A dyslexia diagnosis can be a shock to kids and parents, but it’s certainly not the end of the world.
Yes, it may mean that certain aspects of learning and development may be a little harder and slower to come by. And teaching a dyslexic child to read, write, and spell will require more patience and support from parents and educators. But with the right techniques and tools, dyslexic students can go on to totally thrive in the education system — performing just as well, or better, than their peers.
If your child, or a student in your class, has dyslexia, you may be wondering how to best support them in their development journey. As always, the first step is understanding more about what dyslexia is and how it impacts the child — and you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ll touch on both these themes. But mostly we’ll focus on how positivity can help encourage and empower dyslexic students, making teaching them to read and write easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Why does dyslexia mean for a child’s education?
Dyslexia has an impact on a child’s ability to recognize different language sounds, and their ability to unravel new words. This can mean that teaching a child with dyslexia to read, write, or spell can be difficult. Dyslexic children may compensate by developing a good memory for words, but unfamiliar words and phrases will remain problematic.
While dyslexia does present educational challenges, it is absolutely not a reflection of intelligence.
Dyslexia is better understood as the shortfall between what a child is actually achieving, and what they should or could be achieving based on their abilities. Many dyslexic children are able to overcome the problems they encounter with extra effort, and there are a number of strategies that students can lean on to fulfill their potential.
What are the typical signs of dyslexia?
Dyslexia can be quite subtle, and the symptoms are not always easy to identify. Children with dyslexia may show some speech delay, repeat, or leave out small joining words like ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘the’. They may mix up left and right (as well as struggling to follow directions). And it’s possible they’ll struggle to learn simple phrases and rhymes.
In an educational environment children with dyslexia seem less fluent than the rest of the class — they may hesitate or find it harder to acquire new words in their vocabulary. They might switch words around and mix up the order of letters, find note-taking challenging, and will shy away from reading aloud or speaking in front of their classmates.
Even simple words may be hard for them to spell and sound out, and they may well spell things phonetically.
How can you help a child with dyslexia to read, write, and spell?
Dyslexia is not something that children grow out of, nor is it curable, as such. While children develop their own coping mechanisms, the way in which you teach a child can also have an enormous impact.
Methods and teaching styles, particularly when teaching a dyslexic child to read, write, and spell, can help children overcome their dyslexia. Teachers and parents also play a role in reducing the stress and struggle of learning development.
The following positive reinforcement tactics that can really help a child overcome the angst, difficulty, and embarrassment of dyslexia. The tools, techniques, and strategies are both psychological (i.e praise) and technical (i.e. incorporating visual elements), and can have a significant impact on a child’s ability and overall mindset.
Give praise often
Children with dyslexia often suffer from lack of confidence, and memories of difficult situations may make it hard for them to persevere. To overcome a child’s feeling that they just aren’t capable, ensure you praise them often — even for small achievements. Acknowledging hard work can go a long way to re-establishing a sense of worth.
Dyslexia kids respond well to multisensory teaching. Making learning a visual and a physical activity can help children to get around the difficulties they face with words. And props can give them something tangible to pin their learning to.
Utilize dedicated technology
Dyslexic children can make use of a huge range of technological tools to support their learning. Things like pocket spell checkers can help kids keep themselves on track and commit correct spellings to memory, while line readers (to highlight text) will help them keep their place and avoid ‘swimming words’.
While many classrooms won’t feature laptops and iPads as a standard, word processors can be a lifeline for a child with dyslexia, and reasonable adjustments should be made.
Make helpful arrangements
A few simple arrangements ahead of time can make a huge difference for a child with dyslexia. Prepping them with key information that will be covered in an upcoming class, for example, or providing generous homework deadlines, will help take away much of the stress associated with learning. Similarly, taking creativity, ideas, and hard work into account when marking assignments will help children build positive self-image.
Keep fun and games front and center
Games are central to the multisensorial learning schedule. Scavenger hunts for words hidden around the classroom or online word games make lessons fun and help children retain more information. There are several excellent education game resources available online, like Simplex Spelling and dyslexiagames.com.
Remember to repeat and review
One of the biggest challenges when teaching a dyslexic child to read is to have them remember words they’re learning. Repetition is key, as it helps to reinforce new words and spellings, and helps children to hold on to what they’ve learned. Similarly, a simple review at the end of each session can be extremely helpful in emphasizing new information.
Teachers and parents should work together
Finally, it is really important that teachers and parents work together to provide the most positive learning experiences possible. Meeting regularly to give updates on a child’s progress, discuss the teaching methods, and evaluate what has been successful gives the most well-rounded approach to a child’s education. Every child will respond differently and ensuring that both teachers and parents are totally up-to-speed and in sync with each other will make it easier for everyone.
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