Home » Dyslexia » What do I do if my child is struggling with reading?

What do I do if my child is struggling with reading?

Hope you win the lottery.  Seriously.

First, I’m so sorry.  It’s painful.  It’s difficult to have your child’s independent reading sheet look like this.

blank reading sheet

You begin to wonder what you did wrong and what more you should have done.  Listening to others talk about how their kindergartener is reading and equating that to intelligence or fantastic parenting or how often they brought their child to the library can be heart wrenching , especially when you thought your child was kinda smart, you were and OK parent and you have enough library fines to prove you do in fact visit libraries.  You wonder what is wrong with your child that should be on the road to reading, but for some reason is just not getting it.  The child that you thought was so normal in preschool is suddenly struggling and you feel like you are in the middle of an incredibly slow moving train wreck.

As the parent of this child, you need to find some resources and educate yourself about what dyslexia is and what it isn’t.

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as:

It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do non-dyslexics.

Many people who are dyslexic are of average to above average intelligence.

A great book is Overcoming Dyslexia.  But beware, if you are like me you can read a book on ANY SUBJECT and start diagnosing yourself, your children and especially…your spouse.  A related website is the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.  There is a lot of great information here about interventions and advocacy.

Your first resource should be your child’s teacher.  If you have a good relationship with him/her and you trust them, be very honest and share your worries, observations and fears.  Everyone learns to read at different times.  If you child is behind, but making progress, its possible they are just a late bloomer.  But, if interventions have already been tried, no progress is being made, and there are no other reasons why reading should be struggle then its time to look for help.

Another good resource is your pediatrician.  These people see a WIDE range of children and many times have a good feel for when to worry and when not to worry.  Many times doctors have a good educational psychologist they can recommend if this is the direction you should go.

If you live in the Twin Cities, I suggest people contact Groves Academy.  It’s very expensive, but you can trust they are going to do a very thorough job assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your child and helping you come up with a plan.  I believe that going to an educational psychologist is very important for learning disabilities.  Sometimes a neuropsychologist or something who works more in a hospital setting doesn’t have the educational background and they give a different battery of tests and someone with an education background.  #2 was tested twice within months of each other with VERY different results.  The difference came with the educational psychologist giving him a phonemic awareness test, whereas the neuropsychologist left that out.  Without a test on phonemic awareness there is no way to diagnose dyslexia, since this is one of the telltale signs.  Sadly, if you rely on the school district, many times the help your child needs can take months or even years.  Of course, you will still need to go through the school district to get direct help from them, but if you already have an assessment in your hands from an outside source, many times teachers will use this information for accomadations, interventions and to move a 504 or IEP forward.

While all this is going on, continue reading out loud to your child and/or have them listen to books.  There are many ways to read, and reading with your eyes is just one way to enjoy books.  Listening is another great way.  The important thing is that your child views books as something enjoyable and something “for them.”

Another word of advice, find support, especially from other parents who understand the pain of having a child that struggles in school.  Having a child that struggles can be very isolating.  It’s really easy to feel judged, because, let’s be honest, there is a lot of stigma that goes along with having a child that is struggling in school.  If you can’t find someone near you, keep checking back with this blog!  One of my goals about being so open with my journey is to help other parents know they are not alone.

Last word of advice….go for a run.



4 thoughts on “What do I do if my child is struggling with reading?

  1. This is really good information about the difference between neuropsych and psycho- educational evals. We just did a neuropsych eval at the U of M clinic (awesomely covered by insurance!) and I was surprised to find in our report that despite my 9 yr. old’s history of psycho-educationally-diagnosed dyslexia, they only did a Woodcock-Johnson achievement test for reading and math. No phonemic awareness, no Oral Gray Reading Test, no nothin’. It was mostly emotional-behaviorally oriented. They did a good job with that stuff.

    They also concluded that she “no longer has dyslexia because she is reading above grade level, probably due to all the reading tutoring she’s done”. I thought dylexia didn’t go away. I thought: “I’m not sure these guys really know what they’re talking about, dyslexia-wise”. From my understanding, dyslexia shows up in remediated kids and adults as slow-paced reading, struggling with writing and spelling, etc. But it’s not gone.

    I thought they would be much more ‘complete’ in their assessment.

    So we went to the wonderful Ray Boyd at Groves to drill down on the specifics of reading, writing and math, and what to do about helping her learn those skills. Which he did. And now we have a plan. And we understand what she needs academically.

    And, if I ever find an “executive function tutor” who works in St. Paul, I will try the U of M’s recommendation too.

    • Hi Susan,

      We did #2s first assessment at the U of M neuropsychology department too….because it was covered by insurance. We received A LOT of information about executive function stuff, which was the only thing they believed was effecting #2. For that I found the information very, very good. But, as far as dyslexia, I had the same experience. The person who tested him didn’t seem to have a CLUE about what dyslexia is. Because #2 is so slow with things, they put his IQ quite low….well below average…. and this skewed all the results because they only use the Woodcock-Johnson. When his classroom teacher read the results she had the same reaction I did, “What kid did they test?” Our pediatrician was appalled by the narrow focus of the testing and said that executive function is all the rage right now and some testers can’t see beyond that.

      3 weeks later I was at an educational psychologist who used to work at Groves. Same tests, plus the phonics and reading tests….with someone who is very current on the research about dyslexia….vastly different results.

      And yes, you can’t get cured from dyslexia. You can overcome some reading issues, but indeed you can’t be cured, nor should you. Dyslexia is how your brain is wired and is nothing to be cured because it’s not a disease. If standardized tests in school were about spacial reasoning and creativity, then people would be sending their children to tutors hoping for them to become dyslexic! Good blog subject in there!

      Always great to hear your thoughts and your stories. Thank you for being so open.


  2. Hey Chrissy,
    I just found out about your blog through my very dear friend’s Erika & Nate Eklund. Our boys are bff’s. Turns out (we found out yesterday) our 9 year old, who is in Chinese Immersion, has severe Dyslexia. It was us pushing for testing within the school because something just was not right and then we went to Groves to go deeper. So we find ourselves just newly on the path, finding our next steps and figuring out what’s next.

    Thanks for being here, I’ll be back!

    Mary Sellke

    P.S. Congrats on the Marathon!!!! So, you going to Boston??? If you are, I am too. We should meet up.

  3. Hi Mary,
    I’m so sorry its taken nearly 2 months for me to respond! I’ve been taking a break from blogging to try and get a sense of order in other areas of my life.

    I’m so glad that Erika and Nate connected us. Please let me know how I can help you. Having children with learning difficulties can be quite isolating I find. I’m interested to know how Chinese immersion works with children with dyslexia. A friend of mine once suggested my kids learn Chinese because you don’t need phonics to read!

    I’m hoping to run Boston in 2015. What year are you planning to run.

    You can always send me a private message or find me on Facebook too.

    Thanks for the connection.


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