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How to Better Understand Dyslexia

Updated: May 13, 2023


It has been a “sticky” subject in education for as long as I can remember. Perhaps you’ve heard of Georgia’s Senate Bill 47, Illinois’ House Bill 4369, or Arizona’s Senate Bill 1572 (just to name a few) and wondered what does all this legislation mean how does it protect students with dyslexia?

The truth is, there isn’t a blanket answer for this. The United States protects those with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which essentially identifies what qualifies a student for special education support. One of the categories of qualification is “SLD,” or Specific Learning Disability. Under IDEA, dyslexia is listed as a qualifier for SLD, but IDEA is NOT specific about how to define, diagnose or accommodate those with dyslexia. As a result, states across the country are managing special education services for dyslexic students on a state-by-state basis. The good news is that all states can agree the research clearly proves that early intervention results in a 95% success rate for students to remain at grade-level despite a dyslexia diagnosis. What states do not agree on is how dyslexic students are defined, accommodated and supported. Many different factors play a role into the varying levels of support; teacher training, teacher retention, intervention, and funding are just a few examples that impact how a school manages support for dyslexic students.

If you are curious what bills your state has passed to protect dyslexic students, check out this website for more information:

Regardless of where you live, parents can still provide meaningful support at home for their dyslexic child. The biggest challenge accommodating dyslexic students is that it is not a “one-size-fits-all” method; dyslexia plays out differently in children depending on their age and level of severity.

Here are some helpful tips for parents when it comes to recognizing and supporting dyslexic students.

1. Looks for signs of dyslexia:

  • Dyslexia doesn’t mean the child just struggles with reading. Dyslexia impacts language, such as spelling, speaking, and writing.

  • Some students show signs early on by struggling to decode sounds of words.

  • Some students may have difficulty remembering and following multi-step instructions.

  • Other students may read fluently but can’t comprehend what they read.

  • Some students will replace words while reading. For example, instead of reading the word “boat,” they may say “boot” and not recognize that it doesn’t sound right.

  • Some skip smaller sight words such as for, of, the, a, etc.

  • Students may reverse letters while writing. For example, switching b and d.

*Here’s a great video to help you identify signs of dyslexia by age.

2. Look for patterns at home and communicate with your child’s teacher to see if they are seeing similar things in the classroom.

Watch for certain challenges your child has with reading and pick up on any patterns. For example, does your child constantly skip words while reading or flip letters while writing? Share this information with your child’s teacher to give both of you a better idea of what kind of additional support may be best.

(And honestly, more often than not, it isn’t a 911 situation that needs immediate intervention! Just this year I noticed my kindergartener was flipping her numbers on all her worksheets, so I emailed her teacher and asked if this was a concern. She explained that it was developmentally appropriate, and most students start self-correcting this by first grade.)

3. Encourage your child.

Some dyslexic students find school incredibly frustrating, which can result in some negative feelings about being in the classroom. Let your child know that dyslexia is common and there are many students in their class with the same challenges, but luckily there’s a lot of support so they can learn how to best accommodate the way their brain is processing language. Also remember to remind students that being dyslexic does NOT mean they are stupid, in fact, being dyslexic is a gift in many ways! The brain of a dyslexic learner work differently in the way it processes information, which results in a greater level of creativity, spatial reasoning, and interconnected thinking.

4. Do you research as a parent.

In addition to needing extra encouragement, your child will need you to be their advocate as well. Try not to shy away from the fact that they have dyslexia. It isn’t a bad thing! Instead, recognize the challenges your child has and help them better understand some of the errors they are making.

Identify strategies that can help! For example, graphic organizers are great for compiling thoughts to support comprehension and line readers (such as a ruler or notecard) are a great way to encourage focus while reading. Many students find it helpful to hear themselves reading out loud. Record your child reading and then play it back to them. See if they can identify words they might have skipped or replaced. Many times, students will start to recognize and self-correct errors as they become more aware of how their brain in processing while they read.

With the right support at home and at school, your dyslexic learner will be just as successful-if not more successful-than their peers. Although dyslexia is considered a learning disability and requires early intervention and academic accommodations, it is also a gift. Many children with dyslexia have heightened abilities in areas like visualization and logical reasoning, making them incredible leaders, decision makers and intuitive thinkers. Last but not least, advocate for your child. YOU know your kid best. Open communication with your child’s teacher is beneficial for all parties involved.

Although dyslexia can be concerning for a parent upon initial diagnosis, please know that it is NOT going to negatively impact students in the long-term. With early intervention, parent advocacy, and encouragement, your child will surely be successful in school.

Believe in the magic of reading.


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