You should encourage any interest your child has in sports or athletic activities. If your child is good at team sports such as basketball or soccer, his abilities will help build his self-esteem and allow him to earn the respect of his peers. Moreover, exercise and physical fitness will improve your child’s energy levels at school, and make him better able to cope with academic demands and stresses.
Try to steer your child toward activities where he can feel successful. Unless she seems to have a very strong talent or dedication to a particular sport, look for team sports where the emphasis is on having fun and developing good sportsmanship, rather than being highly competitive. Attend practices at first, and observe the coach; look for an individual who gives his players praise and encouragement. Unlike school, your child does not have to participate in any sport, so there is no point in exposing her to the additional stress of a verbally abusive coach or the scorn of other players bent on winning every game.
If your child has problems with coordination that make it difficult for him to keep up on the playing field, look for noncompetitive activities where he can begin by taking lessons, such as gymnastics, martial arts, dance, or swimming. You should be able to find a class that takes children of varied ages; if your child sees that he is not the oldest “beginner” he will not feel embarrassed. These types of activities can help your child develop improved balance and coordination skills, which may help address some aspects of his dyslexia as well as build confidence and improved self-esteem.
Athletics and fitness are an important part of your child’s life; your child should not miss out on these activities because of after-school tutoring or the need to spend extra time on homework. Your child’s academic needs may mean that you have to limit the hours and days spent on sports, but make sure to reserve time for both.
You should also encourage your child’s interest or aptitude in other areas, such as learning to play a musical instrument. Again, these activities are an important part of your child’s emotional life and development, and they may have positive affects on her school work as well. Practicing an instrument or singing in a choir, for example, may help boost your child’s listening skills. Of course you shouldn’t expect karate classes or violin lessons to substitute for specialized therapy for dyslexia; just keep in mind that while these activities are primarily for your child’s enrichment, they may have added side-benefits when it comes to school.
Keep in mind that your child’s aptitudes or outside interests may also be the key to his future career. Of course you want your child to learn to read, to do well in school, to go on to college — but the world is full of actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and athletes whose talent is far more important to their success than their education. For a child who struggles in school, exploration of arts and athletics is particularly important, and it may help build motivation to succeed in academics as well.