound to help your child connect letters and their sounds – encourage your child to use their finger to write a letter or word in sand or shaving cream, saying the sound each letter makes as they write. Then encourage them to blend those sounds together and read the whole word aloud.
Use their strengths
Just because your child may have troubles with their reading and spelling doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of other things they can do really well! Try to use your child’s strengths and interests to help with their literacy learning. If your child loves to draw, perhaps you could read a story aloud to them and ask them to draw a picture of the main character. Or if they love drama, you could try role playing a different ending together.
Celebrate the wins!
Remember to praise your child for their successes and their efforts. If they have managed to read a word correctly, tell them they’ve done a great job! If they tried really hard but were not able read a word, tell them you’re proud of their efforts and help them to sound it out correctly. Letting your child know that you support them will help boost their confidence and encourage them to keep trying their best.
If you would like some more information on dyslexia and what you can do to help, check out:
- The Australian Federation of Specific Learning Difficulties (AUSPELD) website. AUSPELD have a range of resources to help families better understand dyslexia and other learning difficulties, as well as state-based organisations which provide support to people with learning difficulties and disabilities.
- The Raising Children Network website has a range of resources on learning disabilities.