Why your dyslexic child is resisting reading instruction and what to do about it.

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Dyslexia Information, Teaching Tips | 0 comments

Is your dyslexic child resisting reading instruction?

Honestly, I would be surprised if they weren’t.  

Learning to read as a child with dyslexia is HARD!

what to do when your child with dyslexia resists reading instruction

I talk to parents every week who are experiencing some kind of resistance to reading instruction from their kids with dyslexia.

I’ve been teaching my kids with dyslexia at home for almost 30 years. About 10 years ago, I became a certified Orton-Gillingham reading tutor. This training plus my many years working with my own kids has taught me a few things about why kids with dyslexia resist reading instruction.

Hopefully, this post will help you avoid the teaching methods that cause our kids to resist. First, we’ll look at why kids struggle and then we’ll look at what to do about it.

A few reasons why dyslexic kids resist reading instruction:

You’re moving too quickly.

Something I didn’t realize early on as I was teaching my kids with dyslexia to read is that they need way more review of concepts than you may think before moving on to new concepts. They may understand the concept you are teaching one day, repeating it back to you, and even applying the rule in context throughout your lesson. It’s natural to assume that they understood the concept and to feel confident about moving on to another concept.

The trouble is that most of the time, even though they understand the concept you are teaching them, kids with dyslexia will forget the concept the next day and get confused when presented with that concept as well as a new concept the following day. This compounds when day after day they are being presented with new concepts but the previous concepts have not been mastered.

I often encourage parents who are teaching their dyslexic kids at home to think of themselves as a tutor to their kids. Tutors are successful because they tailor their instruction to the specific needs of their students each day, If they see a concept has not been mastered, they will weave in time for review.

All reading lessons should have time for review. Click here to download my free Orton-Gillingham Reading Lesson Planner here for more ideas for structuring your reading lessons. 

You’re doing too much each day.

This is similar to reason number one above except it’s not that you’re not reviewing enough, it’s that you are trying to fit too much into one lesson. A 50-minute reading lesson can cover a LOT of new material. Some of our kids can’t handle such a long lesson.

Some signs of fatigue that you may see during a lesson are:

  • Decreased attention and focus. They may begin to fidget or become restless and disinterested.
  • Slower reading speed.
  • Increased errors. There may be more frequent mistakes in reading, such as skipping words, misreading words, or guessing.
  • Your child may start to become frustrated, irritable, or express feelings of being overwhelmed or tired.
  • Decreased comprehension: The child may have difficulty understanding or remembering what they have read.

When you start to see these signs of fatigue setting in, it’s a good idea to plan to wrap up the lesson. You can either choose to be finished for the day or break the lesson up into several smaller chunks throughout the day. 

One thing I learned in my Orton-Gillingham training was to do your best to end each reading lesson on a high note. This could be accomplished by ending by playing a game, by singing a song, or by reading to your child something they enjoy. There were seasons in my homeschool where I offered my resistant learners a small treat or toy after a lesson. Most of our tutors over the years had some reward system in place to help motivate their students.

They are experiencing anxiety.

Sometimes our kids with dyslexia experience anxiety when it comes to reading so that even the thought of a reading lesson or a certain part of a reading lesson, causes them to become worried and anxious. 

This usually develops over time from chronic feelings of failure. Feelings of failure are common in dyslexic kids who are traditionally educated either in public or private school. Years of frustration and ineffective teaching methods paired with a lack of understanding of their real learning needs result in kids who feel dumb and unable to learn.

This can happen in homeschools as well. Usually this stems from parents being unaware of how their kids learn and sticking rigidly to traditional ideas of teaching and learning.

Learn more about how to alleviate anxiety in your kids with dyslexia here.


Another element that adds to resistance to reading instruction is perfectionism. Many of our kids with dyslexia will also have perfectionist tendencies. 

Reasons why kids with dyslexia can develop perfectionist tendencies:

Compensation for weaknesses: Because dyslexic kids find reading challenging which is frustrating, they can develop and a desire to compensate by excelling in other areas. This drive for perfectionism can manifest as a way to prove their worth or intelligence in areas where they feel more capable.

Fear of failure: Dyslexic children may fear failure due to past experiences of struggling with reading or writing tasks. This fear can motivate them to strive for perfection to avoid criticism or negative feedback.

Pressure to succeed: There may be external pressure from parents, teachers, or peers to perform well academically, which can contribute to perfectionist tendencies in dyslexic children.

Low self-esteem: Dyslexia can impact a child’s self-esteem, leading them to seek validation and acceptance through perfectionism.

Coping mechanism: Perfectionism can also be a coping mechanism for dyslexic kids to regain a sense of control over their learning difficulties. By focusing on achieving perfection in certain areas, they may feel more in control and less anxious about their challenges with reading and writing.

