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How Parents can Help

Parents often ask how best they can help their children once a diagnosis of dyslexia has been given. The following is offered as a result of the experience of many parents over the years:

  • Don’t feel guilty. You did not cause your child to have dyslexia and you could not have prevented it.
  • Don’t blame anyone else – the child, the teacher, the other parent. Dyslexia is a fact of life – accept it and think of positive things you can do.
  • Talk to your child about dyslexia and explain how it may affect the child and what you both can do to overcome it.
  • Attend a DAI Parents’ Course, talk or conference to learn more about dyslexia and how you can support your child. Details on upcoming events can be found in the Events section.
  • Read to your child – as often and for as long as possible. The benefits of this are enormous. The child will:
    • develop a larger vocabulary,
    • hear words pronounced properly and punctuation marked,
    • learn to enjoy books,
    • keep up-to-date on books peers are reading,
    • enjoy an activity without pressure.
  • Read with your child. Paired Reading (see below) is a wonderful technique which encourages reading for pleasure and meaning.
  • Talk to your child – about this and that, everything and anything, just chat.  So much of family life is taken up with organising – getting meals ready, collecting and delivering children from activities, that time for chatting can get lost. Just as adolescents need time to sit and talk with their friends, it is important for them also to have time to chat with parents. If this chatting is not part of the younger child’s life then it certainly will not happen in teenage years. It is very important to keep in touch with how a young person with dyslexia is coping, because dyslexia affects the whole personality, not just schoolwork.
  • Listen to your child.  Learn to hear what the child is saying and note what is not being said. Pick up on tone of voice indicating possible worries. Ask open questions, e.g. “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think of that?”
  • Play games together – from “I spy” with your young child, to memory games, draughts, chess, and monopoly. With younger children saying nursery rhymes, tapping out rhythms, singing memory songs (e.g. Old McDonald Had A Farm) are all very useful. Never underestimate the amount of learning a child does simply by being with you and observing. Parents are the most important teachers of their children but not necessarily in formal teaching – the informal teaching is equally effective.
  • A good method to help with the learning of spellings is the SOS Spelling Method (see below). It is a good multi-sensory approach to learning spellings, which incorporates a lot of over learning, and is very effective.
  • Make visits and take trips. You do not have to take a child to the museum to provide a learning experience. A walk through a field or by a river, in a shopping centre or round to Granny’s can be just as useful as a formal session. Grandparents are a great source of support to children with dyslexia as they may have more time to chat and to listen or read.
  • Watch TV together and discuss what you see.
  • Factsheet 16 – How Parents Can Help (PDF format) focuses on tips for helping your child through second level.


Helping with Homework and Providing Support


Help with homework by being close at hand to answer questions and to ensure that the child stays on task. In general it is best to let the child decide what help s/he needs from you and provide just that amount.

Don’t take charge of the homework or feel that you have to teach the child. That is the job of the teacher and while the child will have many teachers s/he will only have one Mum and Dad. That relationship is much too important to risk by getting into a teaching role.

Limit homework time for younger children. The class teacher will tell you how long homework should take, and if it is taking much longer than normal then it should be possible to work out an arrangement with the teacher as to how much will be done in any evening.

Keep in touch with the school and keep teachers informed of how things are progressing for the child.

Keep yourself up-to-date of any developments which might help. A good way to do this is by becoming a member of the Dyslexia Association, and becoming involved with your local branch.

Using a computer, particularly a word processor, can be a great help to a student with dyslexia.  If possible, encourage your child to learn to touch type. This could be done over the summer months and need not be a chore.

Explore your local library for books which have a higher interest level than reading age. Check out abbreviated versions of classics which are designed for students learning English as a foreign language.  Librarians are very willing to help, so do ask.

Students with dyslexia find schoolwork more tiring than other children do, so it is important for them not to take on demanding part-time jobs during school term, particularly in exam years.

If your second level student has not yet developed good planning and organisational skills, it would be helpful for you to do some timetabling. You can help him/her to map out their week on a wall planner, and keep track of important dates, e.g. when projects and essays are due.  You may have to be more pro-active with a student with dyslexia than with your other children.

Plan ahead and look to the long term.  When a child has dyslexia it may be necessary to think of ways round access to courses and qualifications.  Be aware of the many Post Leaving Certificate courses, and how they can build up to diploma and degree status.  Other parents who have been through the process are often your best source of advice.

Finally, enjoy your child and let them know that you love having him or her around. Remember – it may seem like a lot of work when you have a child with dyslexia, but they grow up fast.


Paired Reading

Paired (Shared) Reading is a very good way for parents to help with their children’s reading.  It works really well with most children, and their reading gets a lot better.  Also, paired reading fits in very well with the teaching at school, so children do not get mixed up. Most children really like it as it helps them enjoy reading and want to read more.

Books: Have a wide range of books to choose from; use books from home, school or the library. Your child should choose the books.  Children learn to read better from books they like. Don’t worry if it seems a bit too hard. Your child will soon get used to picking books that aren’t too hard. Sometimes children will choose books which are too easy. Again, they will learn to pick the books which are best for paired reading. If your child gets fed up with a book and wants to change it, that’s OK. Only read a book again it your child wants to.

Graded or Hi/Lo Readers: These are books with a high interest level but a low reading age. They are available in most good educational bookshops. Many schools and libraries will have them. There is a list of publishers at the end of this page who sell hi-lo books, i.e. books with low reading age/high interest levels.

