The Travelling Mom is very pleased to welcome guest writer Paige McEachren. Paige is a mother of two, based in Montreal, Canada.
Whether it’s a day outing, a weekend getaway or one-week holiday, I love to hit the road with my kids. In our family, travelling comes with the added baggage of dyslexia. It’s taken time for our family to figure out how best to travel with a dyslexic child.
There is no cure for dyslexia in children or adults. As much as my daughter would like to leave her dyslexia at home when she travels, it follows her everywhere. This has led us to finding ways to help her enjoy travelling and to make trips easier for us. There are a number of dyslexia tools and tips out there. Here are a few things that worked for us.
How to Travel with a Dyslexic Child
Get educated about dyslexia
Dyslexia is a reading disorder characterized by a level of reading well below a person’s intelligence. This can mean difficulty spelling words, writing, reading, pronouncing words and reversing similar letters like ‘d’ and ‘b’.
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, spelling and writing problems in children. And the number affected is growing.
Information and understanding about dyslexia will empower you to help your child. Learning about coping strategies for dyslexia and supporting them is perhaps the greatest gift you can give them. Since there is no cure, and it doesn’t go away, coping strategies will greatly help them reach their full potential.
First thing my daughter had to learn was that there is nothing to be ashamed of because it does not have anything to do with how smart she is. Also, she had to learn to be her own advocate and not be afraid to speak up when there is something she doesn’t understand. It’s easy, especially when we travel, to forget that she can’t read everything. So, when we are on a guided tour and the guide is pointing to signs, she has learned to speak up (even if it’s just to me) to say she doesn’t understand or ask someone to read for her.
Load up the iPad
When you are adding movies or games to your child’s iPad, take the time to find audiobooks. Recorded audiobooks are a great way for children with dyslexia to listen while following along the words. There are so many resources available online you can find audiobooks to match almost any book in your library. There are also some apps/sites where your child follows the text online, while it is read to them, which also means less heavy books to pack.
Make Packing Easier
One of the first ways I realized my daughter had a learning disorder was through the packing lists we make. In our family each person is responsible for packing their own suitcase with Mommy do a final check. For my distracted son, I would make a list for him to stay on task. This also ensured he didn’t pack only Legos and books.
Unable to read words like ‘hat’ ‘socks’ ‘shirt’, I draw everything my daughter has to pack. The first time I did this, she started crying she was so happy to have her own list. I realized this put a positive start to the trip before we even left the house. Even though she can read the words now she still asks for a picture list.
Find Things They Like
Even before they start school, children with dyslexia have difficulty making sense out of letters and words. Without dyslexia reading programs, it can mean children can turn away from books and reading. We didn’t want this to happen. We looked for things that would motivate her to have a positive relationship with reading and writing. She loves drawing, so she started a journal. It began with her drawing pictures and writing 4 words that described her trip. As she developed she would write a sentence about her favorite memory. Now, she has graduated to writing an entire paragraph.
Encourage their Adventurous Side
Now that my daughter’s reading is getting better, we are encouraging her to explore and have a greater role in travel planning. Everywhere we go our children are given the opportunity to have a say in something we do. Whether it is a restaurant, a day trip or an activity they get the chance to be in charge. It’s not just the right to say what we do. They have to research (either online or in a book) what they want to do and present their suggestion to the family. This doesn’t always work out in parents favor, especially if what they pick is very expensive, takes a long time or is hours away. We set guidelines of duration, cost, and interest level to help them.
Read! With any skill, it’s a use it or lose it approach. For children with dyslexia they have to work harder to develop reading skills. That means they don’t take summers off. In fact, my daughter doesn’t get to take a weekend off! Everywhere we go she brings books, comics and anything that will get her reading.
One of my favorite memories is my daughter being upset on a trip. I could tell something had been bothering her all day but figured she was just tired. Turns out she had been using skills she was learning with a new tutor and trying to read signs and billboards. All day, she would say them out loud, and we would correct her. She couldn’t understand why she was finding it more difficult than ever to read. Feeling very discouraged, she started crying, thinking she had lost the ability to read. Trying to keep a straight face, I explained that we were in Italy and what she was reading was Italian, not English! She still continues to read every sign we drive by, but has learned to always asks what the language is before we travel.
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Photos: Paige McEachren