Dyslexia. It's a family journey.....
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
Parents play a critical role in supporting and advocating for their children. It can be difficult, at times heart breaking and frustrating - but there is certainly a way through. An important insight is to see dyslexia as a learning difference, not a disability.
You may be surprised at how much you will need to advocate for your child's rights in the classroom. While this can be daunting, you have the weight of the law, education policy, science, research and the hearts of good people on your side - fingers crossed your child's teacher is one of these! For more information on your rights, see below.
In the early years acceptance and nurturing are critical. No child should feel less than another as a result of not acquiring skills as quickly as their peers.
Later, it is great is the students knows what they require in order to gain success, such as simple accommodations (extra time, use of computers etc). With the move to high school an empowered young person begins their journey of self-advocacy. However, they may still need your help if they are not being heard.
Critical ingredients for parents are persistence and trust in your instincts - you know your child better than anyone.
Disability Discrimination Act and Standards for Education
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires educators to make changes or ‘reasonable adjustments’ if a person needs those changes to perform essential course work. This could include providing equipment, changing assessment procedures or making changes to course delivery.
Schools and Teachers also have an obligation to follow the Disability Standards for Education (DSE). The Standards aim to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. It also describes what “reasonable adjustments” can mean.
For more information on the standards, go to:
A practical guide for families can be found at:
Quick tips for early identification...
1. Observe your child’s language development. Be on the alert for problems in rhyming, pronunciation, and word finding.
2. Observe your child’s ability to connect print to language. Notice if he is beginning to name individual letters.
3. Know your family history. Be alert to problems in speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or learning a foreign language.
4. If there are clues suggesting problems with spoken language, learning letter names, and especially if there is a family history, you may which to have your child tested.
Things you can do...
1. If you think your child is struggling at school...listen to your instincts.
2. Focus on building your child's oral language and phonemic awareness from an early age as the foundation tools for reading and spelling.
3. Thoroughly research any school, program or tutor to ensure the use of evidence-based teaching of reading. Basically, "if it sounds too good to be true" be wary and do some more research.
4. Focus on your child's strengths as well as their weaknesses. The goal is to make sure that the strengths and not the weaknesses define your child's life. Provide opportunities for your child to shine. Self-esteem is a primary concern.
5. Connect with your child's school:
Talk with your child's teacher (but don't stop here, even if they reassure you that your child is "just around the corner" from reading as you would expect for a child of their age - you know them better than anyone). Work to establish a partnership with your school. One very simple strategy for teachers is to ensure that there are alternative options for displaying knowledge in your child's classroom (a verbal presentation or mind-map instead of written work). Another is ensuring that your child has the extra time they need to finish work so that it can be displayed alongside their classmates.
Talk with the School Support Teacher. However, there is no guarantee that they will have specialist training in dyslexia or other learning differences.
Make contact with the School Psychologist or Speech Pathologist to see if formal testing would be appropriate (while many children on the dyslexic continuum make great progress with some simple classroom adjustments, where this is not happening, effective screening for dyslexia will tell you a lot about the type of teaching your child requires, it is not just a label).
Find out which teachers (if any) in your school have specialist training in learning difficulties or dyslexia - they may be able to help you to ensure that your class teacher has the knowledge and resources they need. If there are no trained teachers, suggest that the school run Square Pegs Awareness Workshop.
6. If its taking too long for assessment at your child's school, private educational psychologists or specialist speech pathologist can do an assessment. Ensure that accommodations and strategies for your child are included in any report and that these are specific to your child and provide meaningful direction for your class teacher.
7. Talk to your GP, you may be able to access a care plan through your GP, which can assist with speech pathology or psychology sessions.
8. At the start of each year, ensure that your child's class teacher is aware that your child has dyslexia, understands some of the simple classroom strategies that will help (and benefit the other children in the class too). If they need help with this, please direct them to our website. Don't assume that the school will always pass this information on.
9. Ensure your child's school is recording their needs as part of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. It is important that there is a record of the accommodations and adjustment made to assist your child - this will hep with your application for special exam provisions in year 11 and 12.
10. Talk to your child and help focus on their strengths, providing opportunities for success and to build their self esteem.
11. Don't give up!
Talking to your Child about Dyslexia
If your child is identified as having dyslexia, it is very important for your child that you find a balance when dealing with the subject. The more information you have the easier this will be. You also want your child to know that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, that help is available, and that there is no reason why they should not achieve to his or her potential.
If your child is diagnosed as having SLD/dyslexia, when you feel that they are ready, then tell your child this. There is no reason to hide it. Perhaps show them the videos on our 'For Kids' page.
Explain that dyslexia is a very common condition and several other people in their school and maybe even others in the class, or in the family have it. There are also many famous, successful people with dyslexia.
You can tell your child that dyslexia is just a big word to explain why some people find it hard to learn to read, write and spell. Everyone is different - some people have red hair or brown eyes, some have dyslexia!
We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Identify something your child does well, whether it is sport, music, art, or handy work. It could be that the child is good with animals, generous, popular, funny, loving – whatever. Find some real strength which your child has. This is most important. Then say that the child does not find reading and spelling as easy as these other things, but that is how life is.
Explain that this is not the fault of your child, parent or the school. It is something that happens – like having fair hair, freckles or blue eyes.
Let your child know that this explains why s/he is having difficulty at school.
Tell him/her that this means s/he will have to work very hard, maybe harder than others in the class to succeed, but that it can be done, with proper help and support.
Be prepared to discuss the problem with your child more than once. Do not assume that s/he will take it all in the first time. You may need to return to the subject many times over the coming years.
For further information, visit the British Dyslexia Association site which has great resources - http://dyslex.io/how-can-i-support-my-child
Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand, Dyslexia Booklet
Dyslexia Association of Ireland, http://www.dyslexia.ie/information/information-for-parents/talking-to-your-child-about-dyslexia/