What If My Child Has Dyslexia?

According to Dyslexia International, “dyslexia occurs in at least one in 10 people, putting roughly 700 million children and adults worldwide at risk of life-long illiteracy and social exclusion.”

That means I’m trying to help 18 – 20 students read and write better than they already do, while they’re at risk of life-long illiteracy and not fitting into our society! And I don’t even know who all of them are! I think I just had a panic attack. Is reading really that important? Maybe we should work on something else Monday.

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know how dyslexia works, but I do know that successful people have all kinds of “disabilities”. They have figured out how to cope with, or overcome their weakness.  If you or your child has dyslexia, don’t give up hope! There are things that you can do to succeed, and I don’t think any of those things include “learning to read better”. Reading drills can help, but they can also be frustrating.

Think about it. Can your child hold a conversation? (age appropriate of course) If your child is 8 or 12, can he or she express ideas or discuss things he or she is interested in? When you watch a movie together, can you talk about the characters and story afterward?

I was recently listening to the audiobook version of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss. Mr. Foss has dyslexia, and writes about three different processes of reading.

  • People who are blind read with their fingers. There’s nothing wrong with that. The standard process for someone who can’t see is to read and type with braille.
  • People who can see process phonemes and morphemes with their eyes. Those sets of symbols (letters and words) form images, and the brain processes those images and makes sense of the meanings.
  • People who can see, but don’t connect images to words, read by listening to audio. Whether audiobooks, newscasts or podcasts, listeners can see images, follow storylines, and decode complicated ideas.

All of these forms of “reading” sound beneficial and positive to me. Why is it that teachers and administrators in school districts all over North America have a goal to help seeing students read better through their eyes if their ears are capable of doing the same activity?

That’s my point. Reading is the process of identifying ideas and making meaning from words. It doesn’t have to include looking at the words anymore. And technology is making that more simple to do.

  1. Google, Apple, and many other companies have text to speech abilities. There are even free web based applications, like naturalreaders.com, that can read text for free.
  2. Read out loud together. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts together. After a chapter or an episode, talk about what you heard. Talk about what important ideas came up. Talk about questions that developed from hearing new ideas. Talk about what might happen next.
  3. While listening to an audiobook, follow along with the actual book. Practice doesn’t have to be high stress with tests at the end. Exposure to the written word doesn’t have to be frustrating and scary. Follow along; no expectations.

I hope this has helped you to understand and alleviate some of the anxiety you are probably feeling. My message to my students is for them to find the way that they can take in information. If they need audiobooks, or text-to-speech readers, they should be using those things.

Whether you use your eyes, or your ears, read on!
-Dave

 

PS – I don’t receive any incentive for telling you about products or linking to specific websites. I’m just trying to share what I know and discover with you. 🙂