Being a parent of a child with dyslexia can be challenging. Like your child, you need to develop resilience, courage, determination, become proactive and always strive for improved communication.

Seek professional advice from a speech therapist and/or occupational therapist as soon as there are signs that your child isn’t reaching benchmarks or is in the lower range of average. Don’t be satisfied that your child is just ‘a late developer’.  In addition to private providers, there is a range of free support, through early intervention services and schools, and you can use GP care plans and or mental health plan to access some Medicare support for specialists’ assistance.

Improving literacy skills is a team effort. There is a window where extra literacy support and learning can be really fun so the earlier you get in the better. Be inventive and make literacy support fun and a game. Making large letters on a brick wall with shaving cream and then shooting water pistols at the different letters was always popular with my boys.

If there comes a time when literacy support at home becomes a challenge, you can no longer make it fun and smarties no longer cut it as reward, it is good to enlist the help of others. This is when the help of a neighbour, friend, teenager in the neighbourhood, tutor or additional help at school becomes more essential.

There also comes a point when you need to be realistic about what reading and writing levels your child is going to achieve.  Like your child, you know that they were read to from an early age, that they had lots of literacy support, they are not lazy, they always try hard and they are not dumb, it is just that they have dyslexia and their brain works slightly differently.  Fortunately, we live in an age of technology and there are so many programs and tools available to help support someone with dyslexia.

Dragon, Read&Write-Gold, reading pens, and audio books, are just some examples. Try them all out and see what works best, as everyone is different and faces slightly different challenges. Also, be mindful that the best option may change over time, with new technologies, changing subjects and changing studying environments.

Schools are a wealth of support, but you cannot become complacent. Positive outcomes are more likely if you work together as a team and keep communication channels open. Touch base regularly, even just by an email. Make sure that at the start of the school year, everyone is aware of your child’s strengths and additional needs. Be involved in their learning plans, raise issues when they appear, rather than letting things snowball.  Ask and give suggestions for ways your child can maximize their achievements, improve their access to the curriculum and demonstrate their real understanding. Additional time, use of a computer, use of a scribe, alternative forms of assessment such as being able to give a verbal presentation, ignoring spelling and grammar are just some of the modifications that can be made to assessment, even in years 11 and 12.

Communication and working as a team with a school will get the best result. Never be afraid as a parent or educator to ask questions about assessment methods and criteria. Through keeping communication channels open, last year my sons’ school identified and managed to change a marking criterion for a level 3 English Tasmanian Assessment Standards & Certification (TASC) subject that benefited my son and all students with dyslexia in Tasmania.

The school identified that the proposed wording and changes to the essential criterion for this subject, meant that without accommodation, my son could never pass the subject. Rather than accepting this situation, the school pre-empted the issue and sought clarification from TASC as to whether special consideration would be available. The TASC initially advised that no special consideration was available for this criterion. The school requested a more detailed response and ultimately communication between the relevant stakeholders and TASC resulted in an additional paragraph being inserted into the marking criteria for that particular course, that did allow for special consideration. This change was brought about by open and positive communication by everyone involved.

I am so proud of my boys, who during their years at school have developed such courage and resilience. They are all going well at school and with small adjustments are now able to demonstrate their true understanding and ability.

Rachel Vermey is a mother of three beautiful teenage boys. Two of her boys have dyslexia. Rachel’s opinion reflects her personal experience and her family’s literacy journey. Here, with courage and resilience of her own, she writes for Communicating: The Heart of Literacy – find more at chattermatters.com.au.