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How to Help your Dyslexic Child and Have Fun: Advice for Parents and Helpers, Check List and Practical Suggestions

Want to help your child at home but not sure how?

It's worrying when your child is not progressing with literacy at school. There may be signs of trailing behind the rest of the class, of becoming upset because reading or writing is difficult, even of exhibiting uncharacteristic bad behaviour. Any child who has these difficulties is likely to react one way or another if no helpful intervention or support is provided.

There are specialist schools for dyslexics, like Shapwick School where I taught for many years, but I want to concentrate here on helping those who are in mainstream. Many schools provide individual support and have brilliant literacy schemes with well-trained teachers to deliver them. However, some do not and there are still many dyslexics who go un-noticed, un-diagnosed or, perhaps worst of all, are labelled as lazy, slow or naughty. A well-structured, multi-sensory literacy system can help a child make significant progress in reading and writing whether that child is dyslexic or not. Teacher training has to be responsible for making sure that all teachers are able at least to recognise the signs of specific learning difficulties and are able to deliver a good reading scheme.

So, whether or not school is providing well, how can you help at home?


Colourful wooden, orientated letters

Colourful wooden, orientated letters

Make the alphabet fun with the magnetic letters

Make the alphabet fun with the magnetic letters

General Advice

  • Don't pass on your anxieties! It is important to make sure leisure time does not suffer because of worries over school performance.
  • Have fun, allow time to pursue preferred activities (sports, craft, music).
  • Celebrate your child's strengths and give rewards for success.
  • Extra literacy support at home should be fun, with its own system of reward for achievement - stickers, points earned to put towards an activity choice. Reward should be given for effort, not just for progress.
  • When reading presents problems a huge amount of energy is used on concentration - it might be necessary to start working for 10 minutes and build this up gradually over a few weeks. Small successes build up confidence to attempt more challenging work and to gradually increase the length of each session.
  • Set up the work environment so that it is special, comfortable and involves the child in the decision-making (e.g. choice of chair or desk light, choice of special writing book, pens, pencils, crayons, highlighters etc.).
  • Set aside regular times with no interruptions; make study time minimal during holidays and never at weekends - every family needs their shared leisure time for all.

A commonly held misconception is that dyslexia only affects reading/spelling ability; far from it! Along with those difficulties, the dyslexic can experience problems with short-term memory, processing, organisation, following instructions and the associated consequences. Dyslexia seldom comes alone; the most common co-occurrences are dyspraxia (motor-coordination difficulties) and speech and language difficulties.

Your child may have one or more of these problems, or you may just want to help improve his or her reading. If you use a structured approach which encompasses the use of all the senses (sight, hearing, touch and, where possible, taste & smell), it is fun and memorable for any child. A kinaesthetic (movement, eg tracing, writing) element is also very beneficial.

Start simply and gradually build on success.

Example of cards

Two-sided card

Two-sided card


Example - the sh pattern:

  • Make some cards, each with the letters 'sh' on one side and a simple word on the other; shop, ship, shut, shed, shot. A picture clue can be added to begin with and withdrawn later.
  • The 'sh' (on both sides) should stand out - colour them in, say, green and leave the other letters black.
  • Practise the sound made by the 'sh' digraph (2 letters=1 sound) - the child looks at the 2 letters on the card & repeats the sound several times. Put your finger to your lips as you do for 'shhh' to ask for quiet; the child should do this too; the action supports the sound - the visual, the action and the sound are working together to help the memory.
  • Turn over the card and look at the word - ask, 'Can you see the two letters at the beginning of the word? What sound do those two letters make? Do you know what that word says?' If the word is not known, say the word, encourage the child to repeat it, and deliver lots of praise. Any effort should be praised, even if the word is not read correctly or if the sound is not quite right.
  • Turn back to the 'sh' side and repeat the process. Then, when ready, ask the child to choose a different card and go through the same process with that one.
  • After some practice, use the cards as a game - ask the child to 'find' a word as quickly as possible - how quickly can s/he find all the words - can that time be beaten? Give a reward for the fastest time - and another if that time is beaten. (A reward can be in the form of stickers, points towards a prize, a sweetie (but not too often!), or building up steps towards a pre-agreed goal of some sort.)
  • The words can then be written down - can the child remember the spelling? (Rewards!) A further step would be to put them into sentences (more rewards!), verbally first, then written.

Once this has been mastered, go on to do the same routine with 'ch' words; chop, chip, chin, chat, chap. When, and only when, they have been mastered, you can recap the 'sh' words, and finally compare the two and make a game out of all of them in the same way as above. It is important to make sure each step of learning is 'secure' before going on to another; it is also important to recap each step now and then (go back to a previous pattern but practise it in a fresh way).

'Pairs' (pelmanism) and other Games

Another game is 'pairs'; make 2 sets of the words, place them (words down) on the table, take turns to turn over 2; if they match, keep the pair and continue until all the pairs have been matched - the winner is the one with the most pairs. The cards have to remain in the same position until matched. This game also improves memory (where the word was seen) and spatial awareness.

A company called 'GAMZ' ( makes sets of SWAP and FIX games which are great fun for practising patterns in words; they are structured and come in order of difficulty. The games can be played by 2-4 players, so are a good family activity, as is any game you make yourself.

I have more articles with suggestions for teaching other patterns for reading/spelling, to be published soon. If you need help with a specific pattern - ask!

Choice of spellings for the sound 'or': or, saw, August, moor, your...

