Dyslexia and the Middle-Schooler

by Betsy Van Dorn

This article offers tips for parents of middle-schoolers with dyslexia.

By the time middle school rolls around, most dyslexic students understand they're different from the rest of the pack. Many become anxious or defensive and their self-esteem can plummet. Now's the time for parents to provide those extra hugs and words of praise for things well done -- children are always more successful when they feel competent and beloved.

  • "Where's my bookbag!" "I missed the bus!" If this sounds like your middle-schooler, you can help him get his act together. Put a chalkboard in his room with a detailed checklist to help him get out the door, on time, with all his stuff. Some kids need a routine spelled out for them, step by step.

  • Organization and follow-through are even more important in middle-school academics. You can show your child how to break down a homework assignment into manageable bites, completing one piece before tackling another. If she has trouble concentrating for long stretches, get her in the habit of taking a mini-recess every so often. Twelve-year-old Marla runs outside and shoots a few baskets "to clear my head."

  • Kids with dyslexia often do poorly on written tests and are prone to anxiety and gloom as the awful day approaches. To help ease those jitters, one father gives his son five or ten-minute practice tests at home. "We circle the mistakes and then go back to the book to find out what Jed missed. He's great at verbalizing, so he usually explains the answers to me without any problem. It's a good way to build confidence."

  • Does your child still mix up left and right? Lisa's mother uses their shared time in the car to help her daughter: "Hmm, is the drugstore on the left or the right side of the street?" "Which way do we turn for the movie theater?" Later on when Lisa's learning to drive, she'll be ahead of the game.

  • "One of the biggest problems for the dyslexic" says one expert, "is that he may never have the opportunity to discover his strengths because his mistakes get in the way." Try to brighten the picture by talking (and laughing) about your own mistakes, explaining what you learned from them, and reminding your child of all the wonderful accomplishments he's achieved so far.
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