Dyslexia and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Home Routines to Follow Heading Into a New School Year

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The impact of schools being closed for some time and the advent of remote learning may have been stressful for all students, but in particular for children with disabilities. For those children with a learning disability such as dyslexia, the challenges have been magnified exponentially.

Children with dyslexia may struggle with reading, spelling, and writing. Invariably, independent functioning is challenging for these children to do a task on their own without assistance. In light of these challenges, especially during a pandemic, parents continually need to ask themselves things like, “Am I helping too much or not enough?” “Am I being too tough or am I being too easy?” Such questions are not easily answered.

As a new school year begins, Richard Selznick, PhD, psychologist and Director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Health Care, offers a few basic guidelines for managing children with dyslexia during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting back to school.

Set Up the Structure

Possibly the most important thing that you can do for all children, but especially those who are struggling, is to establish a clear structure in the household.

As you go into the new school year, set up a fair and reasonable (not rigid) structure. As a part of this structure, let the children know that there will be a period of time that will be devoted to academics beyond what is expected in-person or on-line.

Children with dyslexia need a great deal of time to practice basic skills that are being targeted.  Setting aside about 20 to 30 minutes on a consistent basis for such practice is essential.

Reading Practice

At its core, dyslexics struggle with decoding of words and reading fluency. Typically, if you listen to their reading it is conducted in a halting, labored, word-by-word manner, with many words being substituted for the ones on the page. To address this, find books that you think will be relatively easy for your child (but not too easy). Set aside time to have your child read these out loud to you. Having dyslexic children read out loud is one of the best things you can do for them.

For younger children, reading books like those of Dr. Seuss, such as Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat Comes Back are great for practicing reading fluency. It’s perfectly fine if the child has read these books before or even rereads them, as the repetition helps to build the connections between the word and their underlying sounds and syllables.

Keep track of words that the child has shown some struggling with and put them down on index cards for later practice. The child can read these back to you and can also practice spelling them (with real paper and pencils).

Attitude Counts

Today, children think that they have unlimited access to their gaming systems, iPads, YouTube, etc. Start to link up a positive attitude during the academic practice with earned time on the screens. Therefore, if there is excessive whining, complaining, or melting down during the reading, spelling, or writing activities, then screen time has not been earned. In order to engage with the screen time, the child needs to give you a session with good attitude and motivation.

In summary, set up the structure, do a lot of targeted practice with reading and spelling, and watch for good attitude and you will be on the right path with a successful back-to-school routine during these challenging times.

Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist and the author of numerous books, including What to Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Points for Parents and The Shut-Down Learner. He is the Director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Health Care.

Dislexia y la pandemia de COVID-19: Rutinas caseras a seguir de cara a un nuevo año escolar

El impacto del cierre de las escuelas durante algún tiempo y la llegada del aprendizaje a distancia pueden haber sido estresantes para todos los estudiantes, pero en particular para los niños con discapacidades. Para aquellos niños con una discapacidad de aprendizaje como la dislexia, los desafíos se han magnificado exponencialmente.

Los niños con dislexia pueden tener dificultades con la lectura, la ortografía y la escritura. Invariablemente, el funcionamiento independiente es un desafío para que estos niños hagan una tarea por sí mismos sin ayuda. A la luz de estos desafíos, especialmente durante una pandemia, los padres deben preguntarse continuamente cosas como: “¿Estoy ayudando demasiado o no lo suficiente?” “¿Estoy siendo demasiado duro o demasiado fácil?” Estas preguntas no se responden fácilmente.

Al comenzar un nuevo año escolar, Richard Selznick, PhD, psicólogo y director del Cooper Learning Center, Departamento de Pediatría, Cooper University Health Care, ofrece algunas pautas básicas para el manejo de niños con dislexia durante la época de la pandemia de COVID-19 y ajustarse de regreso a la escuela.

Configurar la estructura

Posiblemente lo más importante que puede hacer por todos los niños, pero especialmente por aquellos que están luchando, es establecer una estructura clara en el hogar.

A medida que avanza en el nuevo año escolar, establezca una estructura justa y razonable (no rígida). Como parte de esta estructura, déjeles saber a los niños que habrá un período de tiempo que se dedicará a lo académico más allá de lo esperado en persona o en línea.

Los niños con dislexia necesitan mucho tiempo para practicar las habilidades básicas a las que se dirigen. Es esencial reservar de 20 a 30 minutos de manera constante para tal práctica.

Practica de leer

En esencia, los disléxicos luchan con la decodificación de palabras y la fluidez en la lectura. Por lo general, si escucha su lectura, se lleva a cabo de manera entrecortada, laboriosa, palabra por palabra, sustituyendo muchas palabras por las de la página. Para solucionar esto, busque libros que crea que serán relativamente fáciles para su hijo (pero no demasiado). Reserve un tiempo para que su hijo le lea esto en voz alta. Hacer que los niños disléxicos lean en voz alta es una de las mejores cosas que puede hacer por ellos.

Para los niños más pequeños, leer libros como los del Dr. Seuss, como Green Eggs and Ham o The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, son excelentes para practicar la fluidez en la lectura. Está perfectamente bien si el niño ha leído estos libros antes o incluso los vuelve a leer, ya que la repetición ayuda a construir las conexiones entre la palabra y sus sonidos y sílabas subyacentes.

Mantenga un registro de las palabras con las que el niño ha tenido problemas y anótelas en tarjetas para practicar más adelante. El niño puede volver a leerlos y también puede practicar cómo deletrearlos (con papel y lápices reales).

Actitud cuenta

Hoy los niños piensan que tienen acceso ilimitado a sus sistemas de juego, iPads, YouTube, etc. Empiece a vincular una actitud positiva durante la práctica académica con el tiempo ganado en las pantallas. Por lo tanto, si hay un exceso de lloriqueos, quejas o desánimo durante las actividades de lectura, ortografía o escritura, no se ha ganado tiempo frente a la pantalla. Para interactuar con el tiempo frente a la pantalla, el niño debe brindarte una sesión con buena actitud y motivación.

En resumen, configure la estructura, practique mucho la lectura y la ortografía, y observe la buena actitud y estará en el camino correcto con una rutina exitosa de regreso a la escuela durante estos tiempos desafiantes.

El Dr. Richard Selznick es psicólogo y autor de numerosos libros, incluido What to Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Points for Parents y The Shut-Down Learner. Es el Director del Cooper Learning Center, Departamento de Pediatría, Cooper University Health Care.

One Comment

  1. Avatar Terri

    Thank you so much for these tips and this information! My granddaughter suffers from Dyslexia, ADHD amount other issues. This has been an extremely difficult year for her and for us. Her pediatrician is actually a Cooper doc. My family doc is a Cooper Doc. I have reached out to the school system with her doctors help 2x to try and get her as much help as possible. Then ssaid she only need speech and some basics hahah Sent speech home to me. Not sure where and when I became a. speech Therapist. Then the COVID took over remote learning. What a nightmare. Not looking forward to September. The part that I fear the worst is this child is just starting. This is not a child that has already even learned the basics . I am scared for her.

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