Teaching My Baby To Read

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What to do if you suspect your child has dyslexia

All children learn at different rates and the developmental range of what “normal” looks like is huge. But what should you do if your child is struggling with learning to read despite everyone’s best efforts?

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#1 Learn the signs

Up to one in five people have dyslexia, so it is important to know the signs. Here are two great resources to find out more information:

Red Flags for Dysleixa Quiz

Dyslexia Symptoms

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#2 Check your child’s eyesight

Go to the actual eye doctor, not just the pediatrician. Really investigate your child’s vision. When I was a K-4 teacher I knew of a child who struggled learning to read who turned out to be blind in one eye.

 

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#3 Seek out professional assessment for dyslexia

If parental intuition tells you that your child might indeed have dyslexia, research your child’s rights to receive assessment through your local school district. However, understand that the IEP process is long and involved. If your child is performing close to grade level–even though they exhibit a multitude of dyslexia symptoms–the school district might not feel assessment is warranted. In that case, you might consider having your child privately assessed. Decoding Dyslexia will have more information about practitioners in your state who can assess your child. Expect to pay anywhere from $2,00-$5,000 for private assessment.

Nessy

#4 Start immediate at-home intervention, just in case

On my blog, Teaching My Baby to Read, I talk a lot about “Afterschooling.”

Afterschooling is when parents introduce a core academic pursuit that is in support of, or in addition to, what their child is already learning in school, and when the parents organize this instruction in a meaningful way.

You might feel ill-equipped to Afterschool for dyslexia, but the truth is that parents can help their child make tremendous progress with time, encouragement, and patience. I have a whole list of multisensory activities that teach reading right here, but they are not specifically designed for children with dyslexia. I think a better approach would be to sign your child up for a Nessy.com subscription, which only costs $10 a month.

Nessy is a reading program from England specifically designed for kids with dyslexia. It’s a phonics-based approach full of fun games and videos. If it turns out that your child does not have dyslexia after all, Nessy still would have been beneficial. Think of it like “reading insurance.”

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#5 Read. Read. Read!

Read to your child every day, no matter what. Make books fun. Make they enjoyable! Convey to your child a true love of literature. Be clear that “ear reading” is every bit as acceptable as traditional reading.

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#6 Stay positive.

Finding out more information about your child does not change how smart they are, how much you love them, or forecast anything about their future. Information is only that: information. When you find out more details about how your child’s brain works, you’ll be able to better help your son or daughter learn to read.

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

A hands-on lesson

My cast is off! Now I get this nifty brace.

Have you heard of Sensory Processing Disorder? It’s when the brain has difficulty receiving and responding to sensory input. (See a checklist here.)

Nobody in my family has SPD, but I did have a student with the condition. His mother had me read The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz, which really helped me become a better teacher.

I’ve been thinking about SPD a lot because yesterday my cast came off. Now I have two arms feeling two different things.

Just touching the skin on my left arm hurts.

A gentle breeze is extremely uncomfortable.

Lukewarm water feels hot.

I know that physical therapy will help with all of this. In the meantime, I’m getting a hands-on empathy lesson about SPD.

I only have one arm out of sync. I can’t imagine what it would be like living with your whole body feeling that way–or parenting a child who was dealing with that experience on a permanent basis.

Thankfully, there are resources available to help. Children with SPD usually qualify for Occupational Therapy through their local school districts starting at age three through IEPs.

Inside the reading nest.

Inside a reading nest.

In the classroom, teachers can help kids with SPD by:

At home, parents can share the Beyond Play catalogue with grandparents. It will have lots of good ideas for Christmas and birthday presents. (I sound like I work for the company but I don’t.)

A glitter wand

A glitter wand

One final note. Children who are gifted can also sometimes have sensory issues, but usually not extreme enough to qualify for an official diagnosis of SPD. If this sounds like your child, click here for more information

 

When Something is Wrong

What do you do as a parent if you suspect there is something wrong with your child’s learning? If your son is three-years-old and not speaking? If it is the end of Kindergarten and your daughter still doesn’t know her letters? If it is the end of second grade, and your child is still struggling to sound out simple words?

Many parents do not know about the myriad of laws that govern seeking out, assessing, and administering services to children who need special help. Luckily, there are lots of websites and parent organizations that can help you out. Here’s one of my favorites: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

In simplest terms, if a child would potentially qualify for special education services before the age of three, then your pediatrician would refer you to the county in which you lived. County services could include everything from speech therapy, to an early intervention preschool. Once a child turns three, then the school district takes over from the county.

Younger than Three = Go through the county.  Three or older = Go through your school district.

At three years of age, a child who needs special education services would qualify for an Individual Education Plan with his or her school district.  An IEP is a legal governing document specifying accommodations and learning goals for the course of one year. An IEP is decided upon at a meeting with parents, teachers, school district personnel, and in some cases, the student. (For more information on the IEP process, please see here.)  Even if your child is homeschooled or goes to private school, they could still qualify for an IEP if they met the criteria for special education.

If your child is already in grade school when you notice something amiss, your first course of action would be to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher. Next you might have a conference with the classroom teacher, the school principal, or perhaps a counselor.

These meetings might lead to a recommendation for formal assessment to be administered, which would require your written consent. There is a way to bypass this entire process by writing a letter to the Special Education office in your district requesting immediate assessment. However these learning assessments are costly, time consuming, and can be stressful for children, so it is always best to go through your classroom teacher first.

In addition to pursuing help through the school system, you would also want to bring your concerns to your child’s pediatrician, in case there were services your health insurance could provide.   There are also private agencies that can help your child such as the Shiloh School of Language Development in Edmonds, or Lindamood Bell Learning Center in Seattle.

Phew!  Just writing about all of that stresses me out a bit, even though I’m just talking about hypothetical situations.  Parenting a child with learning disabilities can be a rough road.  But it is important to remember that there is help available.  So take a deep breath, square your shoulders, start a file folder to document everything, and plan for success!