How to Help Your Learner With Dyslexia


By Susan McLester

When adults better understand the challenge, learners reap huge benefits.

Although dyslexia remains the most common learning disability, with some studies reporting up to 20 percent of school-age children challenged by it, there is still a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding of dyslexia.

Studies also tell us that when parents and educators in all district roles are informed about dyslexia, the odds of student achievement grow dramatically.

Unfortunately, frustration has often been a “front and center” response by adults on  how to help students with dyslexia. Parents often spend money they can’t afford on tutoring and private schooling in a desperate effort to help their children succeed. In addition, educators may not even recognize the signs of dyslexia and might believe a student is slow, or just unwilling to work.

Understanding what dyslexia is all about helps adults know what they can do to support and encourage learners. For instance, multimedia instruction that does not rely solely on reading printed text but also includes audio and visual elements can greatly assist students in comprehending and enjoying material.

As the parent of a child with dyslexia , I became aware of the  importance  of multi-media instruction when my daughter was in her early elementary years. She struggled to read, but seemed to have a fairly detailed knowledge of a surprisingly broad range of concepts. When I would ask her where she learned the information, she’d say it was from nature shows on television. I knew she wasn’t slow. I just didn’t understand what was holding her back, as the school had not diagnosed her with dyslexia. Like other parents, I had to have her privately evaluated. . I just wish I had known more about the learning disability then, and that widespread screening for dyslexia had been prevalent in public schools.

Another essential aspect of a parent or teacher’s understanding of the challenge is the ability to boost a child’s self-confidence and to help that learner to overcome the “baked in” discouragement that years of academic failure with a traditional curriculum can engender. When a child is understood, is presented with pathways to achievement, and starts to experience success, they begin believing in themselves. I am witness to that, as well.

Understanding Dyslexia

Recognizing the need for a broader understanding of dyslexia, the online literacy solution MindPlay, created a three-hour course, Understanding Dyslexia. The online course, which is self-paced and designed to fit into the busy schedules of adults, was developed by reading instruction experts and qualifies for three hours of professional development credit.

The purpose of the course is to help educators, psychologists, speech or language therapists, administrators, parents and others obtain a solid grasp of the following:

• the definition and characteristics of dyslexia, which is neurologically based;

• common myths about dyslexia, including insights into the reading brain;

• major assessment components in identifying dyslexia;

• effective interventions and instruction

The course also includes questions and activities that provide a deeper understanding of how to support, encourage and enhance learning for students with dyslexia.

When viewed in the context of the many hours students spend in school over their PK-12 years, devoting three hours to a better understanding of this learning challenge seems like a very reasonable time commitment to what might ultimately change the trajectory of an individual’s life.


Susan McLester is a consultant for the MindPlay online literacy solution, an education journalist and former educator.