Discovering that your child has a learning disability like dyslexia can be devastating for many parents. For some the thought of homeschooling such a child may be overwhelming while others may feel that the child can be better helped at home than in a school environment. Whatever your standpoint, it is a good idea to learn more about how to homeschool a dyslexic child before you begin.
What is Dyslexia?
In short terms, dyslexia is a common learning disability that can cause problems with reading, writing, and spelling. Now, if you’re like me that definition tells you a whole lot of nothing. There are literally millions of factors in a child’s environment that could potentially impact their ability to read, write, or spell, so what is it that makes dyslexia stand out as a learning disability?
First of all, dyslexia is a difficulty that stems from inside the child’s brain, and not from the outer environment. Although there is more than one form of dyslexia the most common form also known as primary dyslexia is caused by a dysfunction of the left side of the brain, or the cerebral cortex. Many children with reading difficulties can be helped by simply making modifications to their learning environment, but this will not work for children with dyslexia.
It is important to note that dyslexia is not caused by a lack of intelligence. In simple terms, it would be unfair to say that the dyslexic child has difficulty learning to read and write because “they’re just a little slow”. These children are of absolutely normal or even above average intelligence.
While the exact cause of dyslexia is not fully understood, and it’s direct effects tend to vary from person to person, it has been established that the dyslexic brain process written material differently. This makes it difficult for the dyslexic child to recognize, spell, and decode words.
What are some common symptoms of Dyslexia?
While many people assume that recognizing dyslexia is as simple as noticing when a child frequently reverses letters or writes things backwards, these are actually common mistakes made by all children, including those who are not dyslexic. While an official diagnosis must be made by a professional, there are some common symptoms that parents might wish to take note of.
- Reading milestones a little later than usual
- Delayed speech development
- Difficulty connecting sounds to letters or other similar sets of data
- Difficulty learning to read
- Difficulty with right and left
- Poor spelling
- Difficulty processing words by sound. This is also known as phonological processing
Is it possible for children with dyslexia to learn at home?
The resounding answer to this question is YES! Children with dyslexia can without a doubt be home schooled. In fact, depending on where you live and the quality of the public school system there, you may find that your child with dyslexia will progress more quickly at home under your personal instruction than in a school setting.
While it is true that schools with professionally trained teachers may have more specialized resources available for children with learning disabilities, they are often not in a position to give each child the personalized attention they need. No matter how well-meaning the teachers and staff are, they simply do not have the ability to tailor their lessons separately for each individual child, but THEIR PARENTS DO!
A parent knows their child more intimately than anyone else, and if they are willing to commit their time and energy into helping their child learn, the child with dyslexia CAN learn at home!
What is the best way to Homeschool a dyslexic child?
In truth, there is never only one best way to homeschool. Even with an official diagnosis of dyslexia, you will find that your child has some characteristics and strengths or weaknesses that other children with dyslexia do not. Every child is different! Period! You are going to have to be the one to figure out what works for your child and your family.
That being said, there are some things to look for when choosing a homeschool method or curriculum that typically work better for children with dyslexia.
Use a multi sensory approach. Avoid curricula that rely solely on reading and writing skills for learning. Allow the child to make use of all their senses. This might include tapping out words, writing letters in sand, or drawing pictures beside words.
Expect less written work. While it is important for a child to learn to read and write, language arts should not be your only focus. Children with dyslexia are intelligent and bright, but writing is hard for them. We all need opportunities to do things that we’re good at! Allow your child to present their learning through oral narration and hands on activities rather than requiring it all to be written down.
Embrace Technology. Dyslexia can toss a lot of undesired roadblocks into the path of a child trying to learn a new skill such as reading or writing. Things like difficulty spelling, or even difficulty forming letters can make writing a simple sentence extremely frustrating. While this might make it might appear as though the child is not learning, that is certainly not the case. It can be surprising just how much knowledge that same child is capable of presenting if you just give him or her the tools to maneuver around those roadblocks.
Technology offers a great many tools to help children do just that. Allow your child to use learning apps and word processing software with a spell checker. Understand that technology is not a “crutch” that prevent your child from really learning, but rather a tool that allows them to get into some real learning without tripping on those pesky roadblocks.
Be gentle. Consider your child’s mental health. Sometimes we try to tell ourselves that we are somehow doing our children a favor by teaching them to do things the hard way. We tell ourselves that everything can be accomplished by simply teaching our children to work hard and persevere. Try to remember that not everything can be fixed the old way. Sometimes it’s OK to take it a little easy on your child. Sometimes your child needs praise instead of criticism.
Embracing the beauty of the dyslexic child
As parents, we find ourselves celebrating every new accomplishment our child makes right from the day they are born. We find ourselves flooded with joy when our baby first smiles, and beaming with pride the day they say their first word. We post videos of their first steps on social media, and make sure to include a photo of their first school-day in an album.
So how do we react when our children fail to reach these milestones at the right time, or begin to show an obvious lack of success in one area or another? How do we react when we discover our child has a learning disability like dyslexia? Do we bemoan the fact that our child is different, and treat them as though they were somehow inferior to their peers, or do we embrace them for the beautiful creations they are?
If you truly wish to successfully learn how to homeschool a dyslexic child, begin by understanding that there is nothing wrong with your child. Their brain just works a little differently than most. They are beautiful, intelligent beings, created for a specific purpose under heaven!