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I’m sure you want to help your child but you may be confused as to what to do. You may feel frustrated that your child has to work so hard, and that both of you miss out on so much, because this takes so much time. You may be worried about your child’s future.
Maybe you’ve been told the only answer is accommodations, but you really don’t want your child to live that way. To always need accommodations to get through life.
Don’t worry, there’s a way out. One day this will just be a “remember when”. There’s a way to help your child through this tough spot, while at the same time embracing their gifts. Yes, even though it may be that all you can see right now are the problems ahead, there are also gifts that come with this. It’s important that we cover both.
Let’s get into it.
These are ten strategies that work together to help your child overcome the challenges of dyslexia. Let’s cover those now.
The first three strategies involve improving behavior, confidence, and mindset. That’s not always the first place people go. But there are several really important reasons to start there. For those who don’t, well, the success rate will be much lower, it will be far more work, and their children will be affected emotionally. And who wants any of that?
Why improve confidence?
Why? Because, without improving behavior, confidence, and mindset first, your child will resist any help you try to give them. And they can resist hard when they are afraid. It may not seem like it but they are afraid. They just cover that fear with other behaviors. Children can be very obstinate when they are fearful. So if you don’t eliminate the fear first, it will be an uphill battle all the way. Unfortunately, that is what happens most of the time. People jump into a program, or accommodations, or more homework, or tutoring without prepping first. It’s a recipe for failure.
So instead of going down that path, put these strategies into place to make sure your journey is smooth sailing all the way. Or at least as close to it as it can be. Do everything you can to make sure your child does not resist the help they need. Doing that will ensure your child’s success.
Why do children resist help?
Well, the first reason is that anyone with a learning challenge will already be experiencing anxiety. Your child may feel alienated from their peers. They may feel isolated. Especially if they are being sent to remedial classes, or not allowed to play with their friends because they need EXTRA STUDY TIME.
They may feel like they are stupid. They feel different. They feel like giving up. And, on top of that, your child may be being bullied because of their struggle. It happens a lot and it is something to look out for.
Also, look out for diversionary tactics your child may be doing. They often get missed for what they are.
What I mean is that your child may try to distract you from the real problem. They can do this by using a variety of tactics. Things like acting lazy or goofing off. Acting sick, moody, or just plain defiant. Or even just shutting down. These are tactics that kids use to hide their problems. Kids can be quite creative with distractions. So watch for these. These behaviors are signs of other problems. Not the problems themselves. It’s unlikely that they are actually lazy, or want to goof off, or be defiant. Most kids are not actually lazy. I mean, they are kids. Kids are full of energy. But they’ll act lazy because they don’t want to look stupid. They’d much rather look lazy, funny, obstinate, or even like a trouble maker than stupid. So they put on an act. All out of the fear of looking stupid. In reality, kids want to learn. They were born to learn. But they may have given up because they think they can’t.
Why Girls Who Struggle in School Get Ignored
Some of these diversionary tactics are more common in boys and others in girls. The tactics that boys use are typically easier to spot. Girls can be a little more sly about it. And that’s a big problem because it leads to them not getting any help.
Commonly boys will act out, become class clowns, or become trouble makers.
Girls usually use the opposite tactics. They are usually even craftier in their tactics to hide their problem. This is because girls generally develop socially much faster than boys. So they are more skilled at hiding a learning challenge. That’s actually a big problem because it causes learning difficulties to go undetected far more often in girls. Then they don’t get the help they need, and that leads to much bigger problems later on. So pay even closer attention to these diversionary tactics commonly used by girls. They are things like, acting sweet or cute. Or becoming a wallflower. Wallflowers get overlooked and then no one suspects that they are struggling. Even being extra helpful in class or around the house can be a tactic. No one would expect the teachers' pet to be struggling.
Now you know what they say about catching flies with honey or vinegar right?
Notice that the boys usually use vinegar and the girls usually use honey. Which do you think is more effective at hiding the problem? That’s bad. Problems can’t be solved when they are not out in the open.
