Help Your Dyslexic Child At Home

Help your dyslexic child at home is not meant to be a lesson on dyslexia. I'm not clinically trained to write such an article. This piece is to show you the tricks and tips we've learned to help our dyslexic son read and learn his numbers. We had to take matters into our own hands because we felt he wasn't getting enough help from the professionals he saw. 
There are some books at the end of this article which will help you understand all this better.


How to help your dyslexic child at home

The first thing to remember is that dyslexic children can learn everything you know. Secondly, it's vital to keep in mind that dyslexic kidsdyslexic_child learn differently from you do. This means that while they can learn their times tables, they probably won't learn it by reciting it two times a day like you did. In order to help your dyslexic child learn, you've got to first of all find out how they learn. For the sake of ease, we'll use tables and spellings as examples, and alternate gender references in each paragraph.

How does your dyslexic child learn
Kids with regular learning capabilities learn differently from each other. More so, dyslexic children. Some of us are visual learners, others, auditory learners, others yet still, kinesthetic learners. All this means is that we may learn better either by seeing things, hearing things or doing things. Many of us have to use a combination of two or all three. I think in terms of seeing things. For instance when I think of making contact with someone again, I'll say, 'see you later,' even though I know our 'meeting' will be a phone conversation. I can recall things in my mind as pictures which is one of the reasons why I write. How does this relate to your dyslexic child? 
Knowing how they learn is the key to helping them use that pathway to gaining the knowledge they need to function as the normal kids they are.

Things to help you find out how your dyslexic child learns

Pick 3 simple poems or times tables to use as a springboard to finding out how your child learns. Teach the first by having him recite it several times after writing it out. I'd use a computer and word document rather than a pencil and paper. Writing stresses dyslexic children and this is not a lesson in penmanship (even though good handwriting is important). 
Teach him the second by writing it out yourself on pieces of cards. Cut the answers out and have him match the right answers and problems together. 
Teach him the third by having him read it out loud into a recorder or MP3 player. Let him listen to his own voice reciting the times table over and over. At the end of a period you've specified, based on your child's abilities, see which one he remembers best. This is certainly not the end-all to every problems kids with dyslexia face, and I don't claim to know that this will work for your child. Again, I'm just sharing some knowledge as a mother of a dyslexic child.

Useful things you can use in the home to determine how your child learns include: a small laptop or computer. Cards. Magnetic sheets and strips you can use for your child to match answers to clues. A small recorder or MP3 player help_your_dylexic_child_at_homethat has a recording option. Collectibles to use in memory games (explained below). 

Other things that help

Leave your television's subtitles on. If you have the option of sign language, leave that on too. Hearing the words and seeing them written down in a non-classroom context where the child is relaxed, forms 'pictures' in the minds of the visual learners. When they sit down to write, they're able to 'draw out' these 'pictures' to the forefront and reproduce the words. For kinesthetic learners, an action associated with the word will help them to visualise what the word looks and sounds like.
Don't worry about the other kids in the house. They won't be distracted by the subtitles. They'll soon get used to them enough to ignore them. Your dyslexic child, however, won't. Remember that they learn, but differently. They'll soak up the sounds, the sights and the actions -whichever suits them best.

Most kids collect things. My son collects football (soccer) cards. He knows the players' names, clubs and managers. For a child who fights learning anything, this is a remarkable feat. If you're trying to teach your child spelling or tables, tack tiny little florescent sticky notes on each player with the letters/numbers and learn in sequence. 

For example you have 11 players in one team and your child has to learn his 6 times tables. Each player plays in a certain position. Player one will have the number 6 tacked onto his card. Player two; 12, Player three; 18 and so on. Your child already knows Smith is number one player, Carday is number two. She will remember Smith; 6 Carday; 12 and so on. The names are already in her mind in a specific order. All she has to do now is associate a 'word' with each number. At first she may have to say the player's name in her mind to bring up the 'picture,' 'sound,' or 'look' (depending on how she learns) of the number, so give her time to do this. Eventually this will get better.

Action with hearing
Allow your child to clap, tap his foot, or move when learning. This helps tremendously with kids who are kinesthetic learners. An action can definitely underline the thing he's trying to learn. Clap (your hands), tap (your foot), click (your finger). Clap, tap, click can be useful. Spelling 'query' for example. Clap - Q, tap - U, click - E, clap - R, tap - Y. Start with the clap, tap, click. Clap, tap, click and get your child into the rhythm. After this is achieved, add the letters. It may be confusing to you to start with. A child who learns with actions will not be confused at all.
Remember to also use lots of magnetic numbers and letters. Cut up words. Make use of learning puzzles and laptops/computers.

Use the home - Visual learners

Funny as it may seem, the activity I've outlined below is a great tool to use when your child needs to learn the names of kings/planets/countries' capitals, etc. It doesn't matter what it is. The principle can be attached to anything. Use the home to do this successfully. Memes are useful, but only for people who can remember them. As parents of dyslexic children, we already know that memory games that involve just words don't work well for them. I've found some other things that can work very well. 
We'll use planets here for our example. Draw rough pictures of the main planets and place them as follows: Mercury and Venus live in his bedroom. They're husband and wife. Tennis star Venus Williams could be the 'face' for the woman. 
Earth and Mars could live in his sister's bedroom. 'Earth' worms like to eat Mars (a Mars chocolate bar) for breakfast every day. 
Jupiter and Saturn live in his parents bedroom. Peter ('Ju-Peter') likes to spin tops in his spare time. Saturn has rings going around it like a top goes around and around. 
Uranus and Neptune live in the bathroom. ('Your-anus' and 'Pee- Tunes' can't get out of the bathroom. They love the toilet bowl). 

