Parenting a Child With Dyslexia: Expectations & Reality

by | Jul 17, 2014 | Encouragement | 12 comments

I don’t know why the end-of-year conferences with my kids’ educational therapist makes me so nervous.  It is a strange thing really.  Parenting a child with dyslexia can feel like a huge responsibility. My kids’ improvement in reading, writing and spelling, or lack thereof, really isn’t related to how well I parent them.  But somehow it still feels like it.

The surprising expectations and reality of parenting a child with dyslexia.


Edited to add:  I wrote this post a few years ago.  It was meant to show some of the ups and downs of homeschooling and parenting kids with dyslexia.

If you’re new here, I am the mom of 8 kids ages 26 to 7, seven of whom are either mildly, moderately or profoundly dyslexic.  You can read more of our family’s dyslexia story here.  Our two profoundly dyslexic kids attend nearly 3 hours of educational therapy each week through the NILD program.  I am so grateful for this opportunity, but it is hard.  

At the end of every school year, the kids are given the Woodcock-Johnson standard test of achievement.  The purpose of these tests is to give us an honest assessment of how our kids academic achievement compared to their peers with or without learning issues.

This means that despite that fact that my profoundly dyslexic son can keep up with most of his studies with accommodations such as untimed tests, audio lessons, use of text to speech and speech to text apps and spell checkers, and that he has profound thoughts and insights into his studies – his testing shows that he is far from grade level.

The Reality of Dyslexia

Looking at the test results is a black and white reality check that momentarily causes me to stop looking at my whole child – an individual with strengths and talents that are not measured by this kind of test.

The tests are trying to tell me something that I don’t want to hear.  Something that I don’t believe.  The test results would be alarming if I did not know dyslexia and I did not know my son.

Those test scores seem to be saying, ‘Work harder!’ Try more!’ ‘Spend more money!’ ‘Do more lessons!’ ‘Do something!’ ‘DO SOMETHING!’

But I have been at this dyslexia thing for a long time now.  I know that there is more to this picture than a percentile or ranking and that the workings of my son’s mind more than these test scores.

Some Truths About Dyslexia

I know dyslexia and I know my son.  And if you have a child with dyslexia, you can too!

I know that dyslexia makes reading, writing, spelling, organizing and communication difficult.

I also know that dyslexic minds have amazing strengths – outside the classroom.  Strengths like being highly creative and persistent, being able to see patterns, connections and similarities that others don’t see, excellent puzzle solving skills, strong reasoning skills, an ability to understand abstract ideas, and an amazing inclination to think outside the box.

These are strengths that are not measured by any standardized test.

I know that dyslexics are 4 times more likely to be entrepreneurs.  It is their strengths of global, inventive outside the box thinking that makes them so successful.

I know that dyslexia is never outgrown.  It will be my kids’ companion for all of their lives.

I also know that I can expect my kids’ standardized test scores to look a bit scary.

I can expect to be a walking spell checker for this house full of dyslexics.

I can expect frequent counseling sessions with my frustrated and exasperated dyslexic learners.

I can expect to deal with nervousness and doubt about my own ability as a mother and homeschooler to these kids.

I can expect these early school years where the goal of my instruction is proficient reading, writing and spelling to be full of long, hard days.

Have I mentioned that homeschooling and parenting kids with dyslexia is hard?  As in most things, however, hard work pays off.

I can also expect the years of hard work and perseverance to result in kids who know the value of working hard and perseverance in their adult lives.

I can expect my kids to have a fully developed reliance on God to help them and guide them through the difficulties that they are sure to face, that we all will face, in life.

I can expect to have kids who appreciate the little things.

I can expect great things to come from these great minds.

I can expect kids who have extreme compassion for others who learn differently.

We have nearly completed another year of educational therapy.  There are plenty of days when I just wish my kids were ‘normal’.  I know this is selfish.  I know that there is purpose in all of it.  All of these experiences are working together for good in my kids lives are your kids lives as well.

If you are parenting or homeschooling a child (or 7) with dyslexia, look beyond the test results.  Your child’s ‘relative proficiency index’ does not define him or her.  They have been given gifts from God just like everyone else.  Since these kids operate outside the box all. the. time, allow their dyslexia to compel you to earnestly look for their unique gifts.

How about you?  Do your expectations about parenting a child with dyslexia match your reality?

This post is part of my series on homeschool planning. Read the entire series on homeschool goal setting, scheduling, and prioritizing here.


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  1. Beth Zelones

    Have read this and now understand a lot more about myself. I found out I had dyslexia when I was in 9th grade. It started back 6th grade when teachers saw me failings to read at the same level as everyone else and spelling was horrible and still is and math was a a whole anther story. I do thank my parents for find out when they did and helping me understand and teach me and being patient with me . Glad I have learn to live with it and have learn how to over come alot in life t g at comes with it a n d realize I am smart in other ways a n d very happy with my life and thank god for help me get through this life with it and have the faith I do with god cuz in the end it is really all about God and move the right way with him. Would like to learn more about dyslexia and I will b wearing red on the 15th of October.

  2. Tara

    I am a new homeschooler to my youngest son with Dyslexia. I needed this post!

  3. Stephanie Wagner

    How is the NILD program used? I’m homeschooling my profoundly dyslexic rising 7th grader. Looking for help on adding structure but not over doing it. I sent you an email. I’d love to get some advice.