I’m stressing this because it’s such an important point. Girls very often don’t get the help they need because of it. They are simply overlooked.
Are More Boys Dyslexic than girls?
Commonly it has been thought that more boys are dyslexic than girls. We’ve gathered data from the Learning Success program and analyzed it and that research shows differently. According to the statistics we have put together, girls struggle just as often as boys but they get help less often. And when they do get help, it’s much later in life. When it’s harder to deal with. The earlier you catch this the better, and the easier to fix. Later on more damage has been done. Not catching it early leads to some horrible emotional problems as well as so many girls not being able to live up to their academic potential. [cut this] If you’d like us to do a video covering our findings on the statistics we’ve put together, let us know in the comments. We do think it’s something that people need to know. [/end cut] We believe the common beliefs on this are wrong and that needs to be fixed so girls can get the help they need also. Do you agree?
Are teachers mean to kids who learn differently?
Let’s talk about learning differences and what happens with these kids in school.
There are so many horror stories of teachers being mean to kids who don’t learn the same as typical learners. Stories of teachers making children feel stupid. This causes losses in self-esteem. It may cause kids to become defiant, or just shut down. But think about this. Most teachers get into teaching because they want to help kids. Same for tutors. Maybe some are stressed out or burned out and they react badly. Damaging the child’s self-esteem. That does happen. But in other cases, maybe most cases, who knows, it may be that the teacher is actually trying to help. That teacher really cares. Like a lot. That teacher is doing the best they can, but because the child is already shut down, anything the teacher does can be perceived as as being mean. Even if that thing is a good thing. It’s about perception and when we are fearful anything can trigger more fear. In many cases this may be what’s happening. And for this reason it’s really important to try your best to think of teachers as members of your team. Most likely they want the best for your child too. I doubt they got into teaching for the purpose of torturing children.
Are teachers trained to help kids who learn differently?
The other problem is that teachers are typically not trained in educational therapy. They are trained to teach academics. They can be extremely skilled at teaching academics but if it’s educational therapy that is needed, teaching them academics won’t work. It’s trying to put a square peg in a round hole, and using a hammer to do so.
Why Kids Resist Homework
When a child is afraid of reading, math, or whatever, literally any help will be met with resistance. And sometimes a lot of resistance. Unless you use confidence-building strategies first. Prepare them for learning.
When there is resistance, nothing will work. It doesn’t matter how good the program is.
That’s why it is so critical to first work on self-confidence, self-esteem, and mindset. Working on those will influence behavior and change the direction from that fatal downward spiral to one of growth.
It’s also critical to be tactical about self-confidence, self-esteem, and mindset. Use modern neuroscience-based and psychology-based tactics. You can’t afford not to. Doing things like just telling your child they are so smart will not work. As a matter of fact, that will backfire and make things worse.
Take the time to learn to do these things right. You have time. Your child is not going to miss out on college because of bad grades in elementary school. Or even middle school. Use these years to prepare and help your child become a skilled and confident learner. A little preparation time now will pay off later.
Why Your Child Needs Grit
Another reason to start with self-esteem and mindset is, catching back up is hard. This is going to take work. If your child is already falling behind, you have to get to the core problem, work on that, THEN, work on catching back up. That doesn’t happen in a day, but it does happen. Hard work over time and They’ll get there. So developing a positive attitude around schoolwork is essential. And learning how to get through the tough stuff is something everybody needs to learn. We call that grit. The techniques mentioned in this video will help you help your child develop the grit needed to get through the tough stuff. And that grit will serve them for a lifetime. Grit is one of the biggest predictors of success.
Divert them from the path that leads to learned helplessness and get them on the path that leads to self-confidence and grit. The first path leads to misery, and the second to success.
The Gifts of Dyslexia
One more very important and positive reason to start with mindset. To find your child’s gifts.
