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A Guide for Teachers and Parents.
© 2000, Patricia Hodge Dip.spld(dyslexia)
Proficient reading is an essential tool for learning a
large part of the subject matter taught at school. With an ever increasing
emphasis on education and literacy, more and more children and adults are
needing help in learning to read, spell, express their thoughts on paper and
acquire adequate use of grammar.
A dyslexic child who finds the acquisition of these
literacy skills difficult can also suffer a lot of anguish and trauma when they
may feel mentally abused by their peers within the school environment, because
they have a learning difficulty. Much can be done to alleviate this by
integrating the child into the class environment (which is predominantly a
learning environment) where he/she can feel comfortable and develop confidence
and self esteem.
Class teachers may be particularly confused by the
student whose consistent underachievement seems due to what may look like
carelessness or lack of effort.
These children can be made to feel very
different from their peers simply because they may be unable to follow simple
instructions, which for others seem easy. It is a class teacher's responsibility
to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for all pupils within
Class teachers need to have an understanding of the
problems that the dyslexic child may have within the classroom situation.
Hopefully, with this knowledge, a great deal of misunderstanding of a child's
behaviour can be prevented. In a positive and encouraging environment, a
dyslexic child will experience the feeling of success and self-value.
Of particular importance is an understanding of the
problems that poor auditory short term memory can cause, in terms of retaining
input from the teacher.
Examples of poor auditory short term memory can be a
difficulty in remembering the sounds in spoken words long enough to match these,
in sequence, with letters for spelling. Often children with poor auditory short
term memory cannot remember even a short list of instructions.
The following items should provide useful guidelines for
teachers and parents to follow and support :
In the class:
- Of value to all children in the class is an outline of what is going to
be taught in the lesson, ending the lesson with a resume of what has been
taught. In this way information is more likely to go from short term memory
to long term memory.
- When homework is set, it is important to check that the child correctly
writes down exactly what is required. Try to ensure that the appropriate
worksheets and books are with the child to take home.
- In the front of the pupils' homework book get them to write down the
telephone numbers of a couple of friends. Then, if there is any doubt over
homework, they can ring up and check, rather than worry or spend time doing
the wrong work.
- Make sure that messages and day to day classroom activities are written
down, and never sent verbally. i.e. music, P. E. swimming etc.
- Make a daily check list for the pupil to refer to each evening.
Encourage a daily routine to help develop the child's own self-reliance and
- Encourage good organizational skills by the use of folders and dividers
to keep work easily accessible and in an orderly fashion.
- Break tasks down into small easily remembered pieces of information.
- If visual memory is poor, copying must be kept to a minimum. Notes or
handouts are far more useful.
- Seat the child fairly near the class teacher so that the teacher is
available to help if necessary, or he can be supported by a well-motivated
and sympathetic classmate.
Copying from the blackboard:
- Use different colour chalks for each line if there is a lot of written
information on the board, or underline every second line with a different
- Ensure that the writing is well spaced.
- Leave the writing on the blackboard long enough to ensure the child
doesn't rush, or that the work is not erased from the board before the child
has finished copying.
- A structured reading scheme that involves repetition and introduces new
words slowly is extremely important. This allows the child to develop
confidence and self esteem when reading.
- Don't ask pupils to read a book at a level beyond their current skills,
this will instantly demotivate them. Motivation is far better when demands
are not too high, and the child can actually enjoy the book. If he has to
labour over every word he will forget the meaning of what he is reading.
- Save the dyslexic child the ordeal of having to 'read aloud in class'.
Reserve this for a quiet time with the class teacher. Alternatively, perhaps
give the child advanced time to read pre-selected reading material, to be
practiced at home the day before. This will help ensure that the child is
seen to be able to read out loud, along with other children
- Real books should also be available for paired reading with an adult,
which will often generate enthusiasm for books. Story tapes can be of great
benefit for the enjoyment and enhancement of vocabulary. No child should be
denied the pleasure of gaining access to the meaning of print even if he
cannot decode it fully.
- Remember reading should be fun.
- Many of the normal classroom techniques used to teach spellings do not
help the dyslexic child. All pupils in the class can benefit from structured
and systematic exposure to rules and patterns that underpin a language.
- Spelling rules can be given to the whole class. Words for class spelling
tests are often topic based rather than grouped for structure. If there are
one or two dyslexics in the class, a short list of structure-based words for
their weekly spelling test, will be far more helpful than random words.
Three or four irregular words can be included each week, eventually this
should be seen to improve their free-writing skills.
- All children should be encouraged to proof read, which can be useful for
initial correction of spellings. Dyslexics seem to be unable to correct
their spellings spontaneously as they write, but they can be trained to look
out for errors that are particular to them.
- Remember, poor spelling is not an indication of low intelligence.
- Maths has its own language, and this can be the root of many problems.
Whilst some dyslexic students are good at maths, it has been estimated that
around 90% of dyslexic children have problems in at least some areas of
maths. General mathematical terminology words need to be clearly understood
before they can be used in calculations, e.g. add, plus, sum of, increase
and total, all describe a single mathematical process. Other related
difficulties could be with visual/perceptual skills, directional confusion,
sequencing, word skills and memory. Dyslexic students may have special
difficulties with aspects of maths that require many steps or place a heavy
load on the short-term memory, e.g. long division or algebra.
