By Peg Rosen
Even the best-intended comments can make a child with dyslexia feel discouraged or inadequate. We talked to dyslexia advocate Ben Foss, author of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. He shared tips about what words can hurt—and what to say instead.
Imagine asking a student who uses a wheelchair to get himself up a flight of stairs without any help. He makes his way to the top, but naturally he takes longer to do it than his classmates. Would you think he wasn’t trying hard? Of course not. Kids with dyslexia already work harder than their peers just to get to baseline when it comes to reading. If your child is struggling, you might say, “I know it’s tough to always have to work so hard at reading. What can we do to make it less frustrating for you right now?”
Dyslexia is an important aspect of your child’s identity. It’s a part of him, just like his sense of humor and the color of his hair. Encouraging him to hide his dyslexia from other kids tells him it’s something he should be ashamed of. Instead try, “Your friends can see how creative and good you are at so many things. Telling them about your dyslexia might help give them a fuller picture of who you are.”
People often lower their expectations for students with learning and attention issues. But kids with dyslexia (and other issues) can go on to achieve great things if they’re given the proper supports and play to their strengths. Try instead: “I believe you can achieve anything. If you want to go to college, let’s find a place that provides the support and opportunities that will help you reach your goals.”
Explore more tips for talking to your child about college.
Every child with dyslexia should have the opportunity to learn how to read with his eyes. But if it’s not clicking, it might be time to look at other methods. The message you can share: “There are many different ways to read. Some people read with their eyes. Many blind people use Braille and read with their fingers. You might like reading with your ears—by listening to audiobooks, for example. We’re going to find a way for you to read that suits your strengths.”
See a video excerpt of Ben demonstrating how he reads with his ears.
Would you tell a person in a wheelchair that using a ramp is cheating? No! A key point in this comparison is that both stairs and writing assignments are often poorly designed for certain people. Assistive technology can help people to maximize their potential. Consider saying, “Lots of people use technology to become better learners. Some people use glasses. Some use hearing aids. Some use computers. We’re going to teach you how to use various tools to help you become more independent.”
When it comes to personal safety, kids with learning and attention issues may be more vulnerable than other kids. So how can you teach your child about “safe” and “unsafe” people? Start with these tips.
You want to help your child with learning and attention issues make the transition from summer to school. But it’s easy to send messages about going back to school that may hurt more than help. Here are some things you may find yourself saying—and what might work better.
Peg Rosen has written for numerous digital and print outlets, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping, More, Fitness and Martha Stewart.
Bob Cunningham, M.A., Ed.M.
Nov 23, 2014
Nov 23, 2014
9 Ways to Show Empathy for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues
Talking to Your Child About Differences and Disabilities
Top 9 Things Not to Say to Your Child About Learning and Attention Issues
5 Things Not to Say to Your Child About Dysgraphia
9 Tips for Teaching Your Child About Personal Safety
Experts Weigh In: “What Should I Do When My Child Says ‘I’m Dumb’?”
Thanks for these tips, they were helpful.
My husband learned to read his junior year in college! It is never too late. He needed a different approach to learn how to read. He now reads on a college level with 100% comprehension, where had been reading at about the 7th grade level with only 20% comprehension! I will say there are MANY resources and tools to help your son if he struggles with reading though. Books on tape have been a life saver for my son and daughter. If you have a local society for the blind, check them out they have a lot of adaptive equipment which may also help your son.
I am always looking for good information on dyslexia & how I can help my son. He is 16 in 10th grade and at best reads on a 3rd grade level. I have been told by a member of the IEP team that I needed to realize that "the boat had sailed on teaching my son to read" & we needed to focus on how to help him learn to function in life not being able to read above 3rd grade. I would love to hear from someone other than the school if this is true. I've lost confidence in the school system. As a parent I can't imagine the school being ok with the fact they didn't help my son. He is beyond done with school and I can't say I blame him. Any suggestions or help anyone can give I'd love to hear it.
@JSK: Thank you for your support! Dedicated parents (like you) are such a tremendously important part of the Understood community.
How they created paths to success with learning and attention issues.
Find out the types of tests available, and what skills they assess.
These free, printable graphic organizers can help kids break down math problems.
A mom, who has auditory processing disorder herself, shares what she wishes others knew.
Dec 6th at 3:00 pm
He went from struggling student to inspiring the next generation.
A college student with dyslexia shares how she uses dictation (speech-to-text) technology to help.
Which is causing your child’s trouble with math? Use this chart to compare the signs.
How to make sure your child gets services and accommodations.
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe-senders list.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.