Dyslexic Children and Virtual School

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and since it’s also just a few weeks into the new school year, it’s a good time for parents to acquaint themselves with some ways they can help their kids get off to a good start, especially if they have a learning difference. How can dyslexic children and others get the most out of virtual school?

Whether your child is learning remotely or not, these are difficult and challenging times for parents and kids alike. Starting in February or early March, most students were plucked from their familiar school environment (and their dyslexia accommodations) for the remainder of the school year. And, while it was a necessary and responsible thing for school districts to do, there was an immediate resulting “academic slide,” or loss of educational momentum and traction.

I’ve written before about the “summer slide” that happens when kids take time off from their books and reading for their summer break; it’s a well-documented phenomenon. But in 2020, the slide began months earlier than normal, and that’s causing a tremendous impact on all students, especially those with dyslexia and other learning challenges.

Now that the new school year has begun with many students learning remotely, the slide is continuing. Since most parents are not trained educators, it can be difficult for them to know how best to help their struggling child. For some ideas to help, here are some tips for getting the most from the new school year in the blog The COVID Academic Slide Fall 2020.

A mom works from home on her laptop at the kitchen table, talking on the phone, while her daughter plays with her hair and her son plays a recorder to a kitten sitting on the table. How can parents help dyslexic children adapt to virtual school?

What if you observe that your dyslexic child is struggling, not just with reading, but with writing, or math, or tasks that involve sequencing like learning the alphabet, tying their shoes, or memorizing their multiplication tables? Or what if you’ve noticed that they are having difficulty regulating their emotions, perhaps talking negatively about themselves and their capabilities?

Enter social and emotional learning. This term encompasses all the crucial skills that every child must learn in order to manage their emotions and function well in a social world. So many kids only get a little bit of help with reading, and no help at all for the other social and emotional aspects of dyslexia they may have struggled with. Learning to read is not enough. Being a struggling student causes a gamut of emotions that, left unaddressed, can set a child up for needless suffering. Your observations as a parent matter so much! Discover the importance of social and emotional learning in Learning to Read is Not Enough for Dyslexics.

A frustrated boy leans his head on his arm against a brick wall, looking sad and defeated. How can parents help dyslexic children adapt to virtual school?

When parents notice that their child is dealing with frustration, discouragement, anger, despair, or other difficult emotions, it can be challenging to know what to do next. Dyslexic children adapting to virtual school are likely to feel all these emotions if they find themselves without their usual accommodations. In this next installment, we take a cue both from child psychologists and from cartoonist and blogger Edith Zimmerman in the blog Helping Dyslexic Children Illustrate Their Feelings.

A child's drawing of a father pointing at a daughter expresses frustration. Parents can help dyslexic children adapt to virtual school by taking the time to make sure their children understand all the things they are feeling during this time of transition.

This technique asks that parents get their child to draw them a picture, or pictures, of what they’re feeling. This technique works when other techniques fail for one simple reason: kids don’t have the skills or vocabulary to eloquently describe what they’re feeling and experiencing. However, they can draw a picture of it for you. Once you identify what your child is dealing with emotionally, you can help them address it in a healthy way. This is key: learning won’t take place until you do, because kids can’t learn when they’re in pain.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. I hope you find these resources to be helpful to you and your family.

Two book covers of Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent's Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention by Faith Borkowsky and Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn are great books to help parents help dyslexic children with virtual school and all other dyslexia and reading-related issues.

Wherever you and your family are in your dyslexia experience, don’t miss the award-winning books Raising a Child With Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, by Don M. Winn, and Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention, by reading specialist Faith Borkowsky.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Amazon author page for more information.