3 Tips to help your Dyslexic Teen

Asalamu’alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu ladies,

I’m sat here, with my reheated (I’ve lost how many times) coffee, and a list of IGCSE questions I’m helping my teens through. It isn’t the most relaxing way to enjoy a midweek evening; but though homeschooling teens comes with it’s challenges, it comes with a lot of satisfaction too, alhamdulillah.

But having a teen with dyslexia comes with it’s additional challenges. We’ve been through some difficult days in our homeschool, especially the early years where I was trying to figure out what dyslexia actually was. Sure I’d heard of it, and knew close family members who had it.

But having a child with dyslexia, who I was going to educate day to day meant I couldn’t be just content with having an idea of what it was because the less I understood, the less I was able to help my daughter – leading to frustration (and plenty tears!).

I laugh about it now, but at the time, I literally would make a hot drink for myself before listening to my daughters daily reading ; I knew it would take at least half an hour to to get through a paragraph so I had to get comfortable! (If you suspect your child has dyslexia, check this free checklist here).

It was tough. And it still is. But we’ve come a long since then, Allahuma barik. My understanding of what dyslexia is has deepened, and my daughters grit and resilience to keep going is paying off, Alhamdulillah.

But teaching your kids in primary years is much different to the high school years. Especially when overall learning seems to become more formal’ standardised, and structured because of testing and exams on the horizon. It’s a big transition.

And it can be stressful upon both us mamas and kids to navigate through this season because our dyslexic kids learn differently. They don’t fit into that standard ‘textbook’ learning mold, and so when everything seems to become ‘textbook’, you can feel the pressure!

Having said that, it’s important that as our kids phase into different stages of their homeschool, that we adapt WITH them. Homeschooling highschool seems to have this do your own thing feeling surrounded it; as if to say you’ve reached a certain age, go do it yourself now! But that needn’t and shouldn’t be the case.

And for our teens with dyslexia, it’s a must that we keep that support going. The same way we buy blocks for our younger kids, stock up on art supplies for our arty kid or look for outdoor opportunities for the family, we need to put on our research cap for our dyslexic kids and see how best we can help them too in sha Allah.

So here are three things you can do to help your dyslexic teen maximise their learning potential in sha Allah.

Use text to speech software

Assistive technology is a MUST for kids with dyslexia, even though by their teens kids with dyslexia usually have come leaps and bounds from their shaky reading and spelling days (though it still might be slow). We want our kids to be able to focus on the content instead of worrying about ‘what does this say’ or ‘did I spell this right’, and so using things like text to speech (or speech to text) software can give dyslexic learners that independence they crave for like all teenagers and boost their confidence when it comes to taking ownership in their learning in sha Allah.

Now text to speech software was on of those things that I dismissed pretty quickly even though I had family members who used it heavily. When it came to my daughter, like many other mamas I thought technology would hinder my daughters core skills like reading and spelling. And really, I didn’t think it would be all that useful – but I was wrong!

The key here is balance. You can still focus heavily on your child gaining those incremental skills, especially in the younger years. But as your child gets older, don’t be afraid of introducing technology to aid those skills further in sha Allah. Technology is there to further aid, not replace core skills.

a boy studying online using laptop

Think of how daunting it is to read through exam material for us mamas (yikes!), let alone the kids. So take that a step further and think how intimidating that would be for our dyslexic kids for who reading isn’t their strong point. Having a text to speech software where kids can highlight chunks of text and follow along as it’s being read aloud to them is a game changer. No longer do kids need to be so focused on trying to figure out words and sentences; instead they can focus on understanding. It also takes a LOT of pressure off you too!

If you’re on the look for speech to text software, check out Natural Reader HERE. We’ve used this for years and there’s a free version too.

Make learning multisensory (even with exam material!)

With thick textbooks glaring at you, and folders of notes, it’s easy to let one dimensional learning take over, especially when it comes to studying for exams. Exam material isn’t usually the most ‘varied’ curricula you’ll teach by any means. But don’t let so many words put you off. Using assistive technology such as text to speech (and speech to text software) already adds another dimension to learning through audio so why stop there?