Choice of spellings for the sound 'or': or, saw, August, moor, your...

More of the 'SWAP' games; there are many sets on offer, to suit progressive abilities

More of the 'SWAP' games; there are many sets on offer, to suit progressive abilities

Checklist for Dyslexia in Children

This checklist is a list of general indicators of dyslexia taken from signs reported by dyslexic individuals. It is not a screening activity or an assessment but a checklist to focus your understanding. The idea is to see if you may need to further investigate whether your child has dyslexia.

Scroll to Continue

Ages 7-11

If the answer to most of the following questions is 'Yes' it would be wise to seek advice:

  • Is s/he bright in some ways with a 'block' in others?
  • Is there anyone else in the family with similar difficulties?
  • Does s/he have difficulty carrying out three instructions in sequence?
  • Was s/he late in learning to talk, or with speaking clearly?
  • Does s/he have particular difficulty with reading or spelling?
  • Does s/he read a word then fail to recognise it further down the page?
  • Does s/he put figures or letters the wrong way round e.g. 15 for 51, 6 for 9, b for d, was for saw?
  • Does s/he spell a word several different ways without recognising the correct version?
  • Does s/he have a poor concentration span for reading and writing?
  • Does s/he have difficulty understanding time and tense?
  • Does s/he confuse left and right?
  • Does s/he answer questions orally but have difficulty writing the answer?
  • Is s/he unusually clumsy?
  • Does s/he have trouble with sounds in words, e.g. poor sense of rhyme?


Your Involvement in Dyslexia

  • GAMZ - Learning Thro' Fun!

    Manufactures and distributes a range of fun products for dyslexics. Including jigsaws, puzzles and card games.

  • Barrington Stoke - Publishing fantastic books for dyslexic and struggling readers

    Publishing fantastic books for dyslexic and struggling readers

    I have used many resources from the above suppliers and find them excellent value as well as of great interest to the students. The games are fun and the stories are engaging because they are aimed at specific reading ages at the same time as appealing to chronological age interests.

© 2011 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 12, 2017:

Margaridab: My apologies as I seem to have missed your comment. Thank you for taking the time to read.

It was thought that dyslexia occurred more often in boys than girls but these days they seem to think not. Reasons that some girls are missed are that they don't make so much fuss, don't misbehave so much and seem to cope better or are less likely to complain! I know many girls and women who are dyslexic in varying degrees; it is accepted to be genetic so can be passed to any offspring.

Many thanks for your input.


Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on September 27, 2016:

I was very interested in your article because I have a few dyslexic in my family. And l find it curious that they are all men.. no women.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 22, 2015:

Mary: Apologies to you too. How could I miss two comments?!

Thank you for your valued input and votes.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 22, 2015:

Patricia: Huge apologies; I have only just found this comment when going through these annoying 'editbots' - they have one advantage then, after all!

Thanks for adding your personal input; I glad your daughter enjoyed her reading in the end. So much for the guidance counsellor; glad she was fired!

I appreciate the votes too.


Mary Craig from New York on March 19, 2015:

So many children are never diagnosed with dyslexia and suffer silently as a result. This hub is a good warning of what to look for. I'm sure it will be a great help for many.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 19, 2015:

Very good suggestions. My girl was not diagnosed with dyslexia till she was about halfway through high school, by me. She had managed to overcompensate enough that she did well until that point. and then she complained of reading difficulty which she had never mentioned before.

Knowing what I knew about reading we came up with ways for her to enjoy reading and she read more than ever...books were a favorite gift.

She had been told by a guidance counselor she would never amount to anything because she was struggling prior to discovering her dyslexia. FYI, she was fired as my child was not the only one she said that to.

Anyway thanks for sharing will no doubt be of value to many others.

Voted up++++ and shared

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 15, 2013:

Apologies Chris-Patton, I didn't have notification of your comment and only just noticed it. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. I'm glad you found it useful.

Chris-Patton on February 10, 2013:

I am a teacher in South Korea, and this is a great article to be aware of. Let's follow each other ;-)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 21, 2012:

Thank you KoffeeKlatch Gals. I hope you manage to get some testing for the child. If you need any suggestions for tests you can do yourself, please let me know, but it's basically the discrepancy between general IQ/expectation and literacy which is the pointer, as well as any problems with memory and organisation. Thanks for the votes; much appreciated.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on March 20, 2012:

I havde a child in my class that I suspect is dyslexic. It is hard to get the testing approved. Wonderful advicve and tips. Up and awesome.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 28, 2012:

Thank you so much - I haven't heard of Stumble! Still lots to learn obviously. I, too, hope those who need it will find it - lots more in parts 2&3. Thanks for your support Sinea.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on January 27, 2012:

Annart, I just had to revisit this hub. It is so helpful for those who need it that I decided to Stumble it as well. Hopefully those who use Stumbleupon who need it, will find it!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 06, 2012:

Thank you, Sinea Pies, for your lovely comment on my first hub, as well as your answer to my question. You sound a very sympathetic and helpful person. You also spurred me on to Part 2 of that hub subject so I now feel more inspired. Thank you very much.

Thanks, too, akamal1. I try to give info and practical suggestions at the same time, that way it doesn't get too heavy!

akamai1 on January 05, 2012:

Excellent article! I appreciate the fact that you incorporated both information for screening, and for parents to work with their children.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on January 01, 2012:

Very well written, informative hub! Time to write more, annart. We need your wealth of knowledge. Voted up and useful.

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