This is an excerpt from the complete free booklet Teaching a Struggling Reader: One Mom’s Experience with Dyslexia. I have created this page because of how important it is for a child who is suspected of having dyslexia to start experiencing Phonemic Awareness activities as well as receiving Speech Therapy if they have language delays. The sooner these activities start, the potentially greater the impact. Early Phonemic Awareness and Speech Therapy could make a huge difference for the rest of their lives.…

yslexia early intervention

dyslexia early intervention

The importance of early intervention cannot be stressed enough. Many teachers will tell parents, “Your child is just a late bloomer. They’ll get it when they’re ready. Let’s just wait and watch.” Although it is true that kids learn in different ways and at different rates, it seems individuals with dyslexia are pretty much born with different brains. The earlier they receive intervention, the better they may become at reading. Tackling Dyslexia at an Early Age. from Harvard Medical school states, “up to 70 percent of at-risk children who receive educational intervention in kindergarten or first grade become proficient readers.” 

dyslexia early intervention

I find this quote from the article, Ability to Catch Dyslexia Early May Help Stem Its Effects, so important, that I am including it in its entirety: 

dyslexia early intervention

Parents can spot potential signs of trouble even earlier than preschool or kindergarten, (Sally) Shaywitz (co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, at Yale University) says. Late speech (not saying first words until after 15 months of age and not speaking in phrases until after age 2) may indicate a future reading disability. The biggest indicator, she says, is the inability to appreciate rhymes. “If a child doesn’t seem to ‘get” the funny rhymes in a Dr. Seuss book, this may be a first sign of a reading disorder,” she says. 

Both of these articles talk about changes that occur in the brain with early school-age interventions. A parent may be concerned their child could have dyslexia because of red flags in their child’s behavior or because of family history. It seems to me that if a parent is concerned their child younger than 5 may have dyslexia, that taking actions at that early age could be highly beneficial. I have done multiple searches and contacted many dyslexia professionals asking for specific interventions to help preschool children who may have dyslexia. My online searches found no specific recommendations for how to help preschool children who may have dyslexia.  Fortunately, I did receive very helpful information from two well-regarded Dyslexia Professionals. 

dyslexia early intervention

Joanne Marttila Pierson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, the Project Manager of DyslexiaHelp at the University of Michigan stated, “Your best bet is to write about spoken language skills and development. As you know, spoken language undergirds learning to read, spell, and write, and so the better linguistic skills a child has, the better he is likely to do learning to read. For example, I have a developmental milestone checker here. As is suggested in this article, Is Preschool Language Impairment a Risk Factor for Dyslexia in Adolescence?, children with phonological disorders in preschool are at greater risk for reading disorder, which makes sense since the core deficit in dyslexia is in phonological processing (i.e., phonological awareness, phonological memory, rapid automatic naming.) And, books such as Beyond Bedtime Stories by Nell Duke are what you’d want to offer as resources.”

As Dr. Pierson stated, many children with dyslexia have speech delays. Receiving Speech Therapy from a Speech Pathologist could make a tremendous difference when they start learning to read. (It will also be useful even if they do not have dyslexia.) When both of my children were babies, I frequently used the Ages and Stages Questionnaires just to make sure they were developing on target. When the results showed my daughter’s speech was behind schedule, I got her evaluated. Because of this my daughter was able to start Speech Therapy at twelve months of age.  

dyslexia early intervention

I’d always thought Speech Therapy was teaching children how to say words. Actually, articulation has been a very minor part of her therapy. It has focused more on helping her understand and express words. Speech Therapy helps children say, “I want the firetruck book.” instead of “I want that.” Early Intervention services are often free or very low cost for children from birth to three. Many school districts will continue with the (often free) services once the child turns three. You can learn more about Early Intervention here.

Reading to young children is perhaps one of the most important activities you can share. We read to our children multiple times a day during the early years. My daughter wanted to be read to even more than my son. She couldn’t talk so she would scream if I didn’t read to her for hours every day. I had the luxury of being a Stay-At-Home-Mom so we sat together reading book after book after book every day. I am not exaggerating when I say we read for hours each day for months, possibly years (those years are such a blur that I don’t remember how long they lasted.) I now wonder if she craved being read to so much because she could not understand what language was and if being read to helped her try to figure it out. This article discusses 10 Benefits That Highlight the Importance of Reading with Young Children

dyslexia early intervention

Another Dyslexia professional, Susan Barton of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, also contacted me. She stated, “Most dyslexia professionals will not screen or test a child younger than age 5 1/2, plus the child must be at least halfway through kindergarten. But if you suspect dyslexia, I recommend you start doing the activities described in the following books now.”

Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum by Marilyn Adams Ph.D. and Barbara Foorman “Ph.D. M.A.T”

Preparing Children for Success in Reading: A Multisensory Guide for Teachers and Parents by Nancy Sanders Royal based on the work of Beth Slingerland. 

Since there are no online links I can share for how to help preschool children who may have dyslexia, I searched for ways of teaching phonemic awareness in early childhood. Reading Rockets has a list of specific activities that promote phonemic awareness. My favorite dyslexia website, Homeschooling With Dyslexia, has good phonemic awareness ideas. Pinterest is a great source for Phonemic Awareness. This link to Pinterest will offer you scads of ideas. I also searched for activities that would help any child gain skills to improve their reading abilities. There is an excellent list of suggestions at this article, Help for Young Readers.  

dyslexia early intervention

The suggested activities in the Help for Young Readers article bring out some of my Mom-Guilt. It suggests rhyming activities with young children. We did lots of that with our son when he was a toddler and preschooler. It was so much fun. Then we tried it with our daughter. It wasn’t so much fun. She didn’t get it. No matter how many playful rhymes we made with her name or what we were saying and no matter how many rhyming books we read, she never understood rhyming. We eventually stopped trying. (She would learn to rhyme after multiple sessions with two different Orton-Gillingham teachers.) My guilty side wonders if we had kept trying to teach her rhyming and had done more phonemic awareness activities if it would have helped her when it was time to learn to read. We didn’t know rhyming challenges could be a sign of dyslexia so we just stopped doing it and moved on to other ways to have fun with her. We did so many good things for her (we still do,) but I so regret we didn’t do more phonemic awareness activities. I say this because, as I look at the list of recommended activities, I think how hard parenting can be. For Stay Home parents, not getting a break tires you out so much. For working parents there just aren’t enough hours in a day. Every parent wants to do what is best for their child and sometimes (or often) life gets in the way. Please know that if you’re feeling guilty that you can’t do it all, you’re not the only one that feels that way. Also know that every little action you take will make a difference in the long run. My husband likes to say, “Wrigley Gum made their fortune selling 5 cent packs of gum.” (Ironically, William Wrigley Jr. of the chewing gum company had dyslexia.) Our daughter benefited from every book we read her and every Speech Therapy session she attended, even the ones where she refused to cooperate for half the session. 

dyslexia early intervention