How to Explain Dyslexia to your Child’s Siblings

Building Blocks Therapy Centre’s 

How to Explain Dyslexia to your Child’s Siblings


By Jevetta Doyley

It can be hard explaining dyslexia to a child who is experiencing the symptoms but it might be equally as difficult to do so with neurotypical siblings.  The siblings of a child with dyslexia may feel a little left out due to all the extra attention the sibling with dyslexia is receiving.  They may also feel a bit helpless when their sibling becomes frustrated and displays behaviour that is challenging and most likely quite distressing to watch.  We have a compiled a number of tips to help you explain dyslexia to a sibling.

Use Simple Language

Like you would with any child, use very simple age-appropriate language.  Encourage the child with dyslexia to talk about their experiences with dyslexia.  Help children to realise that we are all very different and have different strengths and needs and that we can help each other to overcome these needs.

Comfortable Setting

Don’t make the whole thing seem like a lecture.  Get comfy, have a chat.  At some point take time out to speak to the sibling alone, away from the child with dyslexia to ask how they feel.  Just because they don’t have dyslexia it doesn’t mean they are automatically happy and passive.  Some siblings may want to take an active role in ensuring the child with dyslexia gets the help they need at home.  They may disclose some instances of bullying at school that they may have been keeping secret, under instruction from their sibling.  Either way, it is important to keep an open dialogue between you as the parent and all of your children, they should be able to come to you for guidance, reassurance and comfort.

Involve the Siblings

As previously mentioned siblings may feel that the child with dyslexia is getting a lot of attention, it may be helpful to get them involved so that they don’t feel so left out.  Be sure to ask the child with dyslexia if this is something they’d like.  Some children may not appreciate their younger/older sibling telling them what to do, whilst other siblings may provide perfect explanations and tips and tricks to help remember specific spellings or developing good time management.  Child development theorists have championed the idea of peer teaching, and in many school situations, this is encouraged.  If the siblings aren’t suited to helping each other academically, encourage lots of play scenarios where they can successfully help each other based on the knowledge of both of their strengths.

Explain What is Happening

Part of involving the sibling in another child’s experiences of dyslexia involves helping them understand what those around the child are doing to help.  The sibling may notice that the child with dyslexia has a range of visual aids or extra help at school from practitioners.  Explain why this is happening and how they all help.

Encourage Empathy and Understanding

Not all children with dyslexia can or want to explain what their difficulties are to others, although dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, as parents and practitioners we should wait until the child is ready to talk about it.  We should actively encourage siblings to empathise with this and respect this standpoint to not discuss it with others.   It may be best to have a specific phrase that you use to encourage others to not ask so many questions.  For example, “My brother has dyslexia, which makes some things difficult for him.   He uses new and creative ways to help him in school.”

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