Dyslexic minds develop gifts. The human brain is an amazing thing. If there is an obstacle it will find a way around it. With the right stimulus, the brain changes and molds itself to become something new and amazing. And very often, because dyslexia is so challenging, it will create amazing talents in lieu of the challenge. There’s no telling what these gifts will be. Some dyslexics have amazing artistic skills. Others think in pictures extremely well. Some have brilliant holistic thinking or problem-solving skills. Some become comedians, actors, and believe it or not, writers. There’s no telling what gifts your child is already developing. They just need to be nurtured. And finding them allows you to nurture them.
By developing confidence, and the right mental attitude, these gifts will become more obvious. And with confidence your child will want to develop them even more. And then you can use the gifts to build more confidence. Creating a virtuous circle. Turn those gifts into something that will benefit them throughout life. They can, and should be what drives your child to fully become who they were meant to be.
Look at all of the extremely successful dyslexics in the world. Businessmen like Sir Richard Branson. Actors like Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Henry Winkler, Salma Hayek, Anthony Hopkins and so many more.
Or geniuses such as Albert Einstein.
Comedians such as Eddie Izzard. [Insert Eddie Izzard joke if you want]. A quote from Eddie Izzard “Scrabble was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia. This is true, they proved this one. The word dyslexia was also invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.”
These dyslexics were able to get through the rough spots and develop their gifts and that led to some amazing contributions to society.
That’s possible for your child too. Great struggles can lead to great accomplishments. Even though it never feels like it when you are struggling.
The flip side of that is that with a poor mental attitude these gifts may never be noticed. And they certainly won’t be developed. Everyone should capitalize on their gifts, but first, you have to find them, and having a positive mindset ensures that you find them.
So let’s get to the steps, shall we?
Step #1 is to use simple cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to improve behavior. That may sound complicated but it’s not. I’ll teach you a very effective technique right now.
Improve your child’s behavior
All behavior is learned. Our daily regular behavior is what dictates the outcome of our life. So it makes sense to optimize it. Right? That’s what this technique does. Optimizes behavior.
At Learning Success we call this technique “Caught in the act”. We call it that because you are going to try to catch your child in the act of doing something good. The technique goes by other names such as “Find the good” or simply “positive reinforcement. We didn’t invent it. It’s been around a long time and it’s well known in the cognitive behavior world. It’s pretty similar to the original behavioral modification methods pioneered by B.F. Skinner.
This technique, over time, will help your child build very positive behaviors and get rid of negative ones. That would be nice right? Assuming your child isn’t perfect. If they are, you can skip this part.
Warning. This strategy is simple but not easy.
Here’s how to do it.
For a few weeks, or even a month, ignore any bad behaviors your child does. Act as if it didn’t happen. Now, of course, if it’s dangerous or serious don’t ignore it. Use your judgment here. Is it something you can safely ignore without long-term negative effects?
Then praise any positive behaviors. No matter how small. And even if they are only a partial good behavior.
Now here’s the deal. You may have to look for things that are so small they are ridiculous. You have to start somewhere. Did your child get their dirty clothes closer to the hamper? Praise them for it. Did they take a tiny bite of broccoli before trying to feed the rest to the dog? Praise the bite and ignore the squishy mess on the floor.
As behaviors improve in very small ways, start looking for the next step that would make that behavior better. In other words, raise the bar on what you praise. Don’t praise one bite anymore. Wait for two. Watch closely and jump on the opportunity to praise the small success. Getting ever so much closer to the goal.
Over time the clothes will get closer, and then maybe, into the hamper. Eventually tnree bites of broccoli will get eaten, and then maybe even all of it.
It’ll take time and effort but remember that B. F. Skinner used this technique to train rats to become trapeze artists. If he can do that, you can get your kid to put their clothes away. Right?
You may have to get really creative about finding something to praise. But when you do, and you praise that thing, and then you raise the bar, the behavior will improve as long as you are honest in your praise. No sarcasm. You have to be sincere.
You will probably have to bite your tongue a lot. But it will be worth it. Promise.