I can go on with this, but you see where this is going. Feel free to make up your own funny ways of remembering things with your child and place them around the house. This will work very well, but only if your child takes the time to place the pictures herself, then learn and recite their 'story' to you several times. Important: dyslexic kids and adults have problems with short term memory. This means that even if they know something, they may have forgotten that they do. Having a comfortable and familiar place like their own home to compartmentalise them, gives the brain something to grasp in a more physical way.

Use your dining table - Kinesthetic Learners

Have your child place notes at each place at the table. He has to learn where they 'sit.' When he has to reproduce them in school, all he has to do is to remember 'who' or 'what' sits where. We'll spell query again: 'Q' sits at the head where dad sits. 'U' in your child's own chair. 'E' in his baby sister's place beside him. 'R' in his mum's chair at the other end of the table. 'Y' in his big sister's chair opposite the baby. When you need other letter(s) they can in the empty chair where Grandad sits when he comes to visit. Some can even sit on top of people's heads.

Use a well-known song - Auditory learners

Everyone knows 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm.' Refashion whatever your child needs to learn with this (or any other) tune. I used to tutor some American kids years ago and taught them the names of all the American Presidents in the space of three days, using the tune of another well-known song. Even now, many years later, I can't remember the original words of the song, but know the names of the Presidents (and I'm not even American) when the tune pops in my head.  Always reinforce to the child that he can be as good as anyone else, he just has to try a bit harder because his brain works differently - not worse, just differently. 

Little others
If you use the same hand as your child, stand behind her to teach her to tie shoelaces (this should be put off until later as it frustrates them when they're little), and do up buttons. If you use the opposite hand (your child is left handed and you're right handed) face her to show her these skills. You'll find that Velcro shoes on PE days are very helpful to both your child and her teachers. My son couldn't face learning to tie his laces until he was 10. I chose the holiday period when I could be nice and patient and a pair of very long laces. He squealed in ecstasy the day he got it right. 

Handwritinghelp_dylexic_child_at_home may not be great. It gets worse the longer your child writes/copies from the blackboard (chalkboard). Ask his school if it's okay for him to use a small laptop to type out (especially when writing stories for English assignments). Good handwriting is important, but learning the basics of Language and Maths shouldn't suffer because your dyslexic child cannot write as fast or as well as his classmates. 

Finally, remember that intelligence does not only present as an ability to read or count. It also manifests as skilful sportsmanship, an ability to mimic, dance, sing, act, or an extremely strong capability to be empathic and supportive. These intelligences all lead to successful and fulfilled career paths. Find and nurture your child's natural abilities. These are what he/she will be using to build a life and living later on. 

There's a brilliant illustration called multiplication made simple. I unreservedly recommend it to teach your dyslexic (and indeed any child) to quickly learn their multiplication tables.

Finally, here's my book to help the entire family with other child-raising issues:



Luqman Michel February 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

Very informative. Well thought out and very well written.My blog and my recent posts will complement what is written in this post.

Noelle Nolan February 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

Great article. Too bad my parents didn't have this to read when I was child. I myself am dyslexic and it gets in the way of my way of doing things. I actually got fired from a job due to my dyslexia. It was an insurance claims data entry job and I kept typing all the numbers out of order, but thats how I saw them. It's very aggravating to me on a daily basis in my freelance writing business as well. I even spell things I type out of order or start typing a word for example - if I was to type "angel", I'd start typing it "legna". Its a pain in the butt, but I've learned to deal. My boyfriend is dyslexic as well so we communicate very well. :) Thanks for sharing. I tweeted this. :)

Anne Lyken-Garner February 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

Luqman, welcome to my blog.
Noelle, I'm so sorry to hear about your story. I'm sure you had a very hard time growing up, as not many teachers are trained to deal with dyslexia. Glad you're able to cope with it now.

hayesatlbch February 26, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

I always like dyslexia posts that give dyslexia tips developed for individuals which are not of the "it is good for this dyslexic so it is good for all dyslexics" type .

Dyslexic problems are individualistic so solutions are not universal as many would like to promote. Solutions are also not mutually exclusive so most tips that help any specific dyslexic are indeed likely to be helpful to some other dyslexics.

Too much discussion about dyslexia is hampered by people thinking that dyslexia does have a single cause or single intervention.

Rather than personal dyslexia tips I have collected free dyslexia products,programs, services and an assortment of informational links that are available on the web. Like dyslexia tips each link will probably be helpful to some dyslexics. They are all free even if some have higher level products for sale.

There is a link to the dept. of education page that evaluates the research quality and results of published dyslexia interventions. A careful visit can be helpful to determining what intervention may be best for individuals. It is information that is hard to find elsewhere.

Caution ! For people who believe that it is proper to conclude that "Research Based" dyslexia intervention means that all the research is 100% positive , that is not what the analysis of published studies show.

The page is an assortment of different types of free dyslexia help and is located at

Icy BC February 27, 2010 at 9:45 PM  

Wow...this is a great article, Anne! These are important tips and tricks to learn for parents. I think learning a few of these experiences from you can be very helpful.

Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

I just added your blog site to my blogroll, I pray you would give some thought to doing the same.

Anne Lyken-Garner is a published author, editor and freelance writer. Her specialities include relationships and confidence building. You can find her inspirational memoir here.
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