They have unresolved attention deficits.

It is estimated that between 40-60% of people with dyslexia also have some form of attention deficit. Whether that is accompanied by hyperactivity or more subtle and only a struggle with maintaining focus, ADHD can affect learning in a lot of different ways.

How ADHD affects learning:

Lack of focus: This goes without saying but if you have a child with ADHD, they only have so much ability to stay focused before they  simply cannot focus any longer.

Impulsivity: Kids with ADHD can have difficulty controlling their actions and responses. What this looks like in a learning environment is interrupting, blurting out off-topic comments, having trouble getting started with tasks or finishing tasks.

Hyperactivity: This makes it hard for kids to sit still for long.

Organization and Time Management: Kids with ADHD often have difficulties with organization, time management, and planning skills, which can affect their ability to complete tasks and assignments on time.

Memory Problems: Some kids with ADHD may have difficulties with working memory, making it difficult to remember and follow through with instructions or recall information.

How to Help a Child who Hates Reading Instruction

There are a variety of different ways to relive the tension your dyslexic kids are experiencing while you are teaching them to read at home.

Slow down and add in more review.

Accepting that your kids will need lots and lots of review will help you feel less frustrated as you are teaching them. Expect your kids to forget and don’t hesitate flipping back a few pages in your teacher’s guide and review forgotten concepts. Be sure to use as many multi-sensory methods as possible.

Shorten your lessons.

When you begin to see signs of frustration, fatigue, or negativity, wrap up your lesson with something light and easy or something that they enjoy. You can either do another short lesson later in the day or opt to finish for the day.

Help them with their anxiety.

Here are a few ways to help kids who are feeling anxious about learning. For more indeas specific to dyslexia, read this post.

  1. Validate their feelings: Acknowledge their feelings of anxiety as real and understandable. Let them know it’s okay to feel this way and that you’re there to support them.
  2. Teach relaxation techniques: Teach them simple techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization to help them calm down when they’re feeling anxious.
  3. Encourage healthy habits: Ensure they’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and engaging in regular physical activity, as these can all help reduce anxiety.
  4. Develop coping strategies: Work with them to develop strategies for managing their anxiety, such as positive self-talk, problem-solving skills, or creating a calming routine.
  5. Seek professional help if needed: If their anxiety is severe or persistent, consider seeking help from a mental health professional who can provide specific strategies and support.

Help them with their ADHD.

ADHD is a multi-faceted issue that affects many different areas of learning. The first thing to do if you suspect your child has ADHD is to learn as much as you can about it.

I created an online, video-based parent course called the ADHD Intensive that is a 6-part video series covering:

  • ADHD Basics: Learn what is going on in the brains of kids with ADHD as well as what the mechanisms are that cause ADHD.
  • Increasing Focus: There are a lot of ways to increase focus naturally. Many families have experienced a BIG difference in their kids’ focus after watching this module.
  • Teaching Organization: Kids with ADHD are often not naturally organized but these skills can be taught.
  • School and Learning Helps: From accommodations to remediation, this module will equip you with a ton of strategies for effective learning environment changes and teaching methods that work well with kids who struggle with attention.
  • Help for Increasing Emotional Regulation: Kids with ADHD can be way more sensitive to criticism, be impulsive, and get overwhelmed by their emotions on a regular basis. Learn strategies to help them increase emotional regulation to stop overwhelm before it happens.
  • Help with Lagging Social Skills: Some kids with ADHD have an incredibly difficult time in social situations. Again this can be taught. This session covers some common areas of social weakness and how to teach kids to manage better in those situations.

Learn more about the ADHD Intensive here.

Take a break from reading instruction.

I know the idea of taking a break from reading instruction can seem to fly n the face of reason. “How on earth can we take break? We’re sooooooo behind!”

The truth is that when our kids are stressed, they are not able to learn. Taking a break for a time, whether for a day, a week, a month, or a year, can alleviate a lot of that stress so that when you start up reading lessons again, there is less resistance.

Other ways to practice reading aside from using a curriculum are:

  • Read aloud together or listen to audio books.
  • Play games with your kids that have some reading in them.
  • Cook from recipes, read magazines or web sites of interest
  • Check out graphic novels that may be of interest. See this list here.

Learn more about what taking a break from academics, or deschooling) looks like and how to implement a season of deschooling into your homeschool.

For more information on teaching reading to kids with dyslexia at home see the following resources:

How to Teach Kids With Dyslexia to Read

What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Teaching Reading

A Comparison of the Top 4 Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs to Use at Home

When to Switch Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs

When to Take a Break from Reading Instruction

Has your dyslexic child resisted reading instruction? What helped? Please share in the comments below!


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