'Parental awareness is imperative': How to support a child battling with dyslexia

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Dr Greg Pienaar is a principal at the Bridge Assisted Learning School and holds a doctorate in Psychology. His work has focused mainly on the school-going child regarding therapy or play therapy in private practice. He continues to make a significant contribution to assisted and special needs learning through his articles in Educational and Psychological Journals and papers. 

Each child learns and develops at their own pace, and reading is no different from any other skill. However, some children 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 struggle 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 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 its impact on their child is imperative in ensuring support and sustainable development of their child. 

Also read: 'Dyslexic children are falling under the radar': Local clinical psychologist shares nine facts about dyslexia in SA

Much can be done to alleviate this by utilising the following interventions, both at school and at home, 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

This intervention needs to include ‘The Big 6 of Reading’: oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Pay attention to the 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 Open Dyslexic.org. Open Dyslexic is a free font to use for children who are battling with dyslexia. The letters are spaced out and wider in some instances. 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. 

Manage time constraints

- Always provide extra time for students with dyslexia, especially for reading tasks.

- Always allow additional time in test or exam situations.

Minimise stress when learning takes 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. 

Build reliance and self-esteem

Dyslexia impacts the social and emotional well-being of the child. Use terms of encouragement when talking to your child.

Try to nurture children's love for stories

Please encourage them to collect books and build their own library, and practice reading their favourites with them. Also, invest in audiobooks that you can listen to while driving to school that gives phonetic sounds to practice.

Show them that you care and that you are just as invested in helping 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 thrive in school and throughout their lives. 


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