- The value of learning the skills of estimation cannot be too strongly
stressed for the dyslexic child. Use and encourage the use of estimation.
The child should be taught to form the habit of checking his answers against
the question when he has finished the calculation, i.e. is the answer
possible, sensible or ludicrous?
- When using mental arithmetic allow the dyslexic child to jot down the
key number and the appropriate mathematical sign from the question.
- Encourage pupils to verbalize and to talk their way through each step of
the problem. Many children find this very helpful.
- Teach the pupil how to use the times table square and encourage him to
say his workings out as he uses it.
- Encourage a dyslexic child to use a calculator. Make sure he fully
understand how to use it. Ensure that he has been taught to estimate to
check his calculations. This is a way of 'proof reading' what he does.
- Put key words on a card index system or on the inside cover of the
pupils maths book so it can be used for reference and revision.
- Rehearse mathematical vocabulary constantly, using multi sensory/kinesthetic
- Put the decimal point in red ink. It helps visual perception with the
- Reasons for poor handwriting at any age can be poor motor control,
tension, badly formed letters, speed etc. A cursive joined style is most
helpful to children with dyslexic problems. Encourage the children to study
their writing and be self-critical. Get them to decide for themselves where
faults lie and what improvements can be made, so that no resentment is built
up at yet another person complaining about their written work.
- Discuss the advantages of good handwriting and the goals to be achieved
with the class. Analyze common faults in writing, by writing a few well
chosen words on the board for class comment.
- Make sure a small reference chart is available to serve as a constant
reminder for the cursive script in upper and lower case.
- If handwriting practice is needed it is essential to use words that
present no problem to the dyslexic child in terms of meaning or spelling.
- Improvement in handwriting skills can improve self confidence, which in
turn reflects favorably throughout a pupil's work.
Marking of work:
- Credit for effort as well as achievement are both essential. This gives
the pupil a better chance of getting a balanced mark. Creative writing
should be marked on context.
- Spelling mistakes pinpointed should be those appropriate to the child's
level of spelling. Marking should be done in pencil and have positive
- Try not to use red pens to mark the dyslexic child's work. There's
nothing more disheartening for the child than to have work returned covered
in red ink, when they've inevitably tried harder than their peers to produce
- Only ask a pupil to rewrite a piece of work that is going to be
displayed. Rewriting pages for no reason at all is soul destroying as
usually much effort will have already been put into the original piece of
- By the end of a school day a dyslexic child is generally more tired than
his peers because everything requires more thought, tasks take longer and
nothing comes easily. More errors are likely to be made. Only set homework
that will be of real benefit to the child.
- In allocating homework and exercises that may be a little different or
less demanding, it is important to use tact. Self-esteem is rapidly
undermined if a teacher is underlining the differences between those with
difficulties and their peers. However, it should also be remembered that far
more effort may be needed for a dyslexic child to complete the assignment
than for their peers.
- Set a limit on time spent on homework, as often a dyslexic child will
take a lot longer to produce the same work that another child with good
literacy skills may produce easily.
- A dyslexic child's ability to write down thoughts and ideas will be
quite different from the level of information the child can give verbally.
For successful integration, the pupil must be able to demonstrate to the
teacher that he knows the information and where he is in each subject. Be
prepared to accept verbal descriptions as an alternative to written
descriptions if appropriate.
Alternative ways of recording should be looked at, such as :
- The use of computers for word processing.
- Audio tapes for recording lessons that can then be written up at a
- Written record of the pupil's verbal account, or voice activated
software can be used.
- More time should be allocated for completion of work because of the
extra time a dyslexic child needs for reading, planning, rewriting and
proofreading their work.
- For a dyslexic child the feeling of being 'different' can be acute when
faced with the obvious and very important need of 'specialist' help for his
literacy and possibly mathematical skills. Some specialist methods can be
incorporated into the classroom so all children can benefit from them, thus
reducing the feeling of 'difference'.
In order to be able to teach, as far as possible,
according to each child's educational needs, it is essential to see him or her
as a whole person, complete with individual strengths and weaknesses.
An understanding of the pupil's specific difficulties,
and how they may affect the student's classroom performance, can enable the
teacher to adopt teaching methods and strategies to help the dyslexic child to
be successfully integrated into the classroom environment.
Dyslexics have many strengths: oral skills,
comprehension, good visual spatial awareness/artistic abilities. More and more
dyslexic children could become talented and gifted members of our schools if we
worked not only with their specific areas of difficulty, but also their specific
areas of strengths from an early age. To do this we have to let go of outmoded
viewpoints that a dyslexic child must first fail, in order to be identified.
These are the children of our future and they have a
right to help and support before they develop the dreadful sense of failure
which is so insidious.
Class teachers dealing with dyslexic children need to be
flexible in their approach, so that they can, as far as possible, find a method
that suits the pupil, rather than expecting that all pupils will learn in the
Above all, there must be an understanding from all who
teach them, that they may have many talents and skills. Their abilities must not
be measured purely on the basis of their difficulties in acquiring literacy
skills. Dyslexic children, like all children, thrive on challenges and success.
Patricia Lynn Hodge lives in Oman, and the parent of a
dyslexic child, and a teacher with specialized training in ‘Specific
Hodge, P.L. (2000). A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom. Retrieved October 21,
2009 from Davis Dyslexia Association International, Dyslexia the Gift Web
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