Advice Column, Education, Parenting

Neurodiversity: How to support a Dyslexic child?

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Children each learn and develop at their own pace, and reading is no different from any other skill. However, for some children they find it challenging at one point or another. They battle to build, recognise and manipulate the sounds in language. They also have difficulty in decoding words.  Often children battle with barriers to learning, which may include dyslexia. 

Studies show that dyslexic children face many difficulties in their academic and social surroundings. Also, they suffer from a low self-esteem because of the lack of accomplishments, particularly in academics, which may affect their long-term life opportunities. Therefore, parents’ awareness about dyslexia and the impact it has on their child is imperative in ensuring support as well as a sustainable development of their child. At the Bridge Assisted Learning school we aim to work with our parents to create environments both at home and school that will be conducive to learning.

Much can be done to alleviate this by utilising the following interventions, both at school and at home, in order to develop processes to support a comfortable confidence and self-esteem within children battling with dyslexia. These include: 

  • Explicit direct instruction in phonological and phonemic skills. The intervention also needs to include ‘The Big 6 of Reading’: oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
  • Font style: The most commonly referred to fonts for people with dyslexia are: Comic Sans, Verdana, or Arial. It does not matter which font is used, it is more about using the particular font exclusively, so that the person becomes accustomed to the font used. A specific font developed for dyslexic people can be found on the Open Dyslexic website (www.OpenDyslexic.org). 

Open Dyslexic is a free font to use for the children who are battling with dyslexia. The letters are spaced out and wider in some instances. Also, when you use any font for a child with dyslexia, always justify left: it spaces the words out evenly and makes it easier for the child to read.

  • Time constraints:
  • Always provide extra time for students with dyslexia, especially for reading tasks.
  • Always allow additional time in test or exam situations.
  • Lowering the stress when learning is taking place:
  • Create a learning culture where making mistakes lead to learning.
  • Provide adequate time for thinking.
  • Don’t place too much stress on children to read aloud in front of other people.
  • Children with dyslexia should be aligned with an empathic teacher mentor.
  • Building reliance and self-esteem:
    • Dyslexia impacts on the social and emotional well-being of the child. Use terms of encouragement when talking to your child.
  • Parent activities:
    Try to nurture children’s love for stories. Encourage them to collect books and build their own library and practice reading their favourites with them. Also invest in audio books that you can listen to while driving to school that gives phonetic sounds to practice. Showing them that you care and that you are just as invested to help them succeed. 

Children don’t outgrow dyslexia, and their troubles with reading can affect how they behave in school. However, with the right teaching and support, children can overcome reading challenges and learn coping mechanisms to make them thrive in school and throughout their life. 

By: Dr Greg Pienaar, Principal at The Bridge Assisted Learning School

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