How to Help a Child With Word Blindness

By Shellie Braeuner
Reading with your child can help you identify dyslexia.
Reading with your child can help you identify dyslexia.

As early as 1877, teachers recognized that some otherwise intelligent students couldn’t read words. At that time, it was referred to as “word blindness.” Today, we have a different name for this phenomenon: dyslexia. According to Dr. Laura Bailet writing at KidsHealth, dyslexia affects between 15 percent and 20 percent of children. If left undiagnosed, children suffering from severe dyslexia might never read. However, parents and teachers can use several strategies to help children with dyslexia cope and become good readers.

Look for the signs. Identifying a child with dyslexia early allows parents to correct the issue faster. Some signs of dyslexia occur long before children are ready to read. Children with dyslexia tend to be late talkers and have problems with word pronunciation. Your child might have problems learning basic skills such as recognizing colors, numbers and letters. He might confuse letter pairs such as B and D or P and Q. He might also have a hard time connecting letters and sounds or hearing rhyming sounds. For example, some dyslexic children can't understand that "sp" makes a /sp/ sound. So, he might not recognize that "spider" and "wider" rhyme because they don't sound exactly the same. He just knows that they are different words.

Educate yourself. Find out all you can about dyslexia and your state’s procedure for dealing with the challenge. Talk to your child’s teacher about how the school responds to dyslexia.

Reassure your child. Dyslexia doesn’t make a child stupid. However, your child might struggle with feelings of inadequacy when she sees other children easily accomplishing something that is so hard for her. Empathize with her, but point out where her strengths lie. Remind her she is working to change how she reads. Let her know that everyone has challenges.

Ensure that your child has all the help he needs, in school and out. Federal law requires that schools offer services to children with dyslexia. Talk to your child’s teacher and school about what type of accommodations his school makes. Consider adding help through a private tutor or tutoring organization.

Encourage your child to do activities she enjoys. Don’t make her whole life about reading. If she enjoys drawing, get her supplies and find classes in your area. If she loves music or sports, help her to explore these parts of her personality. Success in other parts of her life can help boost her self-esteem.


Help your child get immersed in the stories by reading longer books to him a chapter at a time. A love of books might encourage him to read more.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.