Many parents are keen to find out how their child’s school can support them, if they are identified as having a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as Dyslexia. Schools increasingly have a wide variety of interventions for dyslexic students and dyslexia-friendly training programmes for staff, so they are well placed to help dyslexic learners make progress with their literacy skills.
But what many don’t initially realise is, that once parents understand the precise nature of their child’s dyslexic profile, what they can do to help them at home can have a far greater overall and long term impact, than what can be achieved in a class of up to 30 students.
The school environment
Class teachers have students with lots of different profiles of strengths and weaknesses. Some will need lots of repetition. Some will need visual demonstrations of what they are learning. Some need pauses between points, when their teacher explains something to them. Some need to compensate using logic or meta cognition, while others need to learn by making it fun or relevant to themselves and their interests.
This means that while teachers will be using a variety of effective learning methods, they may not have as much time as a supportive parent at home, to focus on and encourage the specific approach that suits your child. And while many schools provide tailored 1-2-1 or small group intervention programmes outside the main classroom, this is usually only available for short periods in the school day, so it may be necessary to think imaginatively about less specialist focused support you can provide at home.
1-2-1 Support: Specialist or Not?
Dyslexic support is best 1-2-1, because that way the pace, the type of resources and targets can be tailored to individual speed of working, type of learning and gaps in knowledge . Primary school children and early Key Stage 3 children with dyslexia affecting their literacy skills are therefore likely to benefit from weekly expert support at home or in a dyslexia centre from a specialist dyslexia tutor, because these sessions are usually 1-2-1 and multi-sensory. Dyslexia specialist tuition is not the same as choosing a regular after school maths or English tutor. Dyslexia tutors are experienced in how dyslexic students learn, so teach differently. Dyslexia support organisations such as British Dyslexia Association, Helen Arkell Centre and PATOSS may be able to help you find a dyslexia tutor for your child. You may find tutors who come to your home, or you may need to take your child to a centre or tutor’s place of work.
Parent Support is Different but vital
However, tutors can be expensive and it is not always possible to schedule tuition into busy family life. This does not mean you cannot do anything to support your child.
Although parents are not in a position to deliver specialist phonic tuition, they are ideally placed to support their dyslexic son or daughter in other ways. They see their children every day and it is amazing how much short bursts of parent-and-child dyslexia friendly activities will improve literacy skills, motivation and confidence. For example:
1) Reading to children even for ten minutes every day develops vocabulary and wider language skills.
2) Singing nursery rhymes and playing simple rhyme games and other word games develops pre-literacy skills.
3) Baking, shopping, gardening while talking about what is being done develops ability to sequence events using language, aids maths skills (for example following recipes, weighing fruit and vegetables)
4) Other fun activities to support small motor co-ordination could help children who would otherwise find handwriting difficult, something which can be part of a dyslexic profile. Jigsaws, threading games, learning to use small age-appropriate tools: all develop not only motor skills but also spatial thinking skills. Language can also be improved too, if parents talk their children through the process.
(For more ideas about how parents can help their children develop pre-reading skills, look at page on “Making Simple Games” in this section and the one on “Phonics and Pre-Literacy Skills”, under Study Support.)
Young children struggling to learn to read or write benefit not just from parents taking time for games and activities linked to literacy. They also benefit from their parents’ understanding of how reading is difficult, even if they don’t know how to help, or have no time to do so. Their confidence will benefit from care-givers who are more patient, while they struggle for words, because of their understanding of why their child is having difficulty. And they will benefit if those who love them, know when to step in with certain words, or to take turns, when they are reading together, to make it more fun and less stressful.
Parents of older children who are preparing for exams, are also with their children more often than teachers are.
Parents of teenagers are in a good position – with a little knowledge of useful and simple study skills and learning strategies – to understand what may be going wrong, when their son or daughter reads something over and over without it going in, or gets distracted or demotivated. They are present at the right time for short supportive suggestions – such as helping them to improve their physical learning environment, signposting alternative ways of learning or understanding what realistic targets are for learning. A little bit of knowledge about study skills and learning techniques can go a long way to improving outcomes and confidence for older students.
Most of all, do not under-estimate the value of being there to understand and celebrate your son or daughter’s strengths, as well working with them on their difficulties.
Giving children time and encouragement for things they are good at or things they love, will help them thrive, teach them new skills and confidence they could transfer to the school environment and make home a safe place for learning and growing up.
Visit the Study Skills pages of this site to learn about study strategies for older students.
Alternatively, see a selection of ideas for activities which support study for students of all ages via the drop down menu for Current News on this website or visit my blog of ideas for activities and resources for students of all ages at https://www.facebook.com/carisruthstoller