    • marianne

      Hi Stephanie. I am behind on my emails. Hopefully this weekend. What programs have you used with your son and how was the progress? NILD uses an Orton-Gillingham (research-based) method AND some crossing the mid-line exercises and memory games to enhance short term and working memory. My own profoundly dyslexic son went to NILD after 3 years of Barton with very slow progress. Still hadn’t gone far into Level 3. He made amazing progress his first year with NILD and I attribute it to the added motions and kinesthetic exercises. I do try to add more structure in middle school by adding a class with our co-op or using a program like Switched On Schoolhouse computer program in a subject like science or history. When I do this, we often need to add some accommodations like audio books, speech-to-text apps etc. to help them keep up with the reading and writing aspects of their schoolwork. Of course, this all depends on what level your son is working at. Remember, we should be trying to work at their intellectual ability using accommodations while remediating there weaknesses separately.

      • Stephanie WAgner

        Thank you. He had gotten Wilson Reading starting half way through 2nd grade. That continued through 3rd, and most of 4th and then began again in 5th. During some of that time of 3rd and 4th grade he also got Lindamood-Bell 1-2 times per week. He’s currently going to his retired Wilson teacher for 2 hours 3 times per week for Reading/Language/Writing, and Saxon math. We’ve been using Analytical Grammar and Wordly Wise. His teacher thinks that those books may have a little too much info on each page and are a bit overwhelming so we’ll be looking for something else. We had done some SS and Science on Time-4-Learning. I had BJU Science 6, but the whole textbook approach totally turned him off and shut him down that’s why we did the other. We also did a lot of Science Museum visits, documentaries, and a homeschool Science class at the zoo once a week for an hour and a half. (love that one). So for next year, I want to be sure we’re going forward with the best Language approach and structuring our other subjects just a little more and make him a little more accountable and independent. We also need to work on the use of AT. He has also had some aversion to using much technology, but is slowly starting to accept it. I think he just mostly wanted to be like everyone else. Thanks so much.Stephanie

  4. Heidi

    Thank you for the good reminder. My 5th grader is dyslexic for sure and my 10th grader may be mildly so. I am also a dyslexic and was behind reading level wise and never got spelling. I loved to read however even as a young kid (not sure how that worked because looking back I was incredibly slow). I didn’t even realize I was behind until I had caught up enough to keep up (at least with reading). The reminder to look at the whole picture instead of the poor test scores and why they can’t do as much as their older brother.

  5. Lisa Hoskins

    Thank you for this. We are currently homeschooling our 6th. grade son who is reading at a 2nd.-3rd. grade level. I am using the Barton system, plus Reading Horizons discovery ( tried the elevate too hard) I have been seriously considering adding Nessy.
    I’ve known since second grade that there was a problem. We jumped through every hoop the school asked us to, we had an IEP that looked great on paper! Until I finally found out that there is not one person in our school district that is trained in dyslexia. We also can’t find any tutoring services closer than an hour and a half away from our home. Frustrated to say the least. So far what I have seen the most of is my son’s self confidence finally coming back, and that’s a huge improvement!

    • Marianne

      Thanks for sharing a bit of your story Lisa. I’m sorry to hear that you had so much trouble with the school. Glad to hear that your son’s confidence is back. Homeschooling is a great way to nurture outside the box kids! 🙂

  6. Gale

    I just have to say, and more to any parents out there who are experiencing this than to the author, that while all kids have their gifts and strengths, your child having dyslexia doesn’t guarantee that they will have the “dyslexia gifts” described here. Not all kids that have dyslexia are exceptional in some other area, and the false idea that kids with dyslexia are all exceptionally bright kids who just can’t read can actually has.

    If you have a kiddo who has dyslexia and seems to be behind in EVERYTHING…not only does that not mean it’s not really dyslexia, that doesn’t mean you’ve somehow failed.

    Lots of kids with dyslexia also have co-morbidities (a kinda gruesome sounding way of saying they may have other learning disabilities or other challenges too). My kiddo has Dyslexia and ADHD. That means on top of reading being harder to learn, his ability to “persevere” was three years behind other kids. I’m not sure if the memory problems he has are related to Dyslexia, ADHD, or something else, but challenges with rote memory also affects “reasoning skills” because it’s hard to reason well when you are mis-remembering facts. Not remembering things well can also affect one’s ability to see patterns, make connections, and understand abstract ideas.

    So if you are not seeing any of the “dyslexia gifts” in your child, that’s ok. It’s ok for dyslexia to be “giftless.” God strength is still make perfect in weakness, and “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” even this.

  7. Gae

    (oops…accidentally deleted something. Imeant to say “actually has caused kids to me misdiagnosed” at the end of that first paragraph.)

  8. Joshua

    Hi, our son has dyslexia. He’s in 3rd grade. In 2nd grade we had him at a specialized school for dyslexia and it was great. But it was also $28,000 / year. We put him back at his previous school (a private school here) and they are doing great job for him, but he is very anxious and overwhelmed every day. Tears about going to school, hates reading group, kids making fun of him, etc.

    I am considering homeschooling him. My wife and I are both full-time therapists. I could rearrange my schedule.

    I was wondering if someone could share how many hours a day you are finding homeschooling takes, maybe even a sample schedule, etc. Thanks.

    • Marianne

      Hi Joshua. Homeschooling in elementary school takes a few hours, no more than 2-3. Good luck!


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