Dyslexia Demystified :: Parent’s Guide to Symptoms and Support

Disclaimer :: This article contains affiliate links. Collin County Moms may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. Thanks for supporting our small business! 

A stack of colorful books.

As a mom of a dyslexic son, my goal is to help other moms who has a child with this learning difference. I want to alleviate some of their worries — the same worries I felt watching my child struggle until we were able to connect all the pieces.

I created this guide to bring education and insight to this learning difference and empower children with unique needs.

Understanding Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a life-long, neurobiological learning disability that can affect reading, writing, and spelling. These language-based challenges can be mild to severe. Dyslexics typically use the right side of the brain to process language instead of the left. It does NOT mean one is less intelligent or lazy.

According to the International Dyslexia Association, up to 20 percent of the population has dyslexia symptoms. Affecting one in five people, dyslexics are in good company with the accomplished Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Ansel Adams, Kiera Knightly, Muhammed Ali, and dozens more . . . .

Detecting Dyslexia

Dyslexia is genetic so having a parent or sibling might be an indicator. I encourage parents to check out the International Dyslexia Association and Understood.org when researching signs and symptoms.

Your child may need an assessment if he or she shows the following signs:

Preschool to Early Elementary

  • Difficulty rhyming.
  • Reverses word order, loses place on page, skips lines.
  • Rote memory problems (like days of the week).
  • Struggling with letter recognition and matching symbol to sound.
  • Trouble recognizing “sight words” or sounding out words.

Late Elementary and Older

  • Difficulty with comprehension.
  • Foreign languages are hard.
  • Poor handwriting.
  • Slow reading and writing.
  • Spelling challenges.

Behavioral warning signs — at any age — include avoidance of reading and writing tasks, behavioral issues and low self-esteem related to school, or frustration and overly emotional responses to homework (or as I affectionally call it, the “homework tantrum”).

A mother reading with her son.

What to Do If You Suspect Dyslexia

Parents and educators have an important role in improving academic outcomes and self-esteem. As I quickly learned, early identification reaps huge benefits. A recent study found that students who received intervention in the first and second grade made gains double those who didn’t receive intervention until third.

Start with two conversations to discuss observations and concerns: One with the teacher and one with the pediatrician. There is no one test for dyslexia. Typically, questionaries and consolidated records are used to audit language skills performance. Multiple assessment options exist depending on severity, urgency and budget:

  • Educational diagnosticians.
  • Public school districts (submit a written request to your counselor).
  • Psychologists or neuropsychologists.
  • Scottish Rite Center for Dyslexia.

Even with a private assessment, I highly recommend collaborating with the school for accommodations and modifications. Request an individualized education (IEP) or a 504 plan to outline academic supports for your child such as allowing extra time, breaking down tasks, and a multisensory or dyslexia curriculum.

>> RELATED READ :: IEPs, 504s, & How to Advocate for Your Kid’s Learning Differences <<

There are also lots of dyslexia homeschooling programs (look for an Orton-Gillingham curriculum), as well as specialized private schools in the Dallas area, like The Shelton School, Winston School, or Fairhill School.

Joining a local Facebook community like the North Texas Dyslexia Parent Support Group illuminates even more options.

Dyslexia often co-exists with other neurodevelopmental disorders, something I wish I had know sooner, as we didn’t receive our ADHD diagnosis for two more years. Don’t hesitate to investigate all possibilities. While it can be scary to lock in a “label,” we found hope in knowing our child’s strengths and challenges to better help him and his support team.

Supporting Your Child with Dyslexia

It is so important to have a supportive home environment, particularly related to homework.

  • Your child may need help reading directions.
  • You can break assignments into smaller tasks and set timers.
  • Keep praise high and remember to give your child permission to step away for a minute if you anticipate one of those “homework tantrums.”
  • Don’t shy away from assistive technologies, which can help level the playing field, like audiobooks and text-to-speech tools.

Find ways to encourage reading for pleasure. One of my biggest parenting wins is that my son still loves books despite his reading difficulties. Try audiobooks, “decodable” books, or dyslexie fonts. Our favorite “self-read” are graphic novels (the illustrations make them less overwhelming). Graphic novelist Dave Pilkey of Captain Underpants and Dog Man fame is also dyslexic and has ADHD! I also still read to my son nightly even though he is “old enough” to read by himself.

Finding materials that help your child understand how their brain works fosters self-advocacy. Here is a video for kids that is great at explaining dyslexia.

The book Tom’s Special Talent by Kate Gaynor is another favorite of mine. Tom struggles to find anything in school he is good at, then he finds his special talent.

And why not Google to find a positive role model with dyslexia who has achieved dreams like your child’s? Dyslexia is not a barrier to achieving success!

For additional support, many utilize specialized tutors. Look for the certified academic language therapist (CALT) designation or a state-approved, licensed dyslexia therapist. Speech, occupational, and behavioral therapists can also help with a multidisciplinary approach.

>> RELATED READ :: 1 in 5 Kids Have Dyslexia :: Our Story <<

Next Step

Take action if you suspect your child has dyslexia. Early detection and support at school and home will empower your brilliant child who many not fit the education mold.

Let’s raise awareness and celebrate their amazing brains! This journey can be overwhelming at times. May you have hope that with the right tools and support, your child can thrive.

Have experience with dyslexia? Share your tips and tools in the comments below!

Jennifer Pressley
Meet Jennifer, a native Texan now based in McKinney. After a varied career in fashion retail and ecommerce, she is now embarking on a new journey and in training to be a certified ADHD Life Coach for students and parents. She and her hubby of 15 years love globetrotting and have visited 21 countries together. When not shuttling her two kids to activities, catch her staying active in her home gym, binge-watching Netflix, or savoring wine nights with pals.