If your child has dyslexia or other learning disability, educational therapy could be the answer you’ve been seeking and didn’t even know existed. You might be asking, “What’s educational therapy anyway?”
Think for a moment about the experience of being a child who struggles in school. Everyone else seems to just understand the material being taught. But for some reason, it’s just not that simple for you. Silly songs that seem funny to the other kids in the class, make no sense to you.
You would probably start really disliking school, hide the fact that you don’t get it, or even just avoid those challenging school assignments altogether.
How much of a difference would it make if someone just taught like your brain worked?
Showed you how to make sense of what everyone is learning so that you could learn too.
How much more enjoyable would school be?
This is the experience of children with dyslexia. The power to learn how to learn is the reason educational therapy is such a valuable tool for children who learn and think differently.
Never Heard of Educational Therapy? You’re Not Alone, Here’s the Basics.
Educational therapy focuses on teaching skills for thinking and learning. Making it a powerful resource for children whose brains just work differently for one reason or another.
Learning is actually a complex combination of small skills:
The list goes on!
Here’s the thing: Schools don’t always have the same specialized knowledge in learning styles or the array of alternate ways to teach. They simply don’t have the same tools, time, or individualized services that can be provided by an educational therapist.
And, educational therapy is more than traditional tutoring. Rather than just focusing on learning specific content, educational therapy focuses on teaching the process behind learning so that the skills can be used across school topics and grades.
And ed therapy not just for children with identified learning disabilities. Many children just learn differently and benefit from educational therapy.
For instance, children with:
The framework of educational therapy is especially valuable for children with dyslexia. So keep reading to better understand the tools of educational therapy through the lens of dyslexia.
How does dyslexia impact learning ability?
Dyslexia is a learning disability related to how information is processed in the brain. These are smart kids who just have brains that process information differently. Dyslexia impacts a variety of skills related to reading, writing, spelling, and math.
At its most basic level, dyslexia makes it more difficult to process written words and numbers. When reading to themselves, those with dyslexia can have difficulty reading fluently and comprehending what is read. Basically, it’s hard to know what you are reading when it takes so much effort to figure out each word.
Dyslexia can also impact other areas such as memory and the ability to deal with stress. Plus, challenges with learning can also lead to anxiety and frustration around reading and schoolwork.
Much of the difficulty with learning is related to trouble with matching letters to sounds and being able to decode words. Decoding words is an early reading skill where unfamiliar words are sounded out. Children decode unknown words by recognizing the relationship between letters and sounds.
Even before students learn to decode words, they need the skill of phonological awareness. This is a big word to describe a basic recognition of sounds, patterns, and syllables. Think of all the preschool songs where you clap out syllables, rhyme, or make up silly words by changing the sound of the word.
But the good news is... children with dyslexia are smart and can learn, especially when given strategies that match the way their brain processes information. In fact, studies using brain scans have shown improvements in the brain areas related to dyslexia when using targeted teaching strategies1.
So this is where educational therapy can really make a difference. By teaching correctly, children with dyslexia get a chance to learn in the way their brain works best.
Let’s take a look at what that involves.
How does educational therapy help dyslexia?
Samantha Martinez, Educational Therapist at Child’s Play Therapy Services in East Bay, CA describes some of the methods she uses when working with children with dyslexia. She focuses on using Linda Mood-Bell’s program Seeing Stars to work on skills related to hearing and seeing sounds in words.
Using the different senses to learn, children get to see, touch, smell, hear, and move to learn about a concept.
According to Martinez, “Multi-sensory learning helps to bring the words to life to help children with dyslexia learn in a different way. These methods focus less on the printed text and more on finding other methods to learn the patterns and parts of words.”
It’s a way of learning that focuses on physical movement and other forms of visual processing to help your child with dyslexia learn.
This skill is focusing on the present by using breathing strategies and calming the mind and body.
According to Martinez, “I start each session working on mindfulness. It’s important to start with mindfulness to prepare your child for learning and because it’s an easier skill to learn when you’re not stressed.”
This is a powerful tool for children with dyslexia because it can get them recentered and able to work through the tough spots. Because having a learning disability can be frustrating, children with learning disabilities are more likely to deal with anxiety both in childhood and throughout their life.
Use of Games
Children love learning through games. Makes sense, right? It’s just more fun! But there is a very practical element to using games when working with children with dyslexia. It gives great opportunities to practice sequencing and processing information visually. It also gets the brain warmed up for processing visual information faster and more automatically.
Educational Therapy Celebrates the Unique Way Each Child Learns
In the end, each child with dyslexia learns in their own way. Educational therapy offers the opportunity to trial different ways of learning – finding what works best for your child. And then provides practice to give your child the confidence to use these tools in the classroom, across subjects and for years to come.
And, this isn’t only true for children with dyslexia. The tools for learning provided by educational therapy can help children with many different types of learning and organization challenges.
Wondering if educational therapy might be right for your child?
Call to schedule a free 15-minute consult with Samantha Martinez at Child’s Play Therapy Services in the Bay Area, CA.
Huber, E., Donnelly, P.M., Rokem, A. et al. Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention. Nat Commun 9, 2260 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04627-5
What is Educational Therapy?
What is Dyslexia?