Dyslexic child: how to help him/her?

June 9, 2024

Before talking about the dyslexic child we would like to make a small point:
some parents become alarmed when their child seems to have delayed language development, when the first words never seem to come and for this reason they contact, early on, neuropsychiatrists and other specialists in the field.

Other parents, seeing their child not crawling immediately begin to think that there is a motor delay.

You must always keep in mind that children have their own timelines, and in most cases early observation will not lead to finding the eventual problem or disorder.

If you have any doubts about your child’s development, seek advice from your pediatrician who is the closest specialized person continuously observing your child’s growth.

If, on the other hand, you suspect that your child may have a learning disorder, it is important first of all that you know what it is.

What are Specific Learning Disorders

Specific Learning Disorders (SLDs) concern neurodevelopment, that is, the process of evolution and development through which the human brain reaches its completion both structurally and functionally.

These disorders can affect writing (dysgraphia), reading (dyslexia) or calculation (dyscalculia) skills or present in combination.

In particular, dyslexia is a deficit in the ability to read written language.

Dyslexia is often associated with difficulties in writing, spelling, and calculation and occurs in preschool and school age (developmental dyslexia); only more rarely can it occur in adulthood (acquired dyslexia), as a result of brain trauma, vascular injury, or degenerative disease.

However, it is very important for you to be aware that although sometimes dyslexic children appear to be below the average learning ability of children of the same age, dyslexia is NOT an indication of low intelligence or mental retardation.

Actually, in some cases is a “side” sign of plusdotation or conditions like Asperger’s.

Dyslexics are often particularly sharp and perceptive, of brilliant intelligence, extremely creative and very resourceful.

Dyslexia is NOT a disease, but simply a different way the brain works.

dyslexic child

Some scientific background on dyslexia

In any case, we think it is useful to give you some more scientific information about dyslexia.
The most widely accepted theory to date is that of the two-way model.
This is based on the consideration that the process of reading words occurs through two pathways: one lexical and one phonological.

The first stage of the process, common to both pathways, is that of visual acquisition: this means that your child learns to recognize letters as an abstract sign. Next we have on the one hand the phonological pathway: your child converts the letters and words he has seen into sound, articulating them by reading them aloud.

On the other side we have the lexical route by which the child mentally associates words with their meanings before making their sound and pronouncing them.

Thus, the deficits that can cause dyslexia may primarily affect visual acquisition, or either of the two pathways, the lexical or the phonological, involving different areas of the brain, from frontal to parietal lobes of the right or left hemisphere.

What types of dyslexia are there?

Based on the pathways and areas involved, dyslexias are divided into Central and Peripheral dyslexias, with their respective symptoms, as below.

Central dyslexias are those in which the deficit is in the visual and phonological pathways and consist of; you will notice, for example, spelling errors (”read” instead of ”said”).

The most severe form involves the inability to comprehend what you have read (reading without comprehension or without memory of what you have read). In the latter case, remember what was said earlier: it is NOT a symptom of mental retardation or cognitive impairment, so don’t freak out.

Peripheral Dyslexias concern visual word processing disorders and affect precisely the very early stages of processing. Your child will have difficulty reading individual letters of a word or a single word within a sentence.

Dyslexic child: what to do?

Assuming, as already pointed out, that dyslexia is not a disease, I recommend that you first see a neuropsychiatrist, who represents to date the only professional figure who can ascertain dyslexia through specific tests.

Among the referral figures we also find the psychologist, in case you feel that the difficulties encountered by your child make him feel ”different,” ”sick,” or ”blamed,” especially by his peers.

The psychologist will help him regain and strengthen his sense of self-esteem and confidence in his abilities.

Finally, the speech therapist is the most appropriate professional figure to refer to for all rehabilitation-type support and accompanying activities for all speech and communication deficits.

It will then be the speech therapist who will activate personalized paths for your child and compensatory tools according to the type of disorder, the age of onset and the extent of the deficit, making sure that your child achieves performance similar to that of his or her peers.

What exercises you can do ”at home” with your child

Finally, although it is not really recommended to make diagnoses or do-it-yourself therapies for dyslexia, and instead it is always advisable to refer to specialists, there are some exercises that you can do ”at home” together with your child, even in the form of a game, and which, although they do not represent a real rehabilitative path, can certainly be of great help, as you can see from some examples:

Have your child read texts that are of particular interest to him, so that the transposition in his own mind of the text into pictures helps him to better perceive individual terms.

Record a reading performed by your child and have him listen to it again, so that your child can ”hear” and understand the individual terms; then have a rereading of the same text, again recorded, and a new rereading in which you can show your child the progress he has made since the first reading.

Read a book together with your child; then, while you as an adult read aloud, your child can follow the reading by reading the same text ”in his head,” even better if he follows with his finger; in this exercise you will have to be good at respecting your little one’s reading time, so as not to risk leaving him behind in reading.

A good alternative to this solution is the use of audiobooks.

Have them break down and reassemble words, even using board games such as Scrabble, Paroland or others along the lines.

Make the compound words split, for example ”automobile” becomes ”car – mobile,” also having your child make a drawing with the graphic representation of the word.

We are with you.

At Parentalife, we understand the anxieties and concerns that can accompany our parenting lives. We are here to offer support, resources and personalized counseling to help you on this journey. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with the right support, you can live family life peacefully.

We are with you.


Snowling MJ, Hulme C, Nation K. Defining and understanding dyslexia: past, present and future. Oxf Rev Educ. 2020 Aug 13;46(4):501-513. doi: 10.1080/03054985.2020.1765756. PMID: 32939103; PMCID: PMC7455053.

About the Author

Claudia Denti

Claudia Denti is the founder of Genitore Informato and Parentalife.