This is a contributed post by Coral Hoh, the creator of Dysolve – the only intelligent program for diagnosing and correcting processing problems associated with dyslexia.
As parents, we’re constantly worrying about our children—if they feel safe, seen, validated, secure. And any parent who has a child struggling academically knows first-hand how overwhelming that can be as you rack your brain trying to find answers. We all just want our children to know they are beautiful and valuable, each in their own unique way. But for children with learning challenges like dyslexia, the path to validation and acceptance can be a rocky road, which is why maybe it’s time we look at this reading and learning disorder in a whole new way.
First of all, a dyslexia diagnosis does not mean something is “wrong” with your child, so if they’re struggling in school, don’t be afraid to explore this possibility. If you’re seeing symptoms of dyslexia, a reading difficulty, consider this: one in five children has it. Moreover, two-thirds of students fail to meet reading standards when they are tested in grades 4, 8 and 12.
Here’s what you need to know.
Signs of Dyslexia
Widely known as a reading difficulty, dyslexia is in fact a language processing difficulty. That is, reading is difficult when the brain cannot process language efficiently. You may observe these linguistic struggles:
- Speaking – articulation problems, disfluent speech (this affects some people with dyslexia)
- Listening – misunderstanding or forgetting parts of instructions
- Spelling – misspelling simple, common words like the, those
- Reading – misreading words or making more and more mistakes as the student reads on
- Writing – difficulty translating ideas into sentences
Dyslexia threshold: Researchers consider students who are chronically below the 30th percentile in state or standardized reading tests to have dyslexia.
5 Tips for Parents of Teens with Dyslexia
The tips below come from my own research on how dyslexic brains work, with the goal of raising happy, confident teens who understand exactly what dyslexia is.
1. Externalize what your child’s brain cannot do internally
Inefficient language processes gobble up more than their fair share of the brain’s resources, leaving less room for other mental functions. Therefore, externalize these functions, such as idea creation for a project or an essay thesis. Some children with dyslexia have visuo-spatial strengths. Encourage them to use drawing or 3D modeling to work out their ideas first. Minimize the need to remember by posting reminders in designated spots in your home, perhaps in pictures rather than words.
2. Be smart about allotting homework time
Many of our students with dyslexia spent 2 hours or more a night on homework, even in primary grades. Middle and high schoolers may not have that much time to spend on a single assignment, or they won’t get any sleep (and neither would you). If possible at the start of the school term, work out what your child will focus on and for how long. Consider how many points are given to each test and assignment. Weigh this against what is important for academic success in the long run. For example, should your teen prioritize an essay that counts for 10% of the course grade or a test that makes up 20%? Work this out with a planner for the coming months, weeks, and days. Time management will serve your child well in life.
3. Keep the work space neat and spare
When your child sits at her desk to do school work, everything in front of her is being processed by the brain. I mean EVERYTHING. Her brain is processing the colorful stickers on her keyboard, the white stuffed unicorn stained by M&Ms, the lavender vanilla scent of the Yankee candle, etc., etc. Remove everything that is not needed for doing homework, to minimize what the various parts of the brain have to process.
4. Be alert to signs of processing overload
Reduced processing capacity often leads to processing overload, when the brain gets too overwhelmed to continue. Let your teen walk away, perhaps to a quiet corner (less to process). Do not nag them at this point. Your questions require your child to do further processing and compose a response, which they may not be able to do momentarily. Some children get recurrent headaches. Others get moody or anxious. Give their brains time to refresh.
5. Make your child their own best expert
You know your child best and are your child’s best advocate. As they grow, they need to assume more and more of this responsibility. This helps to develop their metacognitive awareness: knowing how they themselves function as learners, thinkers, problem-solvers, and creators. We all benefit from knowing our own strengths and limitations, especially when it comes to reading skills.
How to Talk About Your Teen’s Dyslexia
To prepare your teenager to self-advocate, equip her with appropriate language to talk about her learning difficulty with peers, friends, teachers, and family members. This is important for self-esteem.
Consider these terms:
√ Dyslexia is a reading difficulty – difficulties can be overcome
√ Dyslexia is caused by inefficient language processing – inefficiencies can be corrected
It is unfortunate that schools classify dyslexia as a learning disability – “disability” sounds dire and permanent. With current AI technology, the term is also inaccurate because dyslexia is now correctible.
How to Resolve Your Teen’s Dyslexia
You have several options for identifying the condition:
- Dyslexia screeners – these are brief assessments that indicate the risk of having dyslexia but do not diagnose it. Students in some states are all screened this way in early childhood.
- Neuropsychological evaluations – these are lengthy assessments by certified specialists. They involve batteries of standardized tests and cost several thousand dollars if done privately. Schools often have long waiting lists for these evaluations. Based on the test scores, the reading specialist may conclude that the child likely has dyslexia.
- AI-powered evaluations – these are one-on-one assessments developed and delivered by artificial intelligence (AI). Game-based Dysolve AI is the only one with this capacity presently. Besides a dyslexia diagnosis, the AI identifies the specific language processes causing the reading difficulty for each child. An AI evaluation thus serves as a blueprint for the interventions to follow.
Next, you have these options for addressing the condition:
- Compensatory methods – these include tutors, reading/dyslexia specialists, special schools, online/on-ground reading programs. They may cover phonics, spelling, and other aspects of the science of reading through additional, more intensive ways. Compensatory methods help students cope with their dyslexia, but the difficulty remains. Do not use pricing to gauge outcome. Even clinics run by university professors who are reading experts fail to get struggling middle schoolers to read on grade level.
- Corrective methods – these are online/on-ground programs that aim to correct dyslexia. Research shows that no compensatory or corrective method has succeeded in getting failing readers in grade 3 and higher to read on grade level.
- AI-powered interventions – these are one-on-one interventions based on the AI evaluations mentioned above. Because AI can identify the specific brain processes causing each child’s dyslexia, it can therefore correct the reading difficulty. Since 2017, failing readers in middle and high school have been able to read on grade level following AI interventions.
Language processing difficulties, the root of dyslexia, can result in multiple challenges for the child and family. Fortunately, your child lives in an era when AI technology can correct brain conditions. Should you take this new path, know that you are not alone: other students who turned to AI in middle and high school are now thriving in college. Their AI interventions took about 1-2 years. During that time, their families helped to lay the foundation for them to develop into well-rounded, competent individuals with a good work ethic and habits. After putting the struggles of dyslexia behind them, many of these young adults are leading happy, fulfilling lives as scholars and advocates for others.
For additional resources on helping teens with dyslexia, we recommend Dyslexia Dissolved: Successful Cases with Learning Disabilities, ADHD and Language Disorders by Coral P.S. Hoh, PhD and Evan Y. Haruta.
Parenting teens and tweens is a challenging job, but you’re not alone. Here are some other posts parents have found helpful:
*This post may contain affiliate links where we earn a small commission for purchases made from our site.