This technique also has the added benefit of training you to always look for the good. We all know how easy it is to always see the bad. Focussing on the good causes major changes to happen. It activates your reticular activation system and that will cause you to see the world a little differently. Try that technique out and let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear about even your tiny successes in the comments. And also what you might notice about your child that maybe you missed before.
Step #2 is to use neuroscience-based confidence-building techniques. Those bad moods, reluctance to do homework, and diversion techniques all go away when your child has confidence. But it goes even deeper than that. The opposite of confidence is fear. And when we are fearful our brain actually goes into fight or flight mode. In fight or flight mode, the prefrontal cortex actually shuts down. That’s right. The thinking part of the brain shuts down. A child cannot learn while in fight or flight. And that’s where they are when they have lost confidence. Trying to force learning in this state just makes things worse. That’s why building confidence is strategy #2. It’s that important.
Help Your Child Develop a Growth Mindset
Step #3 is to help your child develop a growth mindset. When a child has a growth mindset they realize that mistakes are just part of the learning process. They realize that they are a necessary part of learning. Mistakes are just a signal to work at that thing a little more. Or maybe that a new strategy is needed.
How do you help them develop a growth mindset?
You do it with your communication. Just switch all of your praise from praising attributes to praising effort. For example, Instead of saying, “Congratulations on your A. You are so smart”. Say something like “Congratulations on your A. I know you worked hard to get that”.
So you are praising something that can be controlled. Effort.
This is not the same as the idea of giving out 8th place trophies. Failures are to be recognized. Just recognized for what they are. A sign that more work, or a different strategy, is necessary.
The research behind the growth mindset concept was done by Dr Caroline Dweck. If you want to dive deep into growth mindset, we highly recommend her book on it. https://amzn.to/3CS3UFo
Alright, the next two steps, 4 and 5 are about brain health. Something everyone should work at for their entire life. Obviously, brain health is critical to learning right? And just in case either of these might be a hidden problem, parents should consider these next two steps.
Can Foods Cause Learning Problems?
Step #4 is to eliminate foods that are toxic to the brain.
There are toxins in foods that can cause brain inflammation and inflammation can mimic learning disorders such as autism, ADHD, and even dyslexia. Some researchers have found links between oxalates, which are found naturally in some foods. Other people put blame on food dyes. But that’s not where we recommend starting. For the most part, if either of these do have an effect, it will probably be specific to individuals. Different individuals will react to these differently, if at all. So you may want to do some experimentation. But let's start where there are known problems.
There are a few substances, that without a doubt, are very bad for the brain. They are toxic and cause a lot of problems for brains. The first, well your child is probably not going to like this. And I don’t know how to sugarcoat this news. It’s….refined sugar. That’s right. Excess glucose levels in the brain cause cognitive impairment and can cause damage to the brain. Some experts believe it also causes inflammation. And pretty much everyone has experienced or seen mood swings caused by sugar. These mood swings are also a sign of addiction. Sugar triggers the reward systems in our brain. That ability to trigger the reward centers causes it to be addictive. Most people will see those mood swings disappear about a week after eliminating sugar from the diet.
It can be hard to give up sugar, but it’s probably one of the best things you can do to improve brain health. Sorry about the bad news. It’s sweet and yummy. And toxic.
After sugar, the next brain-damaging and oh-so-common food ingredient is processed vegetable oils. Canola oil. Safflower oil. Soybean oil. All of these are extracted using extreme heat and solvents. This causes the omega 6 oils to become toxic. And that toxicity causes brain inflammation. If you try to get these out of your child’s diet I feel ya. They are in absolutely everything. It’s not an easy task. But it’s worth the effort. It’s something to seriously consider even as hard as it is.