Like you would for any curriculum, tweak things, change things up, and make things work for your child.

Be creative and let your child use manipulatives for Math, letter tiles for Spelling (read here about the curriculum I STILL use), and search about the house and grab items that show strong branding for Business. Yes your child is older, but your child needs to still get hands on with learning to maximise their potential in sha Allah.

When preparing lessons for your child, ask yourself, how can I include different learning styles (i.e., visual, auditory, verbal, kinesthetic) into lessons? Is this lessons hands on enough or could I break it apart? Does this particular way of learning seem to be working? Constantly assessing mastery of concepts is crucial when it comes to our dyslexic kids who often suffer with low-self esteem due to feeling like they are behind in some way, or who just feel daunting by the idea of so many textbooks (I’ve made a free printable here to help you HERE)

But our job as homeschool mamas, is to individualise learning and instruction, so all our kids can thrive in sha Allah. So get a little creative here mama!

Personally, I have a shelf dedicated to manipulatives I dip into for all the kids, but especially for my daughter with dyslexia, to keep things varied. Sometimes I pre read her course notes and put a small asterisk where I think of something simple I can do to get her moving around, or just thing of ideas on the spot when I feel she’s not quite retaining a concept.

I’d advise you to keep a bunch of manipulatives at close range too, not tucked up in a draw where they are forgotten most of the time, to keep learning engaging in sha Allah. Colorful mindmaps with images are also a great way for dyslexic kids to organise and consolidate learning too, and again add a different dimension of learning alongside traditional notetaking.

And finally, focus on quality over quantity

This one is SUPER important. When we see our kids ‘behind’, progress at a slower pace and miles behind that suggested guide, it can make us panic! You can feel like you’ve let your child down in some way, or that your not cut out to teach your child who learns differently to the rest of you.

And in panic mode, what to we often do?

We add more to the plate.

And more. And maybe even a little more.

Because we want to play ‘catch up’. After years of homeschooling, I still fall into this. And I guess that where we need to step back and sip on a little deschool decaf, because it isn’t about catching up, it‘s about keeping consistent with quality work.

And I thought this one was also important to highlight because as Muslim homeschool mothers, it’s likely that our child is also doing other things aside from standard academics too, such as hifdh, islamic studies, and Arabic. There’s a whole lot going on, because passing exams aren’t the only focus in a Muslim homeschool right!

So focus on quality over quantity. Allow ample space for your child to still focus on their Islamic studies because this shouldn’t suddenly stop or slow down. And cut out unnecessary extras to create wide open spaces where you can give your child the extra time they need to excel in their academics too in sha Allah. Dyslexic children often need extra time to work through things and so time restraints and feeling the pressure to catch up only hinders learning.

Rather than trying to get through lessons fast and whizz through course notes, that later on your child forgets or can’t connect concepts, go steady. If they are studying towards exams, have that exam date in mind, and then create a daily routine that works towards that date which is focused, yet isn’t over burdening for them.

Utilise time after Fajr to focus on hifdh, take qayloolah to reenergise, use weekends to fill in things that over spilled, take breaks so long hours of study are broken up. Make a routine that WORKS FOR THEM not against them!

And don’t forget yourself in the equation mama. Especially if you’re homeschooling multiple children, you need to be able to give each child time, including your child with dyslexia.

But we’ve still got a home to run, mouths to feed and so many other responsibilities besides homeschooling. So don’t forget to make a routine for YOURSELF that gives you the space and flexibility to be able to give all your children the time they need without compromising on other duties and homemaking.

And lastly, don’t forget that on the top of this list, like with everything else, make du’a!
Make du’a and then put in the hard work; it will all be worth it in sha Allah.

If you know a mama struggling with teaching their child with dyslexia, forward this post onto them to help them out in sha Allah.

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Passionate about simple homeschooling, morning coffee, writing, and raising my children upon the Qur'an and Sunnah in sha Allah.

4 thoughts on “3 Tips to help your Dyslexic Teen

  1. Jazakallah khair for sharing your hard won wisdom. This is very helpful for mothers of kids with any learning challenges, allahumma barik.

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