How to help your dyslexic child build self-esteem

A guide to helping your dyslexic child boost their levels of self-esteem.

As a parent of a dyslexic child, coming to terms with and gaining a full understanding of the condition is crucial in order to successfully support your child’s development – both socially and academically.

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that primarily affects the way in which an individual reads and spells words. The degree of dyslexia can vary from mild to severe. However, the condition only affects some abilities and skills, and is not related to a person’s general level of intelligence.

According to the NHS, one in every ten people in the UK have dyslexia to some degree, with symptoms including particular difficulty with verbal memory and processing speed, phonological awareness, and rapid serial naming.

When you enrol your youngster in school, be it a mainstream or special institution, you may begin to notice differences in their behaviour, mood and attitude. If your child attends an inclusive school, it’s likely they will start to become more aware of their typically-developing peers, which will make their dyslexia appear more apparent.

As a result, they may start to feel self-conscious, which will create a knock-on effect on their levels of self-esteem. Because you can’t accompany your child in the classroom or playground, it is your role as a parent to look out for any unusual behaviour at home. For example, your child might become less talkative, seem unhappy or be less willing to partake in activities that they previously enjoyed.

You may consider taking your offspring to see a therapist and although that could be the best option, there are a number of ways in which you too can contribute towards improving their levels of self-esteem.

Why not follow some of these tips?

Firstly, make sure you have a solid relationship with your child’s teachers and other members of staff who they interact with. It may not always be obvious at home if your youngster is struggling socially, but speaking to their school may bring any issues to light.

For example, your child’s teacher could inform you that they are shying away from group discussions or have a tendency to sit alone in the playground or dining room. Having an awareness of this will set you off on the right foot to take appropriate intervention.

It may also be a good idea to speak to other parents of children in your child’s class and organise a play-date. Knowing how to initiate and maintain relationships with peers is crucial in child development, with or without a learning difficulty. Regular play-dates or enrolling your youngster in an after-school club will help them to gain confidence, which in turn will boost their self-esteem.

Give your child a chance to contribute to family discussions, chores or planning an activity. With this given sense of responsibility, it’s likely they won’t want to disappoint you and so will strive to carry out any task to the best of their ability. It is your role to acknowledge what they have achieved – no matter how big or small – and provide praise.

But a child’s ego isn’t only affected socially – academic skills can play a part too.

Some dyslexics have a short attention span, which can cause them to fall behind in particular subjects in school. Having difficulty with homework could create frustration and feelings of failure, which can be harmful to a child’s ego.

When your young one receives homework, take some time to sit and work through it with them. If they struggle to read or spell a word, explain it and provide positive reinforcement when they get something right. This will contribute towards increasing their self-esteem and will give them the encouragement to work independently or a willingness to approach more challenging tasks.

Using assistive technologies that are specially designed for children with dyslexia can prove useful as an additional support tool. These work to boost a child’s academic skills in a range of subjects, including maths and English.

A child’s self-esteem will be a strong determiner of their success and happiness throughout life, with children with dyslexia more vulnerable than those without the condition. Creating an effective and meaningful support system together with other family members, teachers, friends and caregivers, will contribute to your child’s long-term wellbeing.

(Credit image: Thinkstock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd)

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