Imagine you are a child about to ride a bicycle, with a group of other children led by a teacher. You are anxious because you kept a big secret from the teacher and your friends.
You don’t know how to ride a bike yet. You’ve tried, but you just can’t get the hang of it.
The ride starts. Everyone takes off. You try to pedal the bike, but are quickly left behind. Well-meaning adults come over to help, but their efforts are futile. You are left in the dust.
At this point in my career I have worked with a large number of children who feel this way in school. They struggle in key areas of development, especially reading, spelling, and writing, while their peers seem to move forward effortlessly.
Falling behind in these basic skill areas can have a devastating impact on both the child and the family. This causes a bottleneck in all other academic areas, which includes mathematics, with its emphasis on word problems.
This bottleneck effect becomes particularly apparent around third grade, when reading becomes more complex and dense. Many of the words at the third grade level are larger, multisyllabic, and uncommon.
Both teachers and parents rightfully want to encourage a love of reading in children. But the truth is that no one, young or old, wants to do an activity in which they feel inadequate, and this causes resistance. But if you can help your struggling child develop specific skills and gain confidence, they may overcome their resistance and discouragement.
Most parents of the children of these children are naturally eager for the school to address their child’s issues.
While some children may be classified with a learning disability and given appropriate remediation, many children never receive support from the school, despite their difficulties. The children’s issues are not deemed severe enough to warrant classification.
Parents will ask: “What can I do at home to help my struggling child?” This is a fair question. No one will have your child’s interests at heart like you do, and no one will feel as motivated to do the vital extra work to help them.
Too often, parents are given limited and overly simplistic advice, such as, “Just read to your child,” as the only major option. While reading to your child is wonderful, exposing them to stories and ideas and enables you to bond with the child, this activity does little to foster the fundamental skills in decoding or reading fluency.
The good news, and the premise of the blog posts that follow, is that there are specific activities you can do to help your child improve their skills in areas of concern.
Stay tuned in future weeks.
(Excerpt from “Helping Your Dyslexic Child & Struggling Reader at Home,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. w/ Lorna Wooldridge, M.A.)
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