Diagnosing Reading Problems: Tips for Parents

If you're the parent of a struggling reader, you're not alone. Many children have some difficulty learning to read. Fortunately, this difficulty can often be overcome by early intervention and active parent participation.

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Overview of Reading Problems

There are many factors that can put your child at risk for being a struggling reader. Some kids have a reading disability, such as dyslexia, which makes it difficult to learn words the traditional way. Other children come to school without the necessary background experiences to become successful readers. For example, they may not have had parents who read to them or spoke to them frequently.

Additionally, some children have had poor reading instruction or have learning disabilities that have not been identified. You can be your child's best advocate for early diagnosis and correction of reading problems.

Find Out If Your Child Needs Help

If your child is a preschooler and you suspect potential reading problems, you can get help from a free federally mandated program called Child Find. This program requires school districts to give children a comprehensive reading assessment if problems are suspected. Call your local school district for information.

If you suspect your elementary school child is having reading difficulties, check with his or her teacher. Ask what reading group your child is in and how he or she compares with the other students. Most teachers appreciate proactive parents and will let you know how your child is performing.

If your child's teacher suspects there may be a reading problem, he or she will probably conduct additional testing. You can follow up with inquiries about the procedure and testing results. Your child's teacher or reading specialist may even suggest strategies you can use at home to help with reading problems.

Be Informed

There is a law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates that children who are diagnosed with learning disabilities get free special education services from the school. If you think that your child has a learning disability and qualifies for special services under the law, be sure to take notes on every meeting you have with teachers and school personnel. You might also want to get names and contact information so you can refer back to conversations. This will help facilitate the process of getting your child diagnosed and getting him or her the necessary accommodations.

It's important to note, though, that just because your child struggles with reading, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has a specific learning disability. There are lots of other reasons that your child's reading skills may be below grade level, and many struggling readers are able to catch up to their peers when they get extra help.

Support Your Child at Home

Your support and encouragement are critical in helping your child overcome reading hurdles. Although you don't want to put extra stress on your child, there are some things you can do to help once you have identified a reading problem.

Depending on your child's age, you might try reading aloud more often and including songs, rhymes and poems in your repertoire. To help with decoding skills (figuring out unfamiliar words), you can point to letters and ask your child to name them. Writing practice can also help with decoding skills.

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