Dyslexia at home


Dyslexia impacts the whole family, and parents and siblings need to be equally on board in fostering a culture of acceptance and encouraging strengths. Dyslexic children should not be wrapped in cotton wool. But they should be given both practical and emotional support. They need security and encouragement so that they feel ok about thinking differently, and able to take risks in learning and sharing their unique creativity.

The ultimate achievement for parents is in creating an environment that allows the dyslexic child to either go beyond any difficulties that arise, or feel comfortable in advocating for themselves and asking for help that allows them to reach their potential. Obviously, much of this must take place in the classroom, but there are still some very important ways in which parents can help their child at home.

This webspace provides a range of information to help you get started. It is based on a ‘notice and adjust’ approach, which simply means noticing where there are issues and adjusting your approach accordingly.There are practical resources you can download here.

Three key areas for this are:

> Improving self-esteem

Dyslexia’s greatest difficulty is self-esteem. Dyslexic children often believe that there is something wrong with them – that they are stupid or dumb – and they often try to hide their difficulties. A supportive home environment is crucial in developing your child’s self-esteem. Once self-esteem is raised, a child’s natural motivation and love of learning has the opportunity of emerging.

Make sure your child understands that it is ok to be dyslexic. Discuss their difficulties openly at home and reinforce the positives of being dyslexic; your child may have certain creative strengths or be full of ideas – focus on these. When dyslexia is understood as a potential creative gift, this gives hope and the ability to move forward.

Remind your child of the many successful dyslexics, including actors Tom Cruise and Keira Knightley, entrepreneur Richard Branson, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and New Zealand’s very own Academy Award winner Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop. Check out our Inspiring New Zealanders page which has some very personal and moving stories on dealing with dyslexia and forging ahead to success.

Try to foster a family culture which celebrates difference – it is important that the whole family is on board with this. Identify the positives and strengths of each family member and discuss as a family why difference is important.

> Fostering a learning environment

At home it is important to keep learning uppermost in your child’s mind. Play games, make rhymes, read together, do action songs, play riddle games or “I spy” and ask for explanations and clarifications – asking a child to explain an idea is a good way to develop understanding and learning.

Dyslexic children thrive on multi-sensory learning. Try and include as many multi-sensory activities as possible – use plastic letters to make words, draw pictures to aid understanding, sing and memorise songs.

Visit the Ministry of Education’s Team-Up website for more activity ideas.

There is an international parents’ forum – the Dyslexia Parents Resource – which also has a range of ideas and suggestions for supporting children with dyslexia from other parents.

Finally, ensure that you praise your child for effort and achievement in learning. Praise should be task specific, for example, “I really like the way you have set out your page” rather than a generic “well done”.

> Practical homework tips

Homework can be a frustrating and stressful experience for both dyslexic children and their parents. Often contributing to this is the child’s fear of failure as well as the parent’s lack of confidence in knowing how to help.

To help develop your own confidence in assisting your child with their homework, we have compiled a list of practical homework tips. Remember that each child has specific learning preferences and it is important to develop homework strategies in collaboration with them, making the best use of their strengths and preferences. And remember to give your child lots of praise when they get things right!

As well as the tips shared below, why not also check out the ‘notice and adjust’ classroom recommendations from our international dyslexia expert Neil Mackay. These commonsense and practical suggestions will give you a good understanding of what would be good to see happening at your child’s school, and may also inspire you as to further adjustments you can make at home.


1.    Supporting the tired reader
Before your child begins a reading task you can increase their comfort by:

  • Being aware of lighting or glare on the page

  • Photocopying material on pastel shades of paper or putting materials into coloured transparent wallets – ask your child for their preference in colour

  • Supplying a reading guide or ruler

2.   Establishing context
To help your child better understand the purpose of a reading task and gain confidence in deciphering unfamiliar words, follow the TCPQR steps:

  • Title – what does the title tell us about this text?

  • Captions and Pictures – is there anything in bold / eye catching about the text? Are there any pictures? What do these tell us about the text?

  • Questions – what are the questions you needed to answer? How many of these can be answered without reading the text?

  • Reading – skim read the text to find missing detail

3.  Paired Reading
Paired reading is an effective tool to help your child understand text and to encourage reading for purpose and pleasure. The basic principles of paired reading are:

  • The child chooses what to read – be prepared to accept magazines, comic books etc. 

  • Child and parent read out loud at the same time – the parent may track the words with finger or marker

  • The parent reads over any unknown words and slows down to allow the child to catch up (do not stop or comment)

  • No teaching, criticism, or practicing difficult words are appropriate during this activity

4. ‘Cloze’ Reading
Parent reads a piece of text leaving out key words, ie. every 10th word or important words. Child fills in the missing words out loud. This is particularly effective when re-reading a piece.

Below are a number of strategies to assist your child with spelling.

  • Ask your child to have a go and help them when they get stuck

  • Ask your child to clap/tap out the syllables in the word

  • Suggest words that rhyme

  • Look for words within words i.e. for “department” start with “art” and build up

  • Look for the root word and its prefix/suffix e.g. “un-tidy-ness”

  • Have your child use magnetic or plastic letters to make the word, saying the letter names as the word goes together; break the word into syllables; jumble letters; make the word again; cover, write and check.

  • DO NOT ask your child to look the word up in the dictionary. If your child thinks “giraffe” begins with a ‘j’, a dictionary will not help. Instead, use a Franklin phonetic spell checker that will bridge your child from phonetic to correct spelling.


Children with dyslexia often find writing tasks very difficult to start. Before a writing task, work through the following process with your child.

  • What have I got to do? Have your child explain the question/title to you in their own words and how it fits in with current work/knowledge

  • What do I know? Brainstorm with your child – child shouts out ideas and parent writes each idea on paper strips or post-it notes. Discuss each point.

  • How can I organize it? Help your child number the list in order of use; colour code for paragraph content; reorder as necessary.

  • Begin writing. Parents offer the first sentence of a paragraph. Some effective starter words are “First”, “Next”, “Then”, “Finally” and “After that”.

Simple tips to aid understanding
Due to difficulties with short-term memory, some dyslexic thinkers take longer to process information and formulate responses. Here are some simple tips to aid your child’s understanding and clarity of response.

  • Chunking. When you have a lot of information or instructions to give your child, break it down into shorter, logical ‘chunks’ of information, pausing after each to make sure your child has understood before moving on to the next ‘chunk’.

  • Re-ordering. When giving instructions say things in the order your want them to be done. Instead of saying “Before you go outside, finish your homework” say, 'Finish your homework, then you can go outside'.

  • Wait for a response. On average adults pause for just one second when they have asked a question before asking another. Wait for an additional few seconds after asking a question to give your child more time to understand the question and prepare an answer.

  • Avoid idioms, sarcasm and double meanings. Be aware of inferential language use – use literal language as much as possible.

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