Time: When should you do paired reading? Try as hard as you can to do some nearly every day. You only need to do 10 minutes each day, if you want. Don’t do more than 15 minutes unless your child really wants to. Do not make children do paired reading when they really want to do something else. If the parents/guardians haven’t got time to do 10 minutes a night for 6 nights a week, then granny, grandad or an older brother or sister can help. They must do paired reading in just the same way as mum or dad. It is sometimes a good idea to let them watch it being done, so they know just what to do.

Place: Where should you do paired reading? Try to find a place that is quiet. Children can’t read if it’s noisy or there is a lot going on around them. Get away from the TV or turn it off. Try to find a place that’s comfortable. If you are not comfortable, you will both be shifting about. Then you won’t be able to look carefully and easily at the book together.

New Ways of Helping

It’s often harder for parents to learn new things than it is for children! With paired reading, the hardest things for parents to get used to are:

  1. When your child gets a word wrong, you just tell them what the word says. Then your child says it after you. You don’t make the child struggle and struggle, or ‘break it up’ or ‘sound it out’.
  2. When your child gets words right, you smile, show that you are pleased and say “good”. You don’t nag and fuss about the words your child gets wrong. Give praise for: good reading of hard words, getting all the words in a sentence right, putting words right before you do and even making a good guess at a new word.

Talking Is Good: Show interest in the book your child has chosen. Talk about the pictures. Talk about what’s in the story as your child reads through it. It is best if you talk at the end of a page or section, or your child might lose track of the story. Ask your child what they think will happen next. Listen to your child – don’t do all the talking yourself!

Keeping Notes: It is a good idea to keep a note of what you have read and how long you have read for. You can also make a note of when your child has read well. The diary could be taken into school, if your child wants, to show to their teacher. This will get them more praise and keep them keen.

Paired reading has two steps:

1. Reading Together

You and your child read the words our loud together. You must not go too fast. Make your speed as fast or as slow as your child’s. Your child must read every word. If your child struggles with a word and then gets it right, show that you are pleased. Never let your child struggle for more than 5 seconds.

If your child struggles for too long or gets a word wrong, then:

  1. Just say the right word yourself, and
  2. Make sure that your child repeats it properly.

Make sure that your child looks at the words. It can help if one of you points to the word you are reading with a finger. It’s best is your child does the pointing.

2. Reading Alone

When you are reading together and your child feels good enough, your child may want to read a bit alone. You should agree on a way for your child to tell you to be quiet. This could be a knock on the book, a wave of the hand or a nudge. You don’t want your child to have to say “Be quiet” or they could lose track of the reading. You stop reading our loud the moment your child signals, and praise them for making the sign.

When your child struggles for more than 5 seconds, or struggles and gets it wrong, you say the right word for your child. Make sure that your child says it right as well.

Then you both go on reading together, until your child feels good enough to read on alone again, and asks you to be quiet. You must always remember to go back to reading together when your child has had problems with a word.

Sources of Books for Paired Reading:

Children with dyslexia need access to good literature and books with low reading age/high interest levels.  Contact the following publishers for their catalogues. Your local educational bookshop may be able to order books from these publishers for you.  Libraries often have a range of these books available.

Surgisales Teaching Aids Ltd., 252 Harolds Cross Road, Dublin 6W (Tel: 01-4966688) stock some of these titles. They also have a branch in Kilkenny, at Westcourt Business Park, Callan, Co. Kilkenny. (Tel: 056-7755161). Surgisales website is

Ann Arbor:

Barrington Stoke:

Cambridge University Press:

Egmont Children’s Books: Tel. 0044-0207-5819393

Hodder & Stoughton:


Learning Space Ltd.

Read and Write Educational Supplies: Tel. 0044 1233 720618

Scholastic Children’s Books: Tel. 0044 207 4219000

VIDEO – “An Approach to Shared Reading”
This video highights the importance of reading and shows children enjoying books and literature. It demonstrates how to carry our shared (paired) reading and shows children’s reactions to books and the Shared Reading programme. Video duration is 30 minutes.  The video is available from BTF Educational Productions, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. Tel. 058 52010 and 021 4883573, or email



SOS Spelling Method

This method of learning spelling is called the SOS method – Simultaneous Oral Spelling.  Lynette Bradley at Oxford University has shown that this method is almost twice as effective as simple writing or repetition.  SOS is a multi-sensory learning method.  When a child uses the SOS method, they are using all sensory channels to learn how to spell new words.  They are using visual, auditory and motor/movement channels to take in the spelling pattern of the new target word.  They are also learning to check that they have not jumbled the order of letters by mistake.

The SOS method involves ‘over-learning’ which reflects that children and young people with dyslexia take additional time to transfer learning into long-term memory.  The method is therefore more effective if a slow and steady approach is taken.  Set aside a ten minute period each day for helping the child with spelling.  Spelling lists should be short – no more than five words.  The same spelling list should be worked on for three days in a row.  This means that no more than ten new words can be learned in a week.

Follow the routine described for each word:

  1. Write the target word out or form it with plastic letters.
  2. Tell your child how to say the word and what it means if they don’t know.
  3. Ask your child to copy the target word and to say the name of each letter as it is being written.
  4. Ask your child to look at what they have written and to say the whole word.
  5. Ask your child to check that what they have written is the same as the target word. This checking is done letter by letter from the target to the copy.
  6. Your child should then try to write and say the target word from memory. If he or she makes any mistakes, identify the mistake and then continue once the mistake has been rectified.
  7. Repeat Step 6 until the word has been written correctly three times.


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DAI activities are part-funded by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 administered by Pobal), the Special Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS and KWETB.