Finding out your child has dyslexia allows you to pursue treatment that can help. Professionals both in and out of school have different ways of working with your child to help build reading and language skills.
There are no medications for dyslexia. But medication can be a treatment for other issues that often co-occur with dyslexia. These include ADHD, anxiety and depression. It’s also important to know that vision therapy has not been shown to effectively treat dyslexia.
Learn about different strategies and therapies that can help children with dyslexia.
Instruction and Support for Dyslexia
Kids with dyslexia need specialized instruction in reading. They can get it at school, as part of special education or instructional intervention. They can also get it working with a private reading specialist.
A number of reading programs are designed to help kids with dyslexia. Many are based on an approach called Orton–Gillingham (OG).
The formal name for this type of instruction is multisensory structured language education (MSLE). The programs that use it are multisensory, highly structured and sequential. Experts often consider multisensory instruction to be the gold standard for teaching kids with dyslexia to read.
With this approach, teachers involve different senses to help kids learn. Students might use sandpaper letters to learn phonics and spelling, for instance. Or they might learn syllables by tapping them out with their fingers.
Multisensory instruction also gives kids a lot of opportunity to “overlearn” material. This happens through repetition. It also happens by students using what they’ve learned in different contexts.
These programs have different names and use different materials. But they all have a structured approach that is explicit, systematic and cumulative. The programs are intensive and are taught one-on-one or in small groups. Their goal is to improve spoken and written language skills.
Many of these multisensory techniques can also be used at home.
Specialized instruction isn’t the only way schools help kids with dyslexia. If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, he might get formal accommodations, such as extra time on tests or copies of teachers’ notes. If he doesn’t have an IEP or a 504 plan, his teacher might give him informal supports.
Your child might also get assistive technology for reading. Two examples are text-to-speech software and audiobooks.
Therapies for Dyslexia
Dyslexia is an issue with language. Problems often begin with phonological awareness, a language skill that is critical for reading.
Kids with poor phonological awareness have trouble recognizing and working with the sounds in words. They are much more likely to struggle with learning to read.
A number of types of specialists can teach kids with dyslexia to recognize word sounds. They can also help them with phonics—connecting letters with sounds, breaking words into sounds, and blending sounds into words.
Together, these skills allow kids to sound out words they don’t know. That process is known as decoding, and it’s fundamental to reading.
Professionals who provide this type of therapy include psychologists, teachers, reading specialists, learning specialists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who focus on learning issues. They work in schools and also in private settings.
These specialists can use numerous strategies to build phonological awareness and other reading skills. They might work on rhyming, for instance. They may help kids recognize syllables by having them clap out the ones in their names.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Issues
Many kids with dyslexia also have ADHD. Some also have anxiety or depression. Treating these other conditions with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy won’t directly help with dyslexia. But it can pave the way for kids to benefit from the instruction they’re getting for their reading issues.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help with anxiety and depression. Behavior therapy can help with ADHD. And there are effective medications for ADHD, anxiety and depression.
Ways to Help With Dyslexia at Home
There are many tips, tools and strategies you can use to help your child at home. Check out apps and games that make reading easier. Learn about software that can help kids with reading issues. And get tips for teaching kids with dyslexia to learn sight words.