Sorry for that bad news. Sugar and processed vegetable oils are very hard to avoid. But to rule out toxins mimicking a learning difficulty such as dyslexia they need to be avoided. See if you can get rid of as many as possible and as you do keep an eye out for changes. Especially in mood. You might notice a difference
Good sleep is critical for learning
Step #5 is to ensure good sleep
Good sleep is critical for brain health. Not only does the brain carry out repair and maintenance during sleep. That’s also when it creates long-term memory. All the learning you did during the day is processed and stored in long-term memory during sleep. So if sleep is poor, learning doesn’t stick. If you’ve ever crammed for an exam you know this. You stay up all night studying. You have the info for the test, but a week later it’s gone. Because you didn’t sleep. Sort of a waste right?
Additionally, dyslexia symptoms are generally far worse when tired. All learning difficulties are.
We need to optimize sleep for good brain health. Studies show that lack of sleep actually decreases IQ. And that loss is cumulative. The more nights in a row that sleep is poor the greater the loss. If your child is already struggling in school you definitely don’t want the cognitive impairment caused by sleep loss. That just makes everything harder.
A couple of tips for good sleep. 1) Have a consistent bedtime. That trains the mind to know when to start winding down. 2) Start decreasing blue light an hour or two before bedtime. That means screens. TV, computers, and video games. If you really must use screens, check to see if they have blue light settings. If not, then wear blue light blocking glasses. https://amzn.to/3RrzlKA
And 3) which is probably the least well-known, but most powerful sleep tip is…. Bright light early in the morning. Ideally sunlight. Just a few minutes of bright light early in the morning sets the body's clock for when to go to sleep that evening. And since it’s the red spectrum your eyes don’t even have to be open. So you can trick your child into being sleepy at night by turning a bright light on early in the morning. Protip. It works even if their eyes are closed. So even if they won’t get out of bed early turn the lights on.
Physiology and learning
Step #6 is to incorporate physiology into learning time. What I mean by this is we can use our body to improve mood, relieve stress, and also improve learning ability by developing proprioception, the sense of our body in space. That might sound weird. We’ve been conditioned to believe that learning happens at a desk. But the reality is that we learn from the outside in. Through our senses, and our senses are processed through our spatial sense. Physiology is a big part of learning. Kids need to move and teaching them ways to move their body that improves mood and increases learning ability, well that's a big plus.
Our brain is always checking in with our body. It checks for state. Are we stressed? Are we happy and confident? Are we ready to take on the next challenge? I know that sounds weird. Our brain checks in with our body? But it’s true. You can prove it to yourself with this little experiment. Set a timer for 1 minute. Then slump your shoulders, look down, and just sort of trudge around the room like you’ve got weights on your legs and everything takes sooooo muuuuuucchh eeefffoooort. When the timer goes off note what your mood is like. Then reset the timer and walk like you have something important to get to. Head up. Eyes forward. When the timer goes off stop and check your mood.
Go ahead and stop the video and do that now. Don’t worry I’ll wait.
Great! How did that go? Can you feel a big difference between the two? After which one do you think you would be more likely to be successful at learning a new skill?
As I mentioned before, stress greatly increases dyslexia symptoms. When stressed, a child will often misread even the simplest of things. Words may jump more and cognitive abilities are generally decreased. So not only is the reading itself more difficult, but comprehension also goes out the window. No one can learn well when stressed. That’s why using physiology to reduce stress is so helpful. Over time, as the child realizes the improvement in skill simply due to not being so stressed out, they’ll also gain more confidence. They will begin to understand that they can be in charge of their emotions and when they do so, learning is easier. Using physiology is a very powerful tool in managing emotions. See how it can feed into that virtuous circle we already created?
Using physiology to improve mood, relieve stress, improve focus, and improve learning ability is a very useful hack. It’s too bad that at school, kids are mostly stuck at desks. But at home, you can change that. Here’s a useful video with another physiology hack you can watch right here.
Step #7 is to incorporate cognitively challenging cross-lateral coordination exercises. That’s a mouthful right?
Let me say that in a simpler way. Learn to move your body in ways that are challenging to learn. That could be Kung Fu, Dance moves, Yoga, or gymnastics. And when those moves use cross-lateral motion. They cross the midline of the body. All the better.
Why is that important?
It’s because when we challenge the mind, while also moving the body, we stimulate neurogenesis. Our brains generate new cells and new cell connections. And learning new movements does just that. Especially if they are difficult.
By doing so, we stimulate neurogenesis. The growth of new neurons
Since a single neuron can have many functions in the brain, that means we now have new neurons ready to learn new skills. And that’s exactly what we want to get the most out of the next strategy.
Step #8 Build up the cognitive micro-skills.
At its core, dyslexia is a weakness in certain cognitive micro-skills. Since there are several types of dyslexia. [cut this]See our video on types of dyslexia [points up with left].[end cut] These weaknesses will be different in different people. They may be auditory such as auditory closure, auditory memory, or auditory discrimination. They may be visual such as visual tracking, visual memory, or visual discrimination. They may be kinesthetic. But most likely they are some combination of several of these.
But since the brain has plasticity. And we just learned how to enhance plasticity. We can now work on these skills and get at the core problem. We can strengthen these skills. By the way, these are the same deficits that cause dyscalculia and dysgraphia also. That’s why those learning struggles often come together.
There are hundreds of exercises you can do to build up these fundamental learning skills. Just remember to mix them up. Don’t focus on just one. Do them all so that the brain generalizes the skills.
And after you do those, what are you going to do?
You remember right?
Get a good night's sleep of course.
Ok that brings us to step #9.
I want you to be very cautious with this one. It can be a trap if you let it.
Accommodations and Remediation
Cautiously consider accommodations and remediation. Accommodations, if used properly, can be very useful. Just remember they really should be a scaffolding, not a crutch. They are a temporary help to get your child through this rough patch. If they are used at all. Preferably not.
Same thing with remediation. If your child is behind, then they need to drop back to study at their skill level. But, if possible, avoid having your child taken out of class. This can be very emotionally difficult for them. They will feel more isolated and alienated. If they are put into classes with intellectually disabled children, which happens a lot, they will feel stupid. It can ruin their self-esteem. Avoid this if you can. Even pulling them out of school altogether might be a better solution.
Try all other possibilities before going to accommodations and remediation.
But, If you do need it, we’ve done a complete series of videos on IEP’s.
But again, consider carefully if this is right for your child. Or is it possible to just work on this at home, build up the skills, and power on through?
And finally, that brings us to step #10.
I’m hoping that at this point, after doing steps 1-9 for a few months, you don’t even need step #10. I’m hoping that at this point reading just clicks for your child. Sometimes that happens. Some teachers say they’ve seen it happen overnight. Sometimes it’s a slow build. If it does, you’ll know.
But if you do need it, step #10 is to figure out what type of reading instruction works best for your child. It might be traditional reading instruction but more broken down. It might be more practice but taken slowly, maybe with discussion. It may be a phonics-based solution. Or it could be a multi-sensory approach such as the many Orton-Gillingham-based programs or structured literacy programs. Those programs have been used successfully with dyslexics and there are many versions of them out there. There are many competent dyslexia reading tutors out there using these programs. Find one if you need it for your child. Just, after you’ve done the prep work mentioned in steps 1-8.
These programs can be very helpful. Many tutors using these programs can work wonders. But it’s really hard to get a child to engage and be fully prepared to learn and develop new skills with them unless you have fully committed to steps 1-8.
And if you’d like those steps all packaged up in an easy-to-use program you can do right at home you can get that with a free trial of the Learning Success System. https://www.learningsuccesssystem.com/offer/dyslexia
Thank you for taking the time to watch this video all the way through. In the past, most dyslexic kids just fell through the cracks. They didn’t get the help they needed. And that resulted in adults that had to fight their way through life. To fight off the anxieties caused by thinking or being told they were stupid.
t doesn’t have to be that way. Now that neuroscience and psychology have come so far you now have the tools to help your child so that they can live up to their full potential. That’s what parenting is right?
Your child doesn’t have to “live with” dyslexia.
To start a free trial of the Learning